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1933 - M.A.N. Under the Nazis

As did other industrialists in the early 1930s, Paul Reusch, Head of the Gutehoffnungshütte (GHH), supported Chancellor of the Reich Franz von Papen and his political foster father, President of the Reich Paul von Hindenburg. The conservative was highly suspicious of Adolf Hitler and the social revolutionary and extremely anti-Semitic current of the Nazis. That Germany was increasingly shifting closer to the swastika did not reduce this skepticism. Still, the economy was blossoming, and M.A.N. and its parent group GHH had plenty of orders for ships and bridges as well as Diesel engines for the merchant fleet and Navy.

In 1934/35, Adolf Hitler ordered Krupp and Rheinmetall-Borsig (and MAN) to develop BW (Begleitwagen) vehicle. Specifications required overall weight to be 18 ton, top speed of 35km/h and 75mm gun as main armament. All companies produced prototypes, which in 1935/36 were tested under various conditions. Rheinmetall-Borsig BW - VK2001(Rh) used Neubaufahrzeug's modified running gear, while Krupp's BW - VK2001(K) and Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nurnberg AG's VK2002(MAN) both used MAN's newly designed running gear. MAN designed new interleaved suspension system but it was not accepted. Krupp concentrated on the development of the turret while MAN worked on the running gear - VK 2001(MAN). All vehicles had similar characteristics but after extensive tests Krupp's design - VK 2001(K) was selected to enter full-scale production.

In 1938, work began on the vehicles, which were to replace newly introduced Panzerkampfwagen III and Panzerkampfwagen IV. In 1939, Krupp was awarded contract for a new tank, which was to replace Panzerkampfwagen IV - VK 2001 (IV). MAN and Daimler-Benz began work on their designs - VK 2002(M) and later VK 2401(M). This resulted in VK 2301(K), which utilized the basic design by Krupp with mechanical components developed by MAN. The new series evolved into light VK 2001(K) and heavier VK 2002(K) and VK 2301(K). Work on all new vehicles was stopped in December of 1941 and all efforts were focused on the development of a heavier tank - Panther.

The Panzerkampfwagen V Panther, next to the PzKpfw VI Tiger, is the best-known German tank of World War II. The Panther and the Soviet T-34 are considered to be the best tanks of World War II. When in June of 1941, Germany invaded Russia, Panzertruppe encountered KV series and T-34/76 tanks, which were far superior in firepower and armor protection to any Panzer at the time. It was then decided, because of the constant reports from the Eastern Front to design a new more powerful medium tank, which could be quickly put into production.

On November 25th of 1941, Adolf Hitler ordered Wa Pruef start work on the new tank. In December of 1941, Wa Pruef ordered Daimler-Benz and MAN (Maschinenfabrik Augsburg Nuernberg) to design new 30-ton tank armed with 75mm KwK L/70 gun as a response to the Soviet T-34/76 tank. On May 14th of 1942, when extensive tests of both prototypes were completed, Hitler decided to put MAN's design into production. Overall, from 1943 to 1945, some 6000 Panthers were produced by Maschinenfabrik-Augsburg-Nuremberg (MAN) in Kassel and Maschinenfabrik Niedersachsen-Hannover (MNH) in Hannover, along with Daimler-Benz, Henschel and Demag.

But even though business was good, Paul Reusch could never get friendly with the Nazi regime. The same was true for Otto Meyer, Reusch’s brilliant partner, who had taken over directorship of M.A.N. Otto Meyer had also put himself in danger by bringing his Jewish wife to safety in Switzerland. Although M.A.N. built standard Diesel trucks for the German armed forces, the company refused to use concentration camp prisoners for this work – to the anger of the Nazis. In 1942, the Nazis forced Paul Reusch to give up his Board position as well as his Supervisory Board posts in over 20 companies. Near the end of the war, there were even plans to arrest Meyer.

But this would never come to be. When Germany capitulated in 1945, GHH and M.A.N. had sustained heavy war damage, the Nuremberg plant was almost completely destroyed and all foreign subsidiaries were lost. To examine his past during the Nazi era, Otto Meyer was marched into Allied solitary confinement for five months. In July 1946, he was reappointed by the US military government as M.A.N. Board Member, and as Head of the Board (CEO) and General Director, he could now set course towards a better future.



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