It’s 70 years to the day since the Brits handed back Volkswagen to the Germans.

It was on October 8, 1949, that the British Military Government handed over trusteeship of Volkswagenwerk GmbH to the newly established Federal Republic of Germany.

During the second world war the factory, located in Stadt des KdF-Wagens, a town purpose-built for the factory workers and later renamed Wolfsburg, was turned over to production of military vehicles, reportedly using slave labour from the Arbeitsdorf concentration camp.

But in April, 1945 it was captured by the American advancing forces.

After they war Volkswagen was offered to the British Rootes Group as well as to Ford, but was roundly rejected by both.

Henry Ford II, the son of Edsel Ford, travelled to West Germany for a look. He turned to his Chairman of the Board, Ernest Breech, for advice.

“Mr. Ford, I don’t think what we’re being offered here is worth a dime!,” Breech said.

Not surprisingly, Ford passed on the offer.

Under the stewardship of Major Ivan Hirst and a German engineer named Heinrich Nordhoff, the British had laid the essential foundations for the later global success of the Beetle and of Volkswagen itself.

By 1946, the factory was producing 1000 cars a month which was quite remarkable as the factory was still in need of repairs.

Because of roof and window damage, production had to actually stop when it rained and the company was forced to barter new vehicles for steel which was in short supply.

Read our full story of the two men who saved VW.

CHECKOUT: The two men who saved VW

CHECKOUT: The Volkswagen that became a Porsche

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Chris Riley has been a journalist for almost 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.
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