3 min reading time
Story 196 – 1955 – People

"He felt comfortable here"

"Guest workers" like Juan Sánchez Linares fuelled the economic miracle

In the early 1960s, the German economy recruited large numbers of workers from Southern Europe – initially on a temporary basis. One of them was Juan Sánchez Linares from Madrid, whose well-documented story is exemplary for that of many "guest workers".

Juan Sánchez Linares was born in 1934 in a small farming village in the southwest of Spain, not far from the Portuguese border. After completing his military service in Madrid, he stayed in the capital because he thought that he would have better career opportunities there. A visit to the cinema then changed his life: In the opening credits, a commercial was shown in which Germany was looking for workers. He decided to register with the relevant authorities – and was given a one-year contract of employment with Wieland. His daughter Julia Sánchez Morales, still working at Wieland today, remembers how he assessed the venture: "My father said, ‘I'll just try it. If it's nothing, I can always come back’."

And so, in March 1961, he boarded a train from Madrid to Ulm, where he and other Spaniards were met at the main station by a Wieland employee. He was housed in simple Wieland accommodation in Ulm on the Staufenring, in a 4-bed room for which he was charged 20 German Mark per month. He was employed in the pipe drawing department as ‘assistant metal worker’, the hourly wage was 2 Marks and 8 Pfennig. His contract of employment was given the remarkable clause that the Spanish worker should have the opportunity "to attend Catholic services on Sundays and public holidays". He did like this concession at Wieland, as well as the family working atmosphere. Juan Sánchez Linares remembered fondly the fact that Dr. Eychmüller often walked through the factory on Saturdays and talked to people "quite normally", about both professional and private matters. "My father felt comfortable," Julia Sánchez Morales can still confirm today.

In 1967, while on holiday in his home village – where he was now called "the German" - he learned to know and love his future wife. After the marriage, she came to Ulm with the same thought of possibly staying only one year. And although she found the changeover difficult and suffered particularly from the cold winters, she and her husband stayed in Germany for another 31 years.

With ambition, diligence and pleasure in some typical German virtues such as punctuality and reliability, Juan Sánchez Linares did not just quickly learn the German language, he later also became a group leader. Even at home, he took business notes and used his four children as interpreters and advisors.

After his retirement, Juan Sánchez Linares returned to Spain with his wife. It was important to him that his children completed their schooling and education in Germany. In Madrid he bought a house as a winter residence. During visits to his home village, he remained "El alemán con el coche" – "The German with the car" until his death in 2018.

Juan Sánchez Linares in the snow

Took getting used to: Among many other things, Juan Sánchez Linares had to get used to the cold, snowy winters in Ulm.

Juan Sánchez Linares with moped

Modest luxury: Juan Sánchez Linares proudly presented his first moped in front of his residential accommodation around 1965.

Julia Sánchez Morales

First-hand memories: Julia Sánchez Morales during an interview on her father's life and work history

D.I.E. Company Historian (Aalen) – Dr. Rainer Lächele and Mrs. Julia Langholz in interview with Mrs. Julia Sánchez Morales, daughter of Mr. Juan Sánchez Linares