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Whose Design is it Anyway?

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Whose Design is it Anyway?

Whose Design is it Anyway

Whose Design is it Anyway?

In 1937-38 Ferdinand Porsche designed the Volkswagen
Beetle. Adolf Hitler approved it and is even said to have drawn some sketches for
it. Though Beetle was a name it gathered later, ‘Volkswagen’ meant ‘people’s
car’ in German. A cost effective, no nonsense car that was truly socialist in
being affordable to the common man. It is remarkable to note that, since the
1920s and the 1930s, Bauhaus in Munich and Vkhutemas in Moscow had begun
imagining a SOCIALIST activity called DESIGN, which forged rules of Art with
that of Technology to produce objects of function that would bring about an
equitable world.  For reasons only known
to them, Hitler shut Bauhaus and chased them out of Germany and Stalin shut
Vkhutemas and chased them out of the Soviet Union. And we don’t want to know
what they threatened them with (if they did not draw or make what they wanted
them to). Some of these radical fugitives found themselves in Switzerland and
some others in New York. And we know the rest of their story.

The first Volkswagen cars were presented to Hitler and
other top Nazis with much international pomp and show in 1939. Shortly, Tatra the
automobile manufacturer of Czechoslovakia made some noise about patents they
held, being violated. Then they became silent. They became silent because
Hitler’s manic war on the world had begun. Czechoslovakia was one of the first countries
to fall.

In Germany, before ordinary German people could buy
the Volkswagen, Hitler’s good friend Ferdinand Porsche designed a battle
version of it. The same engine, chassis, suspension and more or less the same
profile- the ‘Kubelwagen’. The production of the Volkswagen (people’s car) ceased
for the time being. The Kubelwagen was different in one striking feature (to
the Volkswagen) though. It had a speed reducer that on special occasions could
move the car at a deliberate 2 miles an hour, the average speed that an infantryman
with his supplies and equipment walked.

‘Blitzkrieg’ was Hitler’s idea and it meant sudden
war. He ordered the regular German army to do that.  Country after country fell to the sudden thundering
juggernaut of armor and howling bombers that smashed through defenses. Showing
total indifference to the shell-shocked defenders, it sped on towards their capital
cities, to demand unconditional surrender.  Shortly afterwards, following the regular
German Army, the Nazi army would come along- the SS troops. They shot
everything that moved, men women children. The Nazi officers sat in their Kubelwagons
directing their men and sometimes joining them. After killing over 75 to 80
million people, this stupid war ended in 1945. Those who survived the murder would
never forget the clang clang of air-cooled engines and the frog like profile that
moved at a very deliberate speed of 2 miles an hour; a symbol of sure death.

After the war, the British Auto Industry showed no
interest in the frog like noisy car. Neither did French or American. However to
give the defeated German peoples some thing to make a living on, the Allied
occupying forces of battered Germany allowed production of the Volkswagen
beetle to begin in 1948. The phenomenon began then, the ugly frog like machine
with a bloodied profile and the sound of sure death transformed. It became
cool. The Beetles drove it. The peaceniks made it their transport. It was
sighted at all demonstrations of the young. In Paris it edged out their
favorite 2 CV. Hollywood made hugely successful films on it. Woodstock was
littered with them. No anti-war demonstrations were complete without them and without
pausing; it became the sign of PEACE and LOVE. The production ended in 2017. The
Volkswagen Beetle was the only car that stayed in production for 70 years.

How did this happen?

During this long haul, the hugely rich Volkswagen
Company made ‘out of court’ amends with Tatra Automobiles of Czechoslovakia (who
had made noises of their patents being violated.) But that was not all. Facts
came out. Ferdinand Porsche had worked at Tatra Automobiles of Czechoslovakia
before he began practicing in Germany and became Hitler’s favorite. Another man
by the name of Jozef Ganz also worked at Tatra Automobiles of Czechoslovakia. He
moved to Munich and designed his version of the people’s car ‘Standard’ and
exhibited it at the Berlin Auto Exhibition in 1937. Hitler saw it, because he
inaugurated the exhibition. Jozef Ganz and his car were never ever seen afterwards.
Josef Ganz was a Jew and a communist to
boot.

To those of us who would like to see how his car
looked like, we can, on the Internet, just like why Tatra the Czechoslovakian
automaker made noises about their patents long ago.

So,

Whose design was it anyway?
Was it Ferdinand Porsche’s?
Was it Tatra’s?
Was it Hitler’s?
Was it Josef Ganz’s?

Or was it the people who eventually ‘designed’ it?

Author:
Prakash Moorthy, Professor and HoD, Animation and Motion Graphics, Unitedworld Institute of Design (UID)

Disclaimer: The opinions / views expressed in this article are solely of the author in his / her individual capacity. They do not purport to reflect the opinions and/or views of the College and/or University or its members.

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