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Adam Opel History Heritage
Even after June 1940 , official connections between Opel and America were not broken and monetary gain continued throughout the war which was controlled by the J.P Morgan firm, the Russelsheim plant was never given a major role in Germany's war preparations. Neither was Ford's plant in Cologne considered trustworthy enough for a big assignment, such as tank manufacture, in view of their earlier foreign associations. Initially, of course, it had appeared that the war would be a short one settled in Germany's favour. Auto plants were shut down, to conserve resources, but not converted to other jobs.
When in 1942 it became clearer that the fighting would go on for a while, car and truck factories were switched to war work in a modest way, Opel taking up the production of aircraft parts and tanks. Only at the Brandenburg plant did truck manufacture roar ahead at full speed. From the end of 1938 onward to big Opel Blitz trucks had been powered by the same basic 3.6 L engine used in the Opel Admiral. To meet the growing demands of wartime, 3 short tons (2.7 t) trucks of Opel design were built under license by Daimler-Benz at the former Benz factory at Mannheim.
Only the strong resistance of the American government within whose zone of occupation Russelsheim was located, prevented the total dismantling of the entire Opel plant as reparations in Russia. GM had no say in these discussions and was not sure just what posture to take toward its subsidiary. GM's Alfred Sloan recalled:
"(Opel) had been seized by the German government soon after the war began. In 1942 our entire investment in Opel amounted to about $35 million, and under a ruling which the Treasury Department had made concerning assets in enemy hands, we were allowed to write off the investment against current taxable income. But this ruling did not end our interest in, or responsibility for, the Opel property. As the end of the war drew near, we were given to understand that we were still considered the owners of the Opel stock; and we were also given to understand that as the owners, we might be obliged to assume responsibility for the property." It was a responsibility that Sloan and his associates weren't at all sure was worth the risk in the chaos of postwar Europe.
One resource that did not appear on the books of General Motors or on the rolls of the occupying authorities was most responsible for the recovery of Opel in 1945: the collaborative nature of its workers. They were not itinerant hires who had looked on their work at Russelsheim as just another job. They were men and women who had, for the most part, come from that immediate area, many from the country, and had literally grown up with the Adam Opel AG. The fate of Opel was important to its workers, for its collapse would mean the loss of the most important employer for the people of Russelsheim, who were finding their way home from the chaos of war.
Just at war's end a small skeleton crew began clearing the rubble from the plant. By May 1945, this work had advanced enough to allow the beginning of production of desperately needed Opel parts. Getting the materials for them was more dependent on barter and black markets than it was on normal sources of supply, which had all but ceased to exist.
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