Adlerwerke 

 His­to­ri­cal Site 

Fac­to­ry, For­ced Labour, Con­cen­tra­ti­on Camp

The Adler­wer­ke con­tri­bu­t­ed to shaping life and work in the Gal­lus district for some 120 years. Adler pro­ducts were well-known and sought-after the world over.

During World War II the com­pa­ny manu­fac­tu­red arma­ments – and, like many other lar­ge-sca­le indus­tri­al ope­ra­ti­ons, pro­fi­ted from the for­ced labour sys­tem. But the for­eign civi­li­an workers and pri­so­ners of war in Frank­furt am Main, pres­um­a­b­ly num­be­ring more than 50,000, were also put to work in tra­des busi­nes­ses, far­ming, pri­va­te house­holds, and the muni­ci­pal administration.

The Katz­bach con­cen­tra­ti­on camp was set up in the Adler­wer­ke fac­to­ry buil­dings in August 1944. Now the com­pa­ny was part of the Natio­nal Socia­list con­cen­tra­ti­on camp sys­tem. Altog­e­ther 1,616 inma­tes would be impr­i­son­ed in the camp. Many of them did not sur­vi­ve it.

The Adler­wer­ke His­to­ri­cal Site is the result of a strugg­le by citi­zens to pre­ser­ve the place and its histo­ry. It is dedi­ca­ted to the vic­tims of the Katz­bach con­cen­tra­ti­on camp and for­ced labour.

Timeline 

Adler­wer­ke and Gal­lus from 1880
Adler­wer­ke und Gal­lus seit 1880

1880 Hein­rich Kley­er (1853–1932) opens a machi­ne and bicy­cle shop. The com­pa­ny pro­du­ces Germany’s first low-wheel bicy­cle. The pneu­ma­tic tyre is also a novel­ty. From 1887 onwards, Hein­rich Kley­er sup­plies the Prus­si­an minis­try of war.

Heinrich Kleyer, ca. 1930, Institut für Stadtgeschichte Frankfurt am Main, inv. W1-14 no. 1077, photo: Voigt

Hein­rich Kley­er, ca. 1930
Insti­tut für Stadt­ge­schich­te Frank­furt am Main,
inv. W1-14 no. 1077, pho­to: Voigt

1898 The com­pa­ny later known as the Adler­wer­ke is built in the Gal­lus district bet­ween the pre­sent-day Kley­er and Weil­bur­ger streets. Ever more indus­tri­al ope­ra­ti­ons are estab­lis­hed in Gal­lus. Migrant workers sett­le near the factory.

Institut für Stadtgeschichte Frankfurt am Main, S7A no. 1998 – 28933

Insti­tut für Stadt­ge­schich­te Frank­furt am Main,
S7A no. 1998 – 28933

1898 The Hein­rich Kley­er AG is the first Ger­man com­pa­ny to manu­fac­tu­re typewri­ters in seri­es. Their design is based on an Ame­ri­can patent.

1900 The Adler Model 7 typewri­ter goes on sale. It will be a natio­nal and inter­na­tio­nal best­sel­ler. The com­pa­ny intro­du­ces its first moto­ri­zed vehi­cle, like­wi­se cal­led Adler, and the fol­lowing year the first two-wheel motor­cy­cle. The com­pa­ny name is now “Adler­wer­ke”.

Historisches Museum Frankfurt, inv. S1971.038, photo: U. Dettmar

His­to­ri­sches Muse­um Frankfurt,
inv. S1971.038, pho­to: U. Dettmar

Institut für Stadtgeschichte Frankfurt am Main, S7A no. 1998-28940

Insti­tut für Stadt­ge­schich­te Frank­furt am Main,
S7A no. 1998–28940

1901–1904 The Hel­l­er­hof “workers’ colo­ny” is built.

Advertising postcard, after 1904 (detail), Geschichtswerkstatt Gallus / D. Church Collection

Adver­ti­sing post­card, after 1904 (detail)
Geschichts­werk­statt Gal­lus / D. Church Collection

1905 The “Kon­sum­ver­ein für Frank­furt und Umge­bung” (Con­su­mer Asso­cia­ti­on for Frank­furt and Envi­rons) is foun­ded in Gal­lus. It gua­ran­tees its mem­bers basic goods at low cost.

Konsum shop at Lahnstrasse 5, ca. 1908, Institut für Stadtgeschichte Frankfurt am Main, S7A no. 1998-12156

Kon­sum shop at Lahn­stras­se 5, ca. 1908
Insti­tut für Stadt­ge­schich­te Frank­furt am Main,
S7A no. 1998–12156

1910 The pro­duc­tion of accoun­ting machi­nes gets under­way. The first Klein-Adler typewri­ter goes on sale in 1913. The Adler­wer­ke work­for­ce num­bers some 7,000.

1914–1918 The Adler­wer­ke pres­ents its­elf as a com­pa­ny loy­al to the nati­on and the emperor. It is proud of its invol­ve­ment in World War I. It pro­du­ces mili­ta­ry lor­ries, tank trans­mis­si­ons, air­craft engi­nes, tor­pe­does, gre­na­des, and water bombs.

Archiv Axel Oskar Mathieu, Berlin 1916

Archiv Axel Oskar Mathieu, Ber­lin 1916

1916 The 500,000th bicy­cle is pro­du­ced. One in five auto­mo­bi­les in Ger­ma­ny is an “Adler”.

1923 In Octo­ber, Adler­wer­ke workers pro­test the plan­ned shut­down. A gene­ral strike with demons­tra­ti­ons on Römer­berg Squa­re is quick­ly dispersed.

1926 Auto­mo­bi­le pro­duc­tion is con­ver­ted to the assem­bly line sys­tem. Fewer workers are nee­ded. Sin­ce 1920, typewri­ter pro­duc­tion has been back to full speed. Model 25 goes on sale. This machi­ne moder­ni­zes office work. It faci­li­ta­tes the use of the “con­ti­nuous form”.

Institut für Stadtgeschichte Frankfurt am Main, W1-14/755

Insti­tut für Stadt­ge­schich­te Frank­furt am Main,
W1-14/755

1927 The Klein-Adler Model 2 tra­vel typewri­ter is a best­sel­ler. It is light and requi­res less manu­al strength to operate.

TA Triumph-Adler GmbH

TA Tri­umph-Adler GmbH

1929 The Gre­at Depres­si­on cau­ses the Adler­wer­ke dif­fi­cul­ties. The com­pa­ny work­for­ce decli­nes from 10,000 in the ear­ly 1920s to appro­xi­mate­ly 3,800 in 1931. The­re are labour strug­gles invol­ving strikes, lock­outs, and dismissals.

1929–1936 The new Hel­l­er­hof housing esta­te is built.

Institut für Stadtgeschichte, Frankfurt am Main, S7A 1998-12228

Insti­tut für Stadt­ge­schich­te, Frank­furt am Main,
S7A 1998–12228

1930 Wal­ter Gro­pi­us, the direc­tor of the Des­sau Bau­haus, designs car bodies for Adler as well as the eagle emblem with spread wings. (“Adler” is the Ger­man word for “eagle”.)

1933 On 2 May, two Social Demo­cra­tic mem­bers of the Adler­wer­ke works coun­cil are arres­ted in the fac­to­ry. They are detai­ned for six weeks in the “Per­len­fa­brik”, a tem­pora­ry con­cen­tra­ti­on camp in Ginnheim.

1936–1938 With sup­port from the Nazi par­ty NSDAP and the Dresd­ner Bank, the Adler­wer­ke acqui­res four com­pa­nies form­er­ly owned by Jews, among them the Carl Flesch AG. This enab­les the Adler­wer­ke to expand its manu­fac­tu­ring facilities.

Geschichtswerkstatt Gallus

Geschichts­werk­statt Gallus

1937 The Nazi government sub­si­di­zes the auto­mo­bi­le indus­try. By 1939, 6,000 of the sta­te-of-the-art “Adler Typ 10” have been built.

Reich Chancellor Hitler with an “Adler Typ 10”, Institut für Stadtgeschichte Frankfurt am Main, S7A no. 1998-29020

Reich Chan­cellor Hit­ler with an “Adler Typ 10”
Insti­tut für Stadt­ge­schich­te Frank­furt am Main,
S7A no. 1998–29020

1939 The Adler­wer­ke con­verts its ope­ra­ti­ons to arma­ments production.

Archiv Axel Oskar Mathieu, Berlin

Archiv Axel Oskar Mathieu, Berlin

1941 Pri­so­ners of war and for­eign civi­li­an workers work for the Adlerwerke.

1943 The Adler­wer­ke is Europe’s lar­gest manu­fac­tu­rer of armou­red per­son­nel car­ri­er chassis.

1944 In August the com­pa­ny sets up the Katz­bach con­cen­tra­ti­on sub­camp in its fac­to­ry. The camp will lodge more than 1,600 inmates.

1945 On 24 March, the last Katz­bach con­cen­tra­ti­on camp inma­tes are for­ced to depart on a death march. When the war ends, a lar­ge pro­por­ti­on of the fac­to­ry faci­li­ties is in ruins. The Gal­lus district has suf­fe­red exten­si­ve dest­ruc­tion through aeri­al attacks.

Geschichtswerkstatt Gallus/Hergt

Geschichts­werk­statt Gallus/Hergt

1949 After 1945, the Adler­wer­ke stops manu­fac­tu­ring auto­mo­bi­les. Now it resu­mes pro­duc­tion of bicy­cles, typewri­ters, and spa­re parts for cars, which it also repairs.

1954 Bicy­cle pro­duc­tion ceases.

Institut für Stadtgeschichte Frankfurt am Main, S7C no. 1998-63818

Insti­tut für Stadt­ge­schich­te Frank­furt am Main,
S7C no. 1998–63818

1955 The Adler­wer­ke pro­du­ces more than 100,000 typewri­ters. They lead the mar­ket in Ger­ma­ny and the world.

1957 Motor­cy­cle pro­duc­tion cea­ses. The com­pa­ny mer­ges with the Tri­umph-Wer­ke of Nur­em­berg and manu­fac­tures typewri­ters and office machi­nes. The com­pa­ny will chan­ge hands several times over the next thir­ty years. In addi­ti­on to the fac­to­ry in Gal­lus, it ope­ra­tes one in Griesheim.

1960s Incre­a­sing num­bers of “guest workers” from other Euro­pean coun­tries live in Gal­lus. The Ger­man eco­no­my needs workers.

Workers leaving the factory, 1963, Bpk, no. 70366483, photo: Abisag Tüllmann

Workers lea­ving the fac­to­ry, 1963
Bpk, no. 70366483, pho­to: Abi­sag Tüllmann

1969 Tri­umph-Adler pro­du­ces Germany’s first por­ta­ble electric typewri­ter: the “Gabrie­le 5000”.

TA Triumph-Adler GmbH

TA Tri­umph-Adler GmbH

1971 Com­pu­ter-sup­por­ted office work gets under­way suc­cess­ful­ly with the TA 10 “people’s computer”.

1980 The work­for­ce resists the management’s plan to clo­se the plant.

Demonstration against the Adlerwerke shutdown, 1980. Photo: W. Ullrich, Institut für Stadtgeschichte Frankfurt am Main, S7FR 1226

Demons­tra­ti­on against the Adler­wer­ke shut­down, 1980
Pho­to: W. Ull­rich, Insti­tut für Stadt­ge­schich­te Frank­furt am Main,
S7FR 1226

1988 The first scho­l­ar­ly stu­dy on the Katz­bach con­cen­tra­ti­on camp deve­lo­ps out of a school pro­ject. The book by Ernst Kai­ser and Micha­el Knorn comes out in 1994.

1992 The plant in Gal­lus is clo­sed. Typewri­ter pro­duc­tion con­ti­nues in Frankfurt’s Gries­heim district. The work­for­ce resists the shutdown.

1993 The his­to­ri­cal fac­to­ry grounds in Kley­er­stras­se are sold to the real esta­te inves­tor Roland Ernst and the Phil­ipp Holz­mann con­struc­tion com­pa­ny. On the initia­ti­ve of the Adler works coun­cil, a plaque is instal­led at the Adler­wer­ke to com­me­mo­ra­te the vic­tims of the con­cen­tra­ti­on camp and of for­ced labour.

The commemorative plaque is unveiled at the Adlerwerke with former concentration camp inmates. LAGG e.V.

The com­me­mo­ra­ti­ve plaque is unveiled
at the Adler­wer­ke with for­mer con­cen­tra­ti­on camp inmates.

Source: LAGG e.V.

1997 Dedi­ca­ti­on of a com­me­mo­ra­ti­ve stone at the main ceme­tery for the vic­tims of the Katz­bach con­cen­tra­ti­on camp.

Katzbach concentration camp survivors at the memorial service, 1997. Source: LAGG e.V.

Katz­bach con­cen­tra­ti­on camp survivors
at the memo­ri­al ser­vice, 1997. 

Source: LAGG e.V.

1998 Pro­duc­tion in Frank­furt is dis­con­ti­nued. The Gal­lus-Thea­ter moves in. For­mer for­ced labou­rers and inma­tes of the Katz­bach con­cen­tra­ti­on camp visit Frank­furt. On the initia­ti­ve of indi­vi­du­al citi­zens and asso­cia­ti­ons, a squa­re is named after the con­cen­tra­ti­on camp inma­tes Golub and Lebe­den­ko, who were mur­de­red by the SS.

Photo: Svenja Cloos

Pho­to: Sven­ja Cloos

1999 The Adler Real Esta­te AG com­pa­ny takes over the com­pa­ny building.

2012 Sin­ce 2012, several art actions in Frank­furt and along the rou­te of the death march com­me­mo­ra­te the vic­tims of the Katz­bach con­cen­tra­ti­on camp.

“Mitten unter uns” (“In our midst”), art installation, 2015, Photo: Stefanie Grohs

“Mit­ten unter uns” (“In our midst”) 
Art instal­la­ti­on, 2015
Pho­to: Ste­fa­nie Grohs

2016 On the initia­ti­ve of citi­zens’ groups and indi­vi­du­al citi­zens, a public park is new­ly land­s­caped and named after Juli­us Munk.

2022 The Adler­wer­ke His­to­ri­cal Site opens.

The­me box: Ernst Hage­mei­er (1888–1966) Com­pa­ny mana­ger during the Nazi period 

Bet­ween boy­cott and “Arya­niz­a­ti­on”

Ernst Hage­mei­er beca­me a mem­ber of the Adlerwerke’s exe­cu­ti­ve board in 1929. As gene­ral direc­tor he soon rose to beco­me the company’s main shareholder.

The Adler­wer­ke did not sup­port the Natio­nal Socia­list par­ty (NSDAP) finan­cial­ly befo­re 1933. In that year, the Nazis the­re­fo­re cal­led for a boy­cott of the Adler­wer­ke. Fol­lowing the party’s acces­si­on to power, Hage­mei­er saw to it that not all Jewish employees were dis­mis­sed. He sent many of them to work in sub­si­dia­ries abroad. The Nazis accord­in­gly accu­sed him of “friend­li­ness to Jews”.

On the other hand, when Jakob Gold­schmidt came under thre­at of being cha­sed off the super­vi­so­ry board, Hage­mei­er did not­hing to pre­vent it. Under his manage­ment, the Adler­wer­ke pro­fi­ted from “Arya­niz­a­ti­on”. It was able to purcha­se, at low pri­ces, the land of four neigh­bou­ring com­pa­nies who­se owners were per­se­cu­t­ed as Jews. The Adler­wer­ke thus expan­ded its property.

Mem­ber of the Nazi par­ty and the SS

In 1933, Ernst Hage­mei­er app­lied for mem­bers­hip in the Nazi par­ty NSDAP. He was not admit­ted until 1939. He moreo­ver joi­ned the Gene­ral SS, whe­re he had the rank of an SS Untersturmführer.

He worked for the SS as an expert on auto­mo­bi­li­ty. In 1934/35 he beca­me the head of the “Moto­ri­zed Vehi­cle Indus­try Eco­no­mic Group”. The­re he came into con­flict with influ­en­ti­al Natio­nal Socia­lists who wan­ted to pro­mo­te par­ty inte­rests. As a result, he gave up the post again in 1937.

In 1937, the Munich SS court exclu­ded him from the orga­niz­a­ti­on. The grounds for this decisi­on were that he had not atten­ded SS events and con­ti­nued to cul­ti­va­te busi­ness con­ta­cts with Jews.

Respon­si­bi­li­ty for arma­ment, for­ced labour, and con­cen­tra­ti­on camp

Gene­ral direc­tor Hage­mei­er was a prag­ma­tic mana­ger. He made sure his dealings with the Nazi regime would work to the company’s advan­ta­ge. Star­ting in 1939, the Adler­wer­ke incre­a­singly took on arma­ments’ orders and Hage­mei­er recei­ved the hono­ra­ry tit­le “Wehr­wirt­schafts­füh­rer” awar­ded to the heads of important arma­ments manufacturers.

Ever more com­pa­ny employees were con­scrip­ted to the Wehr­macht, and the Adler­wer­ke nee­ded repla­ce­ments. Now for­eign civi­li­an workers and pri­so­ners of war from Fran­ce and Eas­tern Euro­pe were brought in. The­se workers lived in camps in the Gal­lus and Gries­heim districts. Con­cen­tra­ti­on camp inma­tes were put to work at the Adler­wer­ke from August 1944 onwards. The “Katz­bach” con­cen­tra­ti­on camp was set up on the fac­to­ry premises.

Insti­tut für Stadt­ge­schich­te Frank­furt am Main,
inv. S2, no. 2216

The­me box: Gal­lus – A chan­ging community 

The name “Gal­lus” has its ori­gins in the gal­lows once set up out­side the city gates in the west of Frank­furt. The district evol­ved from 1884 onwards along the new­ly con­struc­ted rail­way line. Fac­to­ries were estab­lis­hed out­side the town limits and nee­ded man­power. The lat­ter came from the sur­roun­ding regi­ons. Housing, schools, church­es, shops, and inns sprou­t­ed up to ser­ve them. Sin­ce 1895, a tram line has con­nec­ted the Gal­lus district with the city cent­re. The City of Frank­furt had the Hel­l­er­hof housing esta­te built bet­ween 1901 and 1936. It pro­vi­ded afford­a­ble housing for low-inco­me persons.

Many of the Gal­lus district’s resi­den­ti­al buil­dings and indus­tri­al ope­ra­ti­ons were des­troy­ed during World War II. After that, fewer peop­le lived in the district than befo­re. The fac­to­ries gra­du­al­ly con­ver­ted their pro­duc­tion or shut down altog­e­ther. Ser­vice com­pa­nies, admi­nis­tra­ti­ve offices, and the media moved into the old buil­dings or con­struc­ted new ones. The resi­dents’ occup­a­tio­nal skills no lon­ger cor­re­spon­ded to the avail­ab­le jobs. Unem­ploy­ment and crime increased.

Around the year 2000, Gal­lus ran­ked as a depri­ved area. The city sub­si­di­zed the district bet­ween 2001 and 2016. Muni­ci­pal admi­nis­tra­ti­on offices moved the­re. The trans­for­ma­ti­on of the Gal­lus district con­ti­nued. A new quarter—the “Europaviertel”—was built on the grounds of the for­mer freight yard. It is an expen­si­ve resi­den­ti­al area. New resi­dents shape the com­mu­ni­ty, but they work in offices and not in indus­tri­al pro­duc­tion like the inha­bi­tants of Gal­lus a hund­red years ago.

Kame­run

“Kame­run” (Ger­man for Camer­oon) – Isn’t that a coun­try in Afri­ca? But peop­le have been cal­ling the Gal­lus “Kame­run” for more than a hund­red years. The­re are two explana­ti­ons, both of which are indi­rect­ly racist in nature.

Explana­ti­on 1: After World War I, Fran­ce occu­p­ied wes­tern Ger­ma­ny. Black French sol­di­ers were sta­tio­ned near Frankfurt—an unusu­al expe­ri­ence for white Germans.

Explana­ti­on 2: Smo­ke from the fac­to­ry smo­kestacks and the rail­way colou­red people’s clot­hing black and the workers came home from the fac­to­ries with faces bla­cke­ned by oil and soot. It was a racist noti­on to equa­te them with peop­le from Africa.

What is more, the­se explana­ti­ons can­not pos­si­b­ly be cor­rect. The­re are spo­ken and writ­ten refe­ren­ces to the “Kame­run” district dating all the way back to 1902. At that time, the­re were no bleach greens whe­re smo­ke could have dir­tied the laund­ry. Nor was the­re any hea­vy indus­try in Gal­lus, but abo­ve all mecha­ni­cal and electri­cal engi­nee­ring com­pa­nies like the Adler­wer­ke. The workers was­hed in a washroom befo­re lea­ving the fac­to­ry after work. The­re were no Black sol­di­ers sta­tio­ned in the district. Ger­ma­ny had colo­nies in Afri­ca, but Gal­lus had no Blacks.

In the ear­ly twen­tieth cen­tu­ry, Gal­lus was plan­ned as a “sett­le­ment out­side the city to the sou­thwest”. New­ly emer­ging districts out­side the city cen­ters often refer­red to as “colo­nies”. In gene­ral, this was a term used for pla­ces out­side the fami­li­ar sphe­re. At the time, Ger­ma­ny ruled over and explo­i­ted Camer­oon as a colo­ny. The name is accord­in­gly remi­nis­cent of Ger­man colonialism.

Migra­ti­on

The Gal­lus district evol­ved as a result of migra­ti­on. The first inha­bi­tants came from vil­la­ges in the regi­ons around Frank­furt. They were loo­king for work in the fac­to­ries and com­pa­nies that sprou­t­ed up in Gal­lus in the ear­ly nine­teenth century.

During World War II the Nazi government brought pri­so­ners of war and for­eign civi­li­an workers to Frank­furt. Several of the camps used to house them were in Gal­lus. And it was the­re that the Katz­bach con­cen­tra­ti­on camp was set up in the Adlerwerke.

Star­ting in the 1960s, “guest workers” came to the district from Sou­thern Euro­pe and Tur­key. They had been recrui­ted to ser­ve as man­power; the inten­ti­on was that they would soon return to their home coun­tries. Howe­ver, many of them beca­me Frank­fur­ters. They worked along­side Ger­mans in the fac­to­ries. It would be years befo­re they were able to bring their fami­lies to Frank­furt as well. The immi­grants foun­ded asso­cia­ti­ons and reli­gious communities.

After 1989, so-cal­led “late resett­lers” – eth­nic Ger­man repa­tria­tes – from Eas­tern Euro­pe fol­lo­wed. Peop­le from Afri­ca, Asia, and Latin Ame­ri­ca often came to the district as refu­gees. The popu­la­ti­on of Gal­lus now repres­ents appro­xi­mate­ly 140 dif­fe­rent nationalities.

The Gal­lus­war­te, 2022
Pho­to: Tho­mas Altmeyer

 Exhi­bi­ti­on Panels 

> A crime that beca­me a part of ever­y­day life
> Zwangs­ar­beit – ein Ver­bre­chen mit­ten im Alltag

> The for­ced labour system
> Sys­tem Zwangsarbeit

> The con­cen­tra­ti­on camp in the factory
> Das Kon­zen­tra­ti­ons­la­ger in der Fabrik

> Clearan­ce and death march
> Räu­mung und Todesmarsch

> Con­flicts over labour, remem­bran­ce, compensation
> Kon­flik­te um Arbeit, Erin­ne­rung, Entschädigung