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article imageOp-Ed: The VW Beetle: From Hitler's idea to an icon

By Layne Weiss     Sep 1, 2013 in Technology
In 1945, a Volkswagen Beetle was shipped from a bomb-damaged Germany factory to England. There, it was inspected by a commission of leading British manufacturers, chaired by Sir William Rootes.
The report concluded that the vehicle would be quite "unattractive to the average motorcycle buyer," BBC News reports. "It is too ugly and noisy," while to build the car commercially would be a completely uneconomic enterprise."
This judgement would prove as ridiculous as Decca Records' 1962 declaration that "The Beatles have no future in show business." Sales of the Beatles' albums have topped two billion and the Volkswagen Beetle became the "best-selling" car of all-time.
Production of the car overtook Henry Ford's Model-T when the 15,007,034th Beetle drove off the line at the Wolfsburg in 1972.
In 2003, the very last Beetles were made in Mexico By then, 21.5 million had been built worldwide. Although many modifications had been made between 1945 and 2003, Volkswagen was indeed a "People's Car" and the Beetle was like a "pea" in "the same mechanical pod."
The number of sales of the Beetle is remarkable, but what makes this car truly unforgettable is that the car was developed from an idea by Adolph Hitler and became as beloved by California "surfer dudes," hippies, and college students as it was by Nazis...or is this really historically accurate?
In the 2011 book, "The Extraordinary Life of Josef Ganz-The Jewish Engineer Behind Hitler's Volkswagen," historian Paul Schilperoord wrote that Adolf Hitler stole the idea for the Beetle from a Jewish engineer named Josef Ganz and had him "written out of history."
Hitler has always been given credit for the idea after meeting with car designer Ferdinand A. Porsche in the 1930s.
It has done an impeccable job of shaking the image of being "Hitler's idea," even becoming the star of Hollywood movies including 1968's "The Love Bug" , starring the lovable Beetle, "Herbie." This was the same car German families had saved up for before Hitler's 1939 invasion of Poland dashed their hopes of ever owning it as the car didn't go into production before the war.
In 1959, the Beetle was brought to the United States and became the "best selling foreign made" car in the 1960s.
In 1998, the Beetle's "replacement," the Golf, went on sale. The car didn't really look much like a Beetle.
Today, Volkswagen owns Bentley, and while many of us dream of owning a Bentley, it is certainly NOT a "People's Car."
So as we look back, a decade later, was the VW Beetle REALLY Hitler's idea? Does it matter? Perhaps knowing the Beetle was really the idea of a Jewish engineer could give people some more peace of mind, but either way, the Beetle is no longer synonymous with Nazi Germany. It is now synonymous with happiness, love, fun, and most importantly, reliability. It truly is the "People's Car."
After all, wasn't Henry Ford anti-Semitic?...
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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