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The Messerschmitt AG in Oberammergau (1943-1945)1 A.

Introduction

With the liberation of the Garmisch-Partenkirchen administrative district by American troops on 28 April 1945 also a piece of ind strial history came to an end! a history "hich! altho #h it lasted merely t"o years! had #iven rise to may spec lations and r mors$ %his refers to the comprehensive relocations to &berammer#a made by the 'esserschmitt AG aircraft constr ctor and defense contractor$ (o f ndamental reappraisal of this s b)ect has been made so far! a fact! "hich can also be attrib ted to the scanty so rce material$ As a res lt! the follo"in# remarks can only be of a preliminary nat re$ A paper on this s b)ect can only be meant to collect fra#ments and be aimed at a sort of sec rin# of evidence$ *nfort nately! a coherent reconstr ction is not +yet,- possible$ %herefore! this paper sho ld be re#arded as a contrib tion to that chapter of re#ional "ar history "hich is meant to precede a f t re acco nt #iven as ob)ectively as possible$ Apart from the facilities relocated to &berammer#a ! a road t nnel near .schenlohe ho sed a prod ction plant of the 'esserschmitt AG! abo t "hose e/istence hardly any doc ments have been fo nd so far$ *nfort nately! this article cannot #o into f rther details on this matter$ . The Messerschmitt AG unti! 1943

0n 1921 the en#ineer Willy 'esserschmitt fo nded the 'esserschmitt aircraft constr ctin# company "hich in 1918 became the 'esserschmitt AG$ %"enty years after its fo ndation the company "as the leadin# German aircraft constr ctor$ %he 2 ick rise of the company can be clearly seen from the n mber of its employees +cf$ %able 0-$ Whereas in the early phases of the %hird 3eich the 'esserschmitt AG had 524 employees! this n mber had risen to 8!494 employees by 1919 and "as tripled a#ain by the end of the "ar$ M"##"$#%&MITT AG .mployees +selection1911 524 1919 8!494 1942 11!545 1941 15!298 1944 21!141 Tab!e I %he 'esserschmitt company clearly #ained a #reat deal from the preparations for a "ar of a##ression$ %he 6f 179 +later on renamed 'e 179-! developed in 1915! in the follo"in# t"o decades became the most-b ilt fi#hter aircraft in the history of aviation$ Accordin# to '66! of the 'e 179 type alone some 15!777 aircraft "ere prod ced in more than 177 versions$ 0t says m ch for the 2 ality of this company that this type became the standard fi#hter aircraft of the German 8 ft"affe$ 2 .arly on 'esserschmitt t rned to the development of the )et prop lsion en#ine$ %he first e/perimental fli#ht of the 'e 252! the first mass-prod ced )et fi#hter! took place on 18 April 1942$ 9apable of flyin# at a speed of 847 kilometers per ho r it s rpassed all fi#hter aircraft of that time by "ell over 277 km:h$ %he 'esserschmitt AG f lly satisfied nearly all the "ishes of the 8 ft"affe$ %he company decided many important invitations for tenders in their favor! and the prod ct spectr m ran#ed from fi#hter aircraft to bombers! #liders and lon#-distance reconnaissance aircraft to lar#e-capacity transport aircraft$ %he increasin# n mber of bombardments by the allied air forces forced the 'esserschmitt AG to relocate important prod ction facilities to ;air-raid protected< re#ions$ %he first air raid on the 3e#ensb r#:Pr=fenin# plant on 14 A # st 1941 "as a decisive incident for the 'esserschmitt "orks$ Abo t 57 per cent of the facilities in 3e#ensb r# "ere destroyed and 477 people killed$ %he raid on the company>s heart! its head office in A #sb r#! "as only a matter of time$ %herefore! the prod ction and assembly plants "ere erected in dense forests$ 0n the Ga tin# ?orest alone the 'esserschmitt AG finally employed 1!277 skilled and temporary "orkers entr sted "ith the constr ction of the 'e 252$ (earby hi#h"ays "ere closed in sections to se the strai#ht stretches as r n"ays$ %hese forest factories "ere "ell concealed and never discovered by allied air reconnaissance assets$ Another important plant "as located in a t nnel in @ematen:%yrol$ &f co rse the prod ction centers p rposely set p at the 'a tha sen and ?lossenb=r# concentration camps "ere sed as "ell$1 0n &ctober 1944 the company had already shifted 57 plants to relocation sites in Ao thern Germany! "ith &berammer#a +2!277 employees-! 8eipheim +1!257 employees- and @ottern +2!777 employees- co ntin# amon# the lar#est$ 4 %. $e!ocation to Oberammergau

0n &ctober 1941 the pro)ect and desi#n offices and the statics and e/perimental sections "ere relocated from A #sb r# to &berammer#a $ ?or camo fla#e reasons this en#ineerin# department "as called ; Upper Bavarian Research Institute<$ At &berammer#a ! the 'esserschmitt company operated lar#ely on a self-s fficient basis and tried to prevent the local administrative a thorities from #ainin# an insi#ht into their b siness$ 0n spite of the fact that the entire lo#istics +food! ra" materials! allocation of forei#n "orkforce- had obvio sly been coordinate directly "ith the responsible ministries in 6erlin! the monthly political reports of the r ral police stations in &berammer#a ! .schenlohe and .ttal present reliable so rces for the identification of historical dates and provide information abo t chan#es normally associated "ith the settlement of s ch a lar#esiBe b siness in a r ral area$ &n 24 Aeptember 1941 the r ral police station in &berammer#a reported for the first time to the district a#ency in GarmischPartenkirchen abo t the ne"comersC

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;Between 11 and 13 September 1943 the local barracks were completely evacuated !he soldiers were accommodated in "ittewald and #$ssen %nd parts o& the "esserschmitt %' %u(sbur( with a work&orce o& )*3++ to )*,++ personnel were trans&erred to these barracks !he work&orce members are housed in -berammer(au* Unterammer(au* %ltenau* Saul(rub* .ohl(rub and /ttal 0, 0t had! ho"ever! not been clear ri#ht from the be#innin#! that the mo ntain infantry barracks "o ld be sed by the ; Upper Bavarian Research Institute < As &tto G=nBler and Alfred D"ink noted in their book ; -berammer(au 1 Ber$hmtes 2or&* Ber$hmte '3ste*0 the ori#inal intention had been +alle#edly on Eitler>s personal order- that the 'esserschmitt company se the Passion theater$ Aince! ho"ever! the theater hall proved to be completely ns ited for s ch a p rpose their interest had been directed to the barracks and the latter been confiscated$5 ?rom that time on there "as a steady increase in the n mber of the ;work&orce< +cf$ %able 00-$ %o"ard the end of the "ar +?ebr ary 1945- it n mbered 2!477 personnel! 177 of them so-called ;&starbeiterF +"orkers from .astern co ntries- and 577 people from other co ntries4

3''' (5'' (''' 15'' 1''' 5'' ' O)t-43 *e+-43 ,eb-44 A-r-44
.Aus!/nder.

Aug-44

#e--44

,eb-45

*eutsche

.Ostarbeiter.

Tab!e II *. 0ro1ects

0t is impossible to describe the history of a defense contractor "itho t #ivin# at least a ro #h o tline of its most important en#ineerin# pro)ects$ At &berammer#a the 'esserschmitt AG contin ed those tasks "hich co ld no lon#er be performed in A #sb r#$ %hat is to say that individ al aircraft like the 'e 179 had! either to be contin o sly p#raded or to be modified for special tactical missions$ Eo"ever! the main emphasis "as placed on the desi#n of )et or rocket-propelled aircraft$ 0n this conte/t! the aforementioned 'e 252 t rned o t to be the most important and most promisin# pro)ect$ 'any hi#h-rankin# officers and fi#hter pilots considered this aircraft an asset to re#ain air s premacy$ 0t "as all the more depressin# for many of them that Eitler intended to have this aircraft! "hich had been desi#ned as a )et fi#hter! converted into a ; blit4 bomber<$ 9arryin# a 577 k# bomb to enemy cities "itho t bein# intercepted by enemy air defense it "o ld have been another ;retaliatory weapon0 8$ 0rrespective of ho" Eitler>s order "o ld have readC 0t m st not be overlooked that at that time "ith the entry of the *nited Atates of America the "ar had already been decided$ 0t is definitely not appropriate to create a myth of in#enio s aircraft desi#ners ;who have been deprived o& their victory by a mad 5itler*< as 6enedikt .renB has phrased it so fittin#ly for the #enerals$9 Another important en#ineerin# pro)ect in the final months of the "ar "as an e/perimental aircraft "ith a variable "in# s"eep$ %oday this variable-s"eep "in# technolo#y is a common feat re in may types of fi#hter aircraft$ At that time the desi#ners broke ne" #ro nd in science$ %he first e/perimental aircraft of this type "ere e/cl sively intended for hi#h-speed research activities$17 ?i# re 1 sho"s a prototype of this aircraft! 87 percent of "hich "ere completed$ %he pro)ect "as r n nder the code desi#nation of P 1171G the first fli#ht "as sched led for 1945$ P 1171 is a classic e/ample of the transfer of technolo#y from Germany to the victorio s po"ers after the end of the "ar$ P 1171! basically an aircraft b ilt aro nd a t rbine )et nit! served as a model for vario s American aircraft desi#ns in the 1957>s +e$#$ 6ell H-5-$

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,igure 12 0rotot3-e o4 the M" 11'15 M Previo sly lar#ely nkno"n "as a missile development pro)ect at 8inderhof 9astle$

6 Archi7es

0n I ne 1941 the 'esserschmitt AG "as tasked to develop a s rface-to-air missile for se as antiaircraft "eapon$ %he antiaircraft missile +?3 1-5- "as #iven the code name 6/n4ian0$ .n#ineer Jr$ Eermann W rster "as desi#nated the mana#er of this pro)ect$ ?or this p rpose! he and his immediate staff moved into office rooms at 8inderhof 9astle$ 6 t there the initial prototypes "ere only desi#ned$ Part of the act al prod ction "ork "as done by the EolBba -@issin#en company in Aonthofen$ Aince it became increasin#ly diffic lt to #et the ra" material re2 ired! this missile "as to have a "ooden str ct re$ %he desi#n provided for a tailless missile "ith backs"ept "in# "hich! # ided from the #ro nd! "as to carry 577 k# of e/plosives into the fi#hter bomber "in#s of the allied po"ers and to detonate them there$ %he missile had a flyin# ran#e of 27 km$ 11 An impression of its dimensions can be #ained by rememberin# its len#th of 4!57 m and "in# span of 2!45 m$ 0nitial test fli#hts at Peenem=nde started as early as in 'arch 1944$ *ntil the end of the "ar 57 ; /n4ian< missiles had been b ilt! b t they "ere never to be sed a#ainst allied bombers$12

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".

8a3out 0!an o4 the 9:--er a7arian $esearch Institute;

Accordin# to a 1945 report of the investi#atin# Air %echnical 0ntelli#ence! the "hole comple/ "as divided into t"o parts! i$e$ in the former premises of the mo ntain infantry barracks and an nder#ro nd t nnel system at a distance of appro/imately 177 m$

,igure ( %he individ al areas of "ork on the barracks premises "ere also physically separated +cf$ ?i# re 2-$ 0n the b ildin#s to the north the administration and the vario s desi#n offices "ere accommodated$ %he b ildin#s to the so th "ere sed as stora#e rooms and "orkshops$ %he b ildin# ri#ht at the main entrance ho sed the "orks sec rity section! the air-raid protection service and dispensary! incl din# the practice of Jr$ Ailberna#el! the company doctor +6ld# (o$ 571-$ %he pper floor accommodated the office rooms of the personnel administration headed by a certain 'r$ von PlottnitB$ %he ne/t b ildin# +(o$ 572- ho sed the "orks canteen$ %he %echnical Jirector! 'r$ 'esserschmitt! had his office in 6 ildin# 574$ %he b ildin#s to the so th accommodated a "ide ran#e of "orkshops and stora#e roomsC vehicle "orkshop +(o$ 517-! carpenter>s "orkshop +(o$ 511-! paint shop +(o$ 527-! saddler>s "orkshop +(o$ 518- and blacksmith>s shop +(o$ 521- as "ell as

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"eldin# and metal"orkin# shop +(o$ 514-$ Almost any technical problem co ld be solved on the spot$ Amon# the stora#e b ildin#s! (o$ 515 deserves partic lar mention! since here the prototypes of a 'e 252 and the P 1171 "ere discovered$ Aome 177m a"ay from the barracks area forei#n "orkers d # an nder#ro nd t nnel system into the hills$ At the end of the "ar this system "as abo t 157m "ide and p to 97m deep$ As can be seen from the layo t plan! this system "as divided into t"o parts as "ell$ %he smaller part to the east mainly served the stora#e of important doc ments$ ?or that p rpose a h t had been erected in front of the entry "here obvio sly also copies of individ al doc ments "ere made$ 0n addition to a re#istry for ori#inal plans this section also ho sed a small first-aid station and a heatin# plant$ Eo"ever! beca se of its moistness! the t nnel system "as a rather npleasant place to "ork$ %he lar#er part to the "est "as nder constr ction and sed at times as e2 ipment store b t also as air-raid shelter for the "orkforce$ %his section "as intended to accommodate the "orkshops and parts of the e/perimental department$ 9ontrary to "idespread r mors! the nder#ro nd t nnels "ere never sed for the prod ction of either individ al aircraft parts or even entire aircraft$ %he narro" e/its alone +ma/$ 4!7m "ide- did not permit s ch a se$11 %he e2 ipment in the t nnel system "as removed after the "ar$ 0n the meantime! the entries have been blocked e/plosions$ ,. Im-!ications 4or Oberammergau p by

%he arrival of the ;"esserschmitt people <! as they "ere commonly called later on! did not meet "ith #reat enth siasm in the local pop lationG on the contrary! their presence "as rather considered a risk$ %he resident people feared that &berammer#a mi#ht no" become a tar#et of enemy air raids$ Accordin# to the political reports! this had res lted in a ; certain nervousness <14$ 0n fact! the "orks in &berammer#a and .schenlohe "ere never bombed! beca se ntil their invasion on 28 April 1945 the Allied po"ers did not have any kno"led#e abo t their location$15 %he s dden shorta#e of ho sin# proved to be the first tan#ible side effect$ Jespite their first orientation to"ards to rism! the pensions and hotels in &berammer#a "ere far from bein# capable of providin# 2 arters for all employees$ %his res lted in a diffic lt sit ation on the ho sin# market$ %he evac ated children and the fe" remainin# # ests +&berammer#a ! (ovember 1941C 277- co ld no lon#er be accommodated$ Altho #h it had contin ed to brin# money into the re#ion thro #ho t the initial years of the "ar! to rism no" came to a complete standstill$ &n the other hand the 'esserschmitt "orks meant )obs and trainin# vacancies for the pop lation of &berammer#a $ 15 Accordin# to a report of the &berammer#a police station! in April 1944 even the ; vast ma7ority o& the population had &ound 7obs there<14$ %here "as no more money in the traditional craft of "ood carvin#$ A fe" "orkshops man fact red protheses for military hospitals$ 3elocations of other defense contractors follo"ed$ %he pop lation ascribed the s pply bottlenecks ca sed by the "ar also to the presence of these b sinesses$ &n 28 April 1944 the reporter of the Garmisch-Partenkirchen police district "rote to Jr$ Wiesend! the Jistrict AdministratorC 6!he increase in population* lar(ely resultin( &rom relocations and removal* places such (reat demands on trade and industry that these can hardly be met any lon(er 018 Above all the s pply of bread and ve#etables had 6slackened0$ %he sit ation had been especially hard in &berammer#a "here resta rants had to close do"n$ &ne reason for the shorta#e of s pply "as ass med to be the fact that the rations had been based on the year of 1918! "hich no lon#er corresponded to the act al n mber of inhabitants$ 0n his opinion! ho"ever! the s pply of ra" materials and the deployment of labor had been ens red in the lar#e "orks in &berammer#a and .schenlohe$19 6 t their s pply as "ell co ld not be maintained$ %h s! for e/ample! from the middle of 1944 on! the transports destined for 'esserschmitt from the &berammer#a rail"ay station to the barracks had to be cancelled a#ain and a#ain beca se there "as either a shorta#e of tr cks or of f el$ ?re2 ently the frei#ht cars "aited for days on end at the rail"ay station ntil! finally! they co ld be nloaded$27 J rin# an Air %echnical 0ntelli#ence interro#ation even the b siness director! Peter @okothaki! stated that from the end of 1944 on the s pply of ra" materials had been very poor$ As from 'arch 1945 there "as no more re# lar prod ction and the company "as preocc pied "ith removals$ ./ec tives of the Apeer 'inistry even s spected some kind of sabota#e so that in ?ebr ary 1945 the mana#ement "as transferred to AA-&ber#r ppenf=hrer @ammler$ Eo"ever! the ne" mana#ers had proven to be absol tely incompetent! since they had not had the faintest idea of aircraft desi#n or b siness mana#ement$ 21 %he AA people "ere 2 artered in the Eotel ?riedenshKhe$22 Altho #h lar#e parts has already been in "orkin# order for a lon# time! the b ild p phase of the ; Upper Bavarian Research Institute< had not been finaliBed t"o "eeks prior to the end of the "ar$

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ib!iogra-h3 1$ 'ohr! 8K"e! 3a te L 6eitrM#e B r Geschichte des 8andkreises Garmisch-Partenkirchen! edited by Nerein f=r Geschichte! @ nst- nd @ lt r#eschichte im 8andkreis Gramisch-PartenkirchenC 3ichard Eei#l! Jie 'esserschmitt AG in &berammer#a $ 6enecke! %heodor +ed$-! Jie Je tsche 8 ftfahrt! Nol$ 14C Willy 'esserschmitt L Pionier der 8 ftfahrt nd des 8eichtba es! 6onn 1992$

2$

$e4erences AtA' 83A 51519 L 51527 +3eports of r ral police stations-

Je tsches ' se m! Archives! 83 72978 3eport of *AA%A?-Air %echnical 0ntelli#ence +3eport (o$ ?-03-5-3.-! dated 1 A # st 1945 0ntervie"C 3ichard Eei#l "ith Alfons ApMth! 'arch 1995$

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Excerpts from: Mohr, Lwe, Raute Beitrge zur Geschichte des Land reises Garmisch!"arten irchen, edited #$ %erein f&r Geschichte, 'unst! und 'u(turgeschichte im Land reis Garmisch!"arten irchen: Richard )eig(, *ie Messerschmitt +G in ,#erammergau 2 MBB, -$pen#(tter, n.p., n.d. 1 *ie *eutsche Luftfahrt, edited #$ *r. -heodor Benec e, %o(. /0: 1i(($ Messerschmitt "ionier der Luftfahrt und des Leicht#aues, Bonn /223, p. /24f. 5hereinafter: *ie *eutsche Luftfahrt6 4 *ie *eutsche Luftfahrt 5see 7ote 36, p. /28. 5 9t+M: LR+ :/:/2. 5 ,tto G&nz(er ; +(fred <wic , ,#erammergau Ber&hmtes *orf, Gste, *rei =ahrhunderte "assionsspie( im 9piege( seiner Besucher, M&nchen /28>, p. /40f. ,ne of the rare copies is at the (oca( archi?es in ,#erammergau. 4 9t+M: LR+ :/:3>. 8 *ie *eutsche Luftfahrt 5see 7ote 36, p. 3/@f. -he decision was made on the occasion of )it(erAs ?isit to Bnster#urg on 3: 7o?em#er /2@4, where the state!of!the!art air force techno(og$ was presented. -he order to con?ert the aircraft for this mission fo((owed in Ma$ /2@@. 9 <EB-!pun te, 7o. 4 ; /228, Gehorsam #is zum MordC p. 0>. 17 LDE-E+)R- internationa( 0, p. />8@. 11 *ie *eutsche Luftfahrt 5see 7ote 36, p. 3F4. 12 *ie *eutsche Luftfahrt 5see 7ote 36, p. 3F@f. 11 *etai(s ta en from a (a$out p(an of the ,#erammergau construction office, dated /> 9eptem#er /2F8. 14 9t+M: LR+ :/:/2. 15 *eutsches Museum, +rchi?es, LR >32>F. Report of D99-+E!+ir -echnica( Bnte((igence 5Report 7o. E!BR!:!RE6, dated / +ugust /2@:. 15 Bnter?iew Richard )eig( with +(fons 9pth, March /228 14 9t+M: LR+ :/:/2. 18 9t+M: LR+ :/:/2. 19 9t+M: LR+ :/:/2. 27 9t+M: LR+ :/:/2. 21 *eutsches Museum, +rchi?es, LR >32>F$ 22 Bnter?iew Richard )eig( with +(fons 9pth, March /228