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Krupp - 1902-1932 - Bertha and Gustav

Friedrich Alfred Krupp, the third proprietor of the business, who died in 1902, aged only forty-eight, had no sons, and the gigantic properties passed into the sole possession of his eldest daughter, Bertha, at that time a minor. Her mother, acting as guardian and carrying out a testamentary provision, turned the firm into a joint-stock company in 1903, with a capital of $40,000,000, divided into 160,000 shares of $250 each, all but four of which went to Fraulein Krupp. For the mother and younger sister, Barbara, the late Herr Krupp provided independently and generously, but they were poor compared to the fortune of the cannon queen, which by 1914 was estimated at close to $75,000,000. She drew 10 percent, dividends from her shares in Krupps, Ltd., capitalised at $45,000,000, and with other incomes was believed to be in the enjoyment of an annual revenue which equaled, if it did not exceed, that of the Kaiser, which was $5,500,000. The next richest person in Germany, Prince Henckel von Donnersmarck, a Silesian coal and iron magnate, had an income of only $3,275,000.

Bertha Krupp was a very strong-willed woman. The Kaiser had a "nice husband" picked out for her. He wanted Bertha Krupp to marry into the German nobility, but Bertha Krupp was not going to be used for any purpose of Imperial domestic politics. So she went flatly against the wishes of the Emperor and married an obscure young diplomat, Dr. von Bohlen. Whereupon the Kaiser insisted that, because of this marriage, she should not bury the great Krupp name. The Kaiser declared she was Frau Dr. Krupp von Bohlen. So a "hypenate" Krupp-von Bohlen, she became.

Bertha had many quarrels with the Kaiser. She tread none too softly on the Imperial toes. Once, invited to dinner at the Schloss in Berlin, she greatly disturbed the Emperor in the presence of his guests. The Kaiser, who is immensely fond of caviar, was enjoying it hugely. He noticed that Bertha Krupp disdained the caviar served her. " Eat it," he said in his impetuous way, " it is good." Bertha Krupp turned up her nose. "I don't see how anybody can eat that stuff," she declared. The guests were shocked.

After the Balkan war, the world was divided on the merits of the Krupp guns. Then, the Turks equipped with Krupp cannon were routed by the Balkan states using French artillery. The story went around the world and Krupp prestige was hit a heavy blow. There were even many skeptics of Krupp in Germany, until the Kaiser's anniversary -a pre-War celebration at Essen. Two thousand Essen engineers and department chiefs glorified the Imperial birthday. Bertha Krupp, who had set the stage, got up in the presence of the Emperor and said: " Much has been written and talked of late about the inefficiency of Krupp guns and Krupp workmanship. Is there anyone among you who believes those fables ? Is there a man here who would not be ready, like myself, to take the field against all comers, with Krupp guns and Krupp armor? / know you all think as I do, that each of us has the utmost confidence in these things which are our very selves." Bertha Krupp knew what she was talking about- " these things which are our very selves "-guns, shells, blood.

Dr. Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach was husband of the "cannon queen," Bertha Krupp, and managing director of the vast arsenal of which she was the sole owner. Dr. Krupp von Bohlen - he was best known in that abbreviated style - was not merely Bertha Krupp's husband. He ceased to be simply the man who married the greatest fortune in Germany, and became the master of Essen in reality as well as title. Taken suddenly from diplomacy, a career which he inherited and was successfully pursuing, he made himself within seven brief years a worthy leader of the greatest industrial organism the world had yet seen. He proved that he was not an accident. The seventy-five thousand members of the Krupp staff, and the community of three hundred thousand souls whom they represented, looked up to Krupp von Bohlen with the same spirit of reverential loyalty which inspired three generations of workmen to regard the Krupps as their liege lords. They, too, would be ready to follow where Krupp von Bohlen led, behind the guns and impenetrable armor they themselves forged.

The dreary panorama of Western Prussia from the North Sea to Berlin was covered with endless forests of chimneys and smokestacks which dotted the landscape in that heart of industrial Germany. It was at Essen, in the valley of the Ruhr, that the chimneys and the smoke were thickest. It was as if Sheffield and Pittsburg had miraculously been transplanted and rolled into one area of twelve hundred acres, two hundred and thirty-five of them under roof, which comprised Messrs. Krupp's Essen works alone. There and at the three neighbouring fifteen-mile long gun ranges of Meppen, thirty-nine thousand men were employed by 1914. At Krupp collieries in Rhineland-Westphalia and Silesia ten thousand miners dug coal for Krupp branch works at Annen and Gruson, where armor-plate was made, and for Krupp blast furnaces at Rheinhausen, Duisburg, Neuwied and Engers, which between them kept another fifteen thousand hands busy. At Kiel six thousand one hundred shipwrights built battleships, torpedo-boats and submarines in Krupp's fifty-five-acre Germania dockyard. In Germany and far-away Spain five thousand miners disemboweled ore from Krupp iron mines, to be shipped, in the case of the foreign product, in Krupp steamers, which unloaded their burden at Krupp docks in Rotterdam, there to be transhipped down the Rhine, to emerge some day as armor, Dreadnoughts, siege guns and murderous shell.

Germany's richest family was one of its very simplest. Thousands of middle-class households lived more pretentiously. Both Frau von Bohlen and her husband looked upon the inheritance of the Krupp business as a sacred trust. They were far more interested in the development of the firm's great fund for invalid employes, to which they were constantly adding, or in their splendid workingmen's colonies, or in the extensive homes for aged, incapacitated and pensioned workmen, than in defeating Schneider-Creusot, Vickers-Maxim or the Bethlehem Steel Company in a competition for foreign gun and armor orders.

Expansion of the Krupp enterprises continued right up to the outbreak of the Great World War. Immediately after Friedrich Alfred Krupp's death, his widow built a huge new steel plant at Rheinhausen, on the left bank of the Rhine about 20 miles from Essen. Krupp ceased to be purely a specialist in the manufacture of arms and special steel products and took its place in the front rank of the great German steel producers. The Germania ship-yards hummed with activity as Krupp built a large part of the German high seas fleet. In 1906, Krupp built the first German submarine.

Gustav led the Krupp complex during World War I. He shifted production almost entirely to producing artillery. The compsany wwas adversely ffected by the the loss of its overseas markets. The Allied naval blockade made it impossible tto export and the War created a vast demand for artillery.

During the First World War, the Krupp firm, needless to say, was Germany's principal arsenal. It was no accident that in 1916 when General Ludendorff asked two outstanding leaders of German industry to "join his train" to discuss war production, the two men invited were Gustav Krupp von Bohlen and Carl Duisberg of LG. Farben. Guns, shells, and armor plate poured out of the Krupp factories. Warships and submarines were built, armed, and fitted at the Germania shipyards. Together with the other leading steel plants, Krupp supplied the finished and semifinished steel for building, transport, and a variety of other industrial uses. The laboratory of war was an enormous stimulus to design and research.

The Armistice of 1918 found the Krupp artillery designing bureaus and the armament workshops at the peak of their efficiency and in full activity. As late as 8 November 1918, governmental orders had been placed and instructions had been given for the shipment of artillery equipment to the front. In addition, numerous newly developed guns were being designed and in the course of being manufactured.

The Allies after the Armistice named Gustav as one of the German industrialists to be tried as a war criminal. The charges were specious, basically that he supplied arms to the German Army.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:01:36 ZULU