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Hitler’s Mercedes-Benz (Fall 2012)

            After the Treaty of Versailles was signed, Germany was distressed and in total mayhem. During the 1940s the outside world was falling under the gripping tire of the Nazi reign, but inside Berlin, the people were brainwashed by the rising Adolf Hitler into believing that Germany was impregnable. In order to persuade the German people, Hitler made deceptive speeches and paraded himself for the German masses. He was an example of unlimited power whether that was through his actions or his luxury automobiles. “Das Beste oder Nichts” or translated in English: “the best or nothing,” is the slogan of the luxury carmaker, Mercedes-Benz. Over the last 100 years Mercedes-Benz has been the car of many important individuals including Adolf Hitler. Hitler’s safety was at upmost importance especially while he travelled in front of huge crowds where he was most vulnerable. During his reign as Nazi Party leader, dozens even close to fifty attempts were made to kill Hitler. Being such a high valued target, Hitler needed the best protection while he was out in the open to huge crowds composed of thousands of people. During the late 1930s there was four main car manufactures in Germany: BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Opel, and Porsche. The role of protecting Hitler was given to the car company Mercedes-Benz—during the early 1900s Mercedes separated its cars from the other three companies leading Mercedes to be the ultimate display of wealth and power, specifically two main models. The first was his touring car, a Mercedes-Benz W31 type G4. The second and most famous car Hitler used—the Mercedes-Benz 770 , or the Grosser Mercedes, used for parading Hitler. These vehicles played a major role in the life of Hitler. Both of the vehicles that Hitler predominantly rode in were customized to his likings, making the major changes to enhance his protection. 

            Touring across the many foreign fronts, Hitler travelled all across Europe from 1936 to 1945. The Mercedes-Benz W 31 G-4 cross-country touring car was responsible for the trips. The cars were built form 1934 to 1939 to be used in low speed situation involving rough terrain. The windows were 20mm with a windshield 30mm thick; this would certainly stop a bullet if fired upon. The backs of the seats along with the doors were reinforced with 8mm steel. The floor plates and driver’s legroom was equally protected making the car bulletproof against handguns and rifles. The tires were made up of 20 different cells most certainly bulletproof but Hitler had them removed because he had an oversensitive stomach. Only 57 of these vehicles were ever produced, mainly to be used by the Third Reich. During September 1937, the Duce, an Italian Fascist Party, visited Nazi Germany; Hitler arrived in his new G-4s showing off his proud automobile. This was the first public appearance of the cross-country touring car. 

            Since the public saw Hitler’s bulletproof car, Hitler travelled to Czechoslovakia and the West Wall. During the invasion of Czechoslovakia Hitler paraded through the country, later inspecting the West Wall/Siegfried Line. It was during this time that Hitler named his group of cars the Gray Column. With control of Czechoslovakia, Hitler now visited troops eight separate times in the polish front in his Gray Column. The last visit, took place in Warsaw Poland, at the victory parade. Eventually, Hitler’s G-4 picked up the name Führer Column/Führerkolonne. In the Front Group, a three-division escort to protect Hitler, the Führer’s column had five G-4s. During 1940 and 1941 Hitler travelled to the Western and Balkan Fronts. In this period, again, three convoys were organized to make travel to distant places quicker. Hitler rode in the middle along with 15 other Gray Column cars. When Hitler visited the Eastern Front, he never left his Gray Column, especially during his visit to the Berlin Sports Palace. At the Palace, Hitler announced Russia lost the war. While Hitler travelled in the German field, he used the G-4. 

            While Hitler toured outside of Germany in his Gray Column, Jakob Werlin was moving up the ranks inside Daimler-Benz, the company before the merger with Mercedes. Benz and Cie merged with Diamler in 1926, creating Diamler and Benz. Werlin and Hitler were friends for nearly two decades and when Werlin became the Managing Board at the Diamler-Benz Company, he produced a car that would suit Hitler’s needs. 

            Rather than using one car for both the parades and tours, Hitler was surprised with another model—the 770k Grosser/Grand Mercedes. During Hitler’s 50th birthday Werlin ordered a special 770K Cabriolet D containing four doors and seven seats. This too, like the G-4, provided the best protecting; the vehicle, given to Hitler on April 20, 1939, guarded him with 18mm armor plating and 40mm thick bulletproof glass windows. Only 117 770K Grossers were made during their years of production, followed by 88 second generation and 75 wartime G-4 cross-country models. 

            While Hitler had acquired a new car to parade himself, he needed a driver. Since Hitler always had a place to be, it would be best if he acquired a chauffeur. He did this, and his first driver was a part Jewish man named Emil Maurice. In 1921, he was granted as Hitler’s chauffeur and became one of Hitler’s closest associates. Hitler goes on to hire Julius Schreck who succeeded Maurice. Schreck was not just Hitler’s chauffeur; he played a major role in developing both the SA and SS. These were the bodyguard units set up for Hitler. While Hitler was on the verge of killing himself, Schreck pulled the pistol form his hand and saved the Führer’s life. He often acted as Hitler’s double because they looked so similar. On May 16, 1936 Schreck unexpectedly died at the age of 37 from an infection. SS Officer Erich Kempka would take over for the deceased Schreck. Kempka remained with Hitler until Hitler’s death in 1945. 

            Hitler, along with His Majesty before him, was a devoted Mercedes-Benz customer; Hitler bought his first car in 1924 from Werlin. There were two generations of Grosser models built: the W 07 produced between 1930-38, and the W 150 manufactured during 1938-43. Hitler acquired the second generation, a W 150 on his 50th birthday. Hans Nibel, the head of engineering for Daimler-Benz, produced the Type 770 Grosser Mercedes—the word Grosser means “great.” The 770K Pullman Limousine was introduced in 1938, which was no ordinary limousine. Along with thick bulletproof surroundings the car had 20-cell tires, Hitler’s seat and footrest raised 13cm higher than the other seven seats, aluminum parts to lighten the overall weight, spare tire and cover that protected the engine, electromagnetic circuit blocking doors, manganese-treated armor, 300-liter gas tank, nickel-silver radiator, and Hitler’s personal flag. 

            Because Hitler has been a Mercedes customer long before he was a Nazi leader, he decided that a Mercedes would be a perfect gift. Hitler gave three Grossers as presents to other important people, none went to his closest ally Mussolini. Marshal Karl Gustav Baron Mannerheim of Finland, Generalissimo Francisco Franco of Spain, and Mershal Ion Antonescu of Rumania all acquired Grossers from Hitler, in addition Franco also received a G-4 cross-country. Mannerheim received the car on his 75th birthday, in regards to defending the Russians, which Hitler admired the bravery of the entire nation.   

            Although Hitler only gave away one type of Grosser, there were three versions of the Grosser type 770 W 150 limousines. The first a unarmored model weighed around 3600kg; the second and third models both were armored one weighing 4100kg and the other weighing 4780kg. The third was a “K” model that indicated Kompressor, the car had a supercharger than enhanced the speed and quickness. The third model also had more armor attacked to the body. During production of the cars made for Hitler, he would make inspections to the factory to make sure the armor and workmanship was to his likings. For one of the vehicles that Hitler received it took 56 people to make and each one personally signed the completed car. 

            Since the car was deemed acceptable by Hitler, he used the heavily armored Grosser to make his two most famous trips: On June 18, 1940 in Münich, Germany, Hitler and Mussolini were both standing up riding together and to Berlin victory parade held on July 6, 1940. The historian Blaine Taylor wrote in his book that either you show the Merced because of its history, or you do not: “Some say because of its history, it should never be shown. Others say it is for this very reason it should never be forgotten. This Mercedes-Benz—a thing of beauty for its mechanical perfection—remains a symbol of tyranny mankind must never be allowed to forget.” The history of the two Mercedes should certainly be taught in the classroom. Without the protection of his Mercedes, Hitler may not have survived long enough to kill millions of Jews. It is important to never forget small impacts that largely affect the bigger picture, without the small little things there would be no big picture. 

            Whether Hitler was attending important events, science and technology helped him get to where he needed to go. Science and Technology gave Hitler the upper hand, making his travel new and faster. The Mercedes started a technology boom leading to new ideas and inventions. Along with his protection from the Mercedes, the introduction of the Autobahn and Volkswagen grew the impaired German economy. Before Hitler was partnered with Nibel, the Mercedes Company was not nearly what it was after Hitler’s influence. After Hitler was using Mercedes the company was producing car at a much larger scale. The output from Mercedes-Benz helped the company produced war products. Things such as supercharges were put into war vehicles making the German weapons faster than the competing Allies. Most of all Mercedes boosted the German country by protecting the Führer and influencing military infrastructure. 

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