The forgotten end of the Hoffmann factory 1954
The forgotten end of the Hoffmann factory 1954 (A report by Mika Hahn)
In the 50s, the small, previously unknown factory of war profiteer James Oswald Hoffmann stormed the peak of the German economic miracle. In Lintorf, near Düsseldorf, the ‘Hoffmann-Werke’ built more than 100,000 motorcycles, small cars and above all the German Vespa. In addition to that they built 150.000 bicycles, which made them the largest German bicycle exporter of the time. But in 1954 the "most modern German motorcycle factory" (according to the press) surprised the public with going bankrupt. In a Spiegel article (January 1955), the Director of the Rheinisch Westfälische Bank Walter Karklinat called the event “the biggest and ugliest collapse of the last 20 years." Hoffman was mainly accused of a wrong financial policy. Only a few months earlier he had been internationally celebrated, now the only thing that remained was nationwide ridicule. The public of Germany's economic miracle didn’t show an interest in a more detailed analysis. Rumor had it that the bankruptcy was directed from above, agreed by major German corporations and banks in order to protect established companies that had not yet recovered from the aftermath of war.
Solinger Fahrrad Fabrik Until his rapid rise, Hoffmann was a white sheet of the German car industry. Nobody really knew where he came from or who he actually was. In 1938, the Düsseldorf confectioner's son first participated as a general partner of the Solinger Fahrrad Fabrik, founded in 1934 by Franz Schaaf, in 1943 Hoffmann took over the 400-person business. The war tripled Hoffmann workforce, with "free" laborers. Then followed the rise of a Nazi model factory: 1942 involvement in the development of armory, 1943 Hoffman officially received a decoration from Hitler. 1944, the Hoffmann headquarters were bombed out, but Hoffmann had already started to draw the main capital from rented additional workshops 20 km distant in Gräfrath. The forced laborers’ living conditions there had repeatedly been criticized by the Police Authority of Solingen. Hoffmann procured an access ban for his "war-related operations," and the production of armor for the "final victory" continued until 8 May 1945. This needs to be mentioned at this point because after the war, Hoffmann showed a decidedly Christian approach and he was even said to be related to Cardinal Frings.