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26.5.1938: Laying of the foundation stone in Wolfsburg
"Today, on May 26, 1938, a small town in the south of the East-Hanover district is the focal point of the whole of Germany. We are at the huge site of the Volkswagen plant, a few kilometers away from the town of Fallersleben, the birth place of the composer of the German national anthem. Here, an enormous plant shall be created in accordance with the Führer’s (Hitler’s) wishes, which the entire world will talk about. This is where the Volkswagen (people’s car) of the working German person shall be produced."

The idea of such a Volkswagen had already been developed by the engineer Ferdinand Porsche some years before. It was to be a car which was easy to build, affordable and with low running costs.

Porsche constructed a limousine, a cabriolet and a convertible limousine, which had fuel consumption levels of six to seven liters per hundred kilometers and a top speed of 100 kilometers per hour on the motorway, and would only cost 990 marks.

The established German car manufacturers were somewhat reserved about this project, yet Porsche attracted Adolf Hitler’s attention. Hitler was a fan of Porsche, whose racing cars were successful on all the European racing circuits. And now a Volkswagen -- that fitted perfectly into the Führer’s concept.

"To me, one national deficiency stands out as being perfectly suited to reduce the number of unemployed people: the problem of motorization," Hitler said. "This is the field where Germany has lost the most amount of ground on foreign competitors."

Porsche received the official job to develop a car that was not allowed to cost more than 1,000 marks. The car was to be built in the original plant, north of Hanover. Up to 10,000 people were employed at the building site, which was probably the largest of its kind in Europe, including 3,000 Italians, who Hitler’s political ally Mussolini had sent over.

"The first construction section of the Volkswagen plant is approaching its completion," Hitler said at the time. "The workers of the Volkswagen plant will be provided with the most beautiful rest rooms, shower facilities and sports fields, ensuring that not just the technical facilities, but also the social welfare of the workforce will be second to none."

But then September 1939 arrived and the Second World War broke out when Germany invaded Poland. It also brought the construction work at the Volkswagen plant to a halt. The car plant was converted into an armaments factory. Tank wheels and later the V1 rocket were produced there instead of the beetle.

Following the end of the war, the Volkswagen plant was in ruins like most of the German factories. However, it was not dismantled by the Allies. On the contrary, the British took a liking to the car.

"Cars are once again produced on a conveyor belt in the former Volkswagen plant at Fallersleben," a spokesman said.
"Approximately 18,000 staff are employed at the plant and its subsidiaries. Order and raw materials have been secured for a long time to come. To begin with, the vehicles are being distributed by the military authorities to the occupying power’s departments and vital German enterprises."

This was when the success story of the VW beetle really started. In 1950, the round vehicle cost around DM 4,000, five years later the millionth car came off the production line. In 1972, the Beetle became a world champion. With the production of more than 15 million cars, it overtook the legendary Tin-Lizzy, made by Ford.

In total, almost 22 million Volkswagen were sold in 150 countries – a unique record. The last beetle rolled off the production line in Mexico on July 10, 2003. But it isn't dead. As stated in its advertising slogan: "Er läuft und läuft und läuft" (“It just keeps running”).
   
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The foundation stone of Germany’s Volkswagen plant was laid on 26 May 1938. Where is the Volkswagen plant?
  Rüsselsheim
  Wolfsburg
  Stuttgart
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