Detail
1943

TRANSFER TO
WELS

ROTAX PRODUCTION CAPACITY IS RESTORED

AS A COVER FOR ENGINE PRODUCTION

The war eventually reaches even Schweinfurt. Allied air attacks put severe pressure on German infrastructure, especially heavy industry manufacturing munitions, ball bearings and engines. It is decided that certain branches should be relocated, as far as possible under the Allies’ radar. It is convenient for Fichtel & Sachs, therefore, that they own the Rotax brand, which is primarily known for producing bicycle components. The location selected for Rotax-Werk AG in 1943 is Wels, where the premises of Reformwerke, Bauer & Co, which has fallen out of favor with the National Socialist regime, are once more used for production of components. Equipped with share capital of 360,000 Reichsmarks, premises and an above-average size of labor force, the company begins producing stationery engines.

Seemingly autonomous from the outside, it remains, however, internally dependent on its parent company. Even if Rotax-Werk AG is given special status. Engine production is of such importance to the economy that Fichtel & Sachs outsources the 75-160 cc sector to Wels. At the same time the company is playing an increasingly important role in war planning, so much so that twice-daily reports are provided to the Rüstungskommando (armaments command). However, the special status of the Rotax plants is also reflected in its workforce. 700 staff work at the plants, including POWs and foreign civilian workers.

WELS AS A LOCATION

However, the crisis years of the 1930s continue, even in Wels and Upper Austria. High levels of unemployment and the associated drop in consumption cause problems, even for industrial companies, and Germany’s aggressive economic policies prior to the Anschluss take their toll. Many operations close down, and all businesses experience declines in sales and workforces.

Some optimism returns after the Anschluss, with the expectation of new market opportunities. But it soon becomes clear that only the relevant heavy industries will be playing a leading role in war planning. Companies that are not brought to their knees economically are politically and socially attacked. National Socialist expropriation wrests operations from the hands of Jewish people and companies that are not in favor with the regime. Including Reformwerke, Bauer & Co, later to serve as the new location for Rotax-Werk AG when it relocates to Wels, which is subjected to ruthless harassment, hostility and personal animosity by the National Socialist leadership. On August 25, 1944, Rotax-Werk AG’s new head office is entered in the Wels commercial register. Initially untouched by Allied air attacks, they come ever closer until Wels too is heavily bombed. Supplies of raw materials are maintained for a long time, because Rotax is too important to wartime planning.

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