Just as with trains, construction and armaments, the Fuhrer had a General Inspector of Motor Vehicles: Jakob Werlin of Mercedes’ Daimler-Benz
In the Jan. 27, 1942 issue of the automobile industry trade journal Motorcar Management there appeared the following important announcement:
“Jakob Werlin. General Inspector (overseer) for the Fuhrer in all manner of motor vehicles. Berlin Jan. 21st—In order to answer all important questions concerning motor vehicles for war leaders with a speed that would not be possible through official channels, the Fuhrer appointed a special General Inspector.
“For this purpose, the Fuhrer appointed SS Standard Leader Director Werlin, a prominent specialist with a rich experience in the practice of motor vehicles at his disposal, of whose reliable advice the Fuhrer has made use of for many years.
“The decree on Jan. 6, 1942 was worded as follows:
“It is necessary for me to be informed as completely as possible, so I can immediately make decisions and arrangements regarding motor vehicles as the war situation demands…The General Inspector is my immediate subordinate. He will receive directions only from me.
“The General Inspector is authorized in the territory of the German Reich, the General Government”(of German-administered Poland), “in occupied territories, the (war) theater of operations and with all military and civilian employees of the State, the employees of
the (Nazi) Party and pertinent private businesses, to receive priority cooperation in all necessary inspections. He will supply me with a running commentary.
“The named agencies and businesses are obliged to grant the General Inspector all the requested inspections to make things easier. He must receive all asked for information and required documents and backup material available.”
The decree was signed by Adolf Hitler as well as by Reich Minister and Secretary of State and Chief of the Reich Chancellery, Dr. Hans Heinrich Lammers, and the Chief of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel.
This decree formally placed Herr Werlin on a similar plane with two men (and later a third) as yet better known to the German public-at-large. The first was Minister of Armaments and War Production Dr. Fritz Todt (1891-1942), his soon-to-be-named successor, architect Albert Speer (1905-81), and Dr. Julius Dorpmuller (1869-1945). The last named had become involved with the Reich Railway Service in 1898, was named its head on June 4, 1926, was appointed Hitler’s Reich Transport Minister in 1937 and remained in that post until the end of the Second World War.
Jakob Werlin was a car man first and last, and both predated and outlasted the Third Reich as a company executive for Mercedes-Benz and its corporate entity, Daimler-Benz AG (today known as DaimlerChrysler.) His is a largely untold story of World War II that shall be rectified here and now.
He was born on May 10, 1886 at Andritz in Steirmark near Graz , and thus—like his future Fuhrer—was an Austrian, not a German. After having attending a trade school, Werlin began his formal automotive career in 1907 as an intern at the Puch firm in Graz.
In 1911, he took over the firm’s branch office in the Hungarian capital of Budapest, remaining there until the Great War broke out in 1914.
According to a letter in the Mercedes-Benz archives of June 13, 1939 to a Mr. Gilbert W. Luenefeld in Berlin, Werlin was a “well-known motorcycle racer, enlisted in the military and received a promotion.” In addition, notes the March 3, 1953 issue of Motor World, “As a member of the Bavarian Air and Motor Vehicle Battalion in 1915, he became automobile engineer of the (Army) Engineer Corps and in the year 1917 was released to the Hansa-Lloyd Plant. After a short employment in Verel and Bremen, Werlin headed their establishment in Essen.”
On Nov. 1, 1921, Werlin was named branch chief at Benz & Cie (Company) at Munich, and after the merger of Daimler and Benz in 1926 as the new firm Mercedes-Benz –the product name--(or Daimler-Benz AG), he was promoted Director for all of Upper Bavaria with the home office located in Munich, the birthplace of the Nazi Party. It was here that he met Adolf Hitler.
As I noted in my 1999 book, Mercedes-Benz Parade and Staff Cars of the Third Reich, Werlin joined both the Nazi Party and the SS in 1923, the year of the aborted Munich Beer Hall Putsch of Nov. 8th-9th. “In 1942 Hitler reminisced, ‘I went to the Benz works, and thus made Werlin’s acquaintance…I told him I wanted to buy a 16hp. ‘You’ll decide for yourself in the end,’ he said. ‘I’d advise you to try a 10hp to begin with, to get your hand in: it does only 80 km an hour, but it’s better to arrive at your destination at 80 than to smash yourself up at 110!’ These were so many dagger thrusts at my pride!’” Hitler recalled 19 years later. He bought his first Mercedes from Werlin, however.
The Fuhrer’s future “Deputy for Motor Vehicles” was rumored to have picked up Hitler when he got out of jail on Dec. 24, 1924, an assertion that his surviving children deny,
according to author Bernard P. Bellon in his excellent 1990 work, Mercedes in Peace and War: German Automobile Workers, 1903-1945.
According to the letter of June 13, 1939 to Mr. Luenefeld, “On July 1, 1933, Mr. Werlin became a member of the Managing Board (of Directors) of the Daimler-Benz Company, Stuttgart-Unterturkheim. Mr. Werlin is Advisor to the Fuhrer in all matters concerning motor vehicles. We hope to have been of help to you and greet you with Heil Hitler. Daimler-Benz Company.”
According to another statement from its Museum Archive of Apr. 29, 1941, “Mr. Director Werlin is known to be a trusted confidant of the Fuhrer and was commissioned to answer any questions pertaining to motorization and to inform our Fuhrer in any important occurrences in this area. In this capacity, he was able to tell the Fuhrer of many important questions and (the) positions of business, trade and industry. Mr. Werlin, except for his employment as head of the Daimler-Benz Company, played an important role in the war in the area of building motor vehicles.”
This last sentence was the real key to his power, for as the 1953 article added, “From 1933-45, Jakob Werlin was a member of the Managing Board at the Daimler-Benz Company. Thus, “Hitler’s friend for more than two decades”—as I termed him in 1999—was also “Hitler’s man within the upper corporate structure of Mercedes-Benz.” His dual role as both a top man at one of Nazi Germany’s leading car manufacturers and also as
the tsar of the entire automobile industry overall was a unique one for any country before or since—and earned for him a certain amount of enemies from without the orbit of the
swastika and the three-pointed star.
As I also noted in 1999, “Just as Werlin was Hitler’s insider at Daimler, so, too, was he the firm’s link with the highest leaders of Nazi Germany, traveled widely in German-Occupied Europe and supervised the company’s vast Swiss bank account cash reserves, attests Bernard P. Bellon. There, he may have been Eduard Schuelte’s source for Allied Intelligence’s knowledge about the growing Holocaust against the Jews, gypsies and others.”
During the 12 years of the Thousand-Year Reich, Hitler made Mercedes the car of the regime, boasting “I can claim credit for the things that make the Mercedes cars so beautiful today! In drawings and designs, I tried hard—year after year—to perfect that shape to the utmost.’…
“According to German author Wulf Schwarzwaller, Daimler-Benz refuses to discuss Hitler’s claimed design influence on the Mercedes-Benz cars, and adds, ‘No matter what the real story is, Hitler was not only the company’s best customer, he was also its best advertiser.’”
As many leftist authors have been quick to point out, Hitler and the Nazis came to power in Germany with the major backing of most of German Big Business and its aligned financiers and bankers. This included Mercedes and Daimler-Benz-AG. Aside from Hitler himself (and later Speer and Drs. Todt and Dorpmuller), Werlin worked
closely thoughout the entire period of the regime with the man whom the Fuhrer placed in charge of the German economy’s first Four Year Plan in 1936: Hermann Goring.
Over the years 1937, 1938, 1939 and 1941, Werlin published under his own name
a series of detailed articles on the German automobile industry in Goring’s magazine The Four Year Plan.
In 1937 he wrote in Advancement of Motorization, “German motorization under the National Socialists (Nazis) was executed in four main segments. The first started with the Fuhrer’s speech on ground rules on March 2, 1933. The second was the announcement of the Four Year Plan. At the beginning of the third segment is the groundbreaking for the Volkswagen factory…We stand at the beginning of the fourth segment, announcing the appointment of an authorized agent …to rationalize the building of motor vehicles” (the post that took him four more years to attain, so apparently there was resistance to his own appointment within the industry itself.)
He also pointed out that—under the Nazis—car manufacturing had risen from a low of 53,483 units in 1932 to a high of 328,267 by 1937, thus out-producing the rival French, who made 183,856 in 1932 and 207,430 cars five years later.
“The German automobile industry can count itself lucky that the Fuhrer himself was an enthusiastic and experienced driver,” Werlin asserted; well, not really. He had been taught to drive, but never drove himself, preferring instead to be chauffeured by a series of SS drivers.
“Six automobile exhibitions have taken place”(the German Auto Shows in Berlin) “since the power change” (of Jan. 30, 1933) “and each time the Fuhrer gave directional
speeches that contained everything of relevance for the motor vehicle industry.” These items included racing, airplane engines, warships, exports, raw materials, parts, tractors and the domestic labor force.
In 1938, Werlin published the article Five-Year Motorization in National Socialist Germany: A Look Back and Forward. He stated of the Fuhrer that “His interest in the motor vehicle goes back to the beginning of the (Nazi) movement…From that stems the saying of the Fuhrer, ‘I love the motor vehicle over everything because it opened Germany to me.’…
“The automobile export has increased 70% since 1936, an increase showing clearly that the German car is doing well abroad…The password of the future must be: ‘All for the Fuhrer—all for Germany!’”
In 1939’s Four Year Plan in Motorization, Werlin noted “It was a few years before taking power when the Fuhrer said to an intimate circle of co-workers, ‘Goring will take over aviation and I will look after motorization.’ What tremendous meaning this simple sentence has won in the four years of the industrial development! Carried by the initiative of the Fuhrer, the motor vehicle industry in the reconstruction of Germany took over first place and gave the whole industry an example for direction and pace.”
Before 1933, he asserted that “The German automobile industry was near a total collapse; it suffered losses it could not bear another six months…The removal of the class war was the first requirement for the development of the industry. At a time when in America 15 of the largest automobile factories hundreds of thousands of employees went
on strike and brought the industry to a standstill, Germany can show at the Automobile Exhibit with pride the result of its friendly and peaceful construction results.
“Germany stands today in third place in world automobiles” (behind the United States and the United Kingdom.) He also discussed import and export figures, the rate of
exchange and domestic consumption, as well as the Hitler-Goring policy of making the Reich independent of raw materials from abroad. One simple expedient during 1938-39 was simply to seize Austria (where the Hermann Goring Steel Works was built at Linz) and all of Czechoslovakia (including the Tatra Works that manufactured Czech Tatra cars.)
In 1941, in the article entitled Eight Years Motorization: Eight Years Projection (which would’ve taken Nazi Germany to 1947) Werlin wrote “In a narrow circle of the German arms industry stand those significant parts of the German industry in the foreground that serve the military on land, in water and in the air. This sector of the motor vehicle industry –by the speed and force of the German military—made possible their victorious breakthroughs in the east and the west and our warfare at sea in our modern speed boats and to forge modern and successful assault weapons and, in addition, destructive weapons against England.”
Finally, Werlin discussed what his own future duties would be as the Fuhrer’s General Inspector: “Whose responsibility is the advancement and consolidation of all necessary measures for production and improvement of the organization…for reaching standardization, as well as a uniformed streamlined target of all service agencies pertaining to German motor vehicles and organizations of State, Party and
Business…The duty of the general agent (Werlin) took on a heightened meaning for everything concerning vehicles due to the outbreak of war…The necessity arose to change the whole industry and mobilize all energy to keep up with the demands made on them by the War Department…
He also believed that all modes of transportation had been improved, as well as “the construction of a shipping fleet” (merchant marine) and “improved utilization for agricultural purposes,” but it was already too late, since the very night before he was killed in February 1942 Dr. Todt told Hitler that the war was lost, and by the fall of 1943 Speer would agree with his late predecessor.
By summer 1944, Werlin’s fellow executives at Daimler-Benz AG also concurred, and stopped producing cars altogether, making postwar plans to make trucks to haul away the debris and rubble from the bombed out Third Reich and thus construct a new Fourth.
With the end of the regime on May 8, 1945, Jakob Werlin’s task was done, and he left the Board of Directors, but was not cast out altogether by his peers at Mercedes, who were, in the main, grateful for all that he had done for the company over the past two decades-plus. Notes the 1953 Motor World article, “After the war, he independently took over as a representative of Daimler-Benz,” i.e., he became a salesman back at his territory in Munich. Neither he nor anyone else was charged at Daimler with war crimes by the Allies.
In 1965, the following death notice appeared in West Germany: “My dear man, our faithful father and grandfather Herr Jakob Werlin, former member of the Managing Board of Daimler-Benz Co. passed away today unexpectedly at the age of 79. His life
was full of human kindness and humility. In deep sorrow: Eglantine Werlin, nee von Simonyi (widow), with sons Fritz, Hans, Otto and their families. Requiem: Tuesday, Sept. 28th, 8 AM, at the city parish church, St. Oswald, Traunstein. Burial: the same day at 2 PM, at the Forest Cemetery, Trauenstein.”
He has found his place in history at last.
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