3 min reading time
Story 194 – 1956 – People

Villingen: Factory history in a different way

The Metallwerke awarded a "historic" prize in 1956

Six employees of Metallwerke Schwarzwald in Villingen took part in a competition in 1956: they described the more recent history of the plant – in detail, comprehensively and with a lot of passion. The winner was a very personal, even emotional story.

It is no longer possible to determine who had the idea and with what objective. In any case, on 28 April 1956, an unusual call from the management of Metallwerke Schwarzwald in Villingen was posted on the notice boards: Anyone who was able to "write a history of the development of our plant for the period from the beginning of May 1938 to the present day" should hand in his report "to the secretary's office in a sealed envelope" by May 20.

In order to motivate the workforce to participate, prizes were offered for the best six reports, either "in cash" or in the form of special leave. The amount of the prizes was to be "set by management according to usability".

After all, exactly six historical accounts of varying quality and quantity were received by the deadline. Two reports were even handwritten, some were almost prosaic narratives, others were rather concise tabular statements. What they all had in common was that they were strongly technically oriented and above all addressed the constant extensions and improvements. No wonder, since the required reporting period was initially marked by the particularities of wartime production, then after 1945 by reconstruction and the economic miracle.

The wealth of detail in most of the reports is impressive. For example, in one of them the "redevelopment of the lavatories" was not missed out, just as the "construction of the courtyard roof". On the other hand, the handwritten accounts in particular provide very personal insights into the thinking of their authors: "1939 - year of destiny! A good part of this year was still dedicated to peace and yet was full of suspense, then came an episode which ended as a tragedy". Or: "Today we stand before a work of which we can and may be proud."

It was the author of these lines, a foundry foreman, who was declared the winner of the competition by letter on 26 May 1956 and was rewarded with 60 German marks. The other winners were awarded 50, 30, 20 and 10 Marks, which were enclosed in cash with the letters.

The texts apparently did not reach a wider circulation. Perhaps the purpose of the competition was simply to strengthen the sense of belonging of the workforce. Nevertheless, they were found to be valuable - and are still kept in the company archives today.

Contest 1956

An unusual idea: In 1956, this poster in the Metallwerke Schwarzwald Villingen called for the participation in a "competition". The processing time was just three weeks.

Extract winning text

Winning text: The handwritten form and numerous subsequently inserted additions had no influence on the jury, which declared the author of this entry the winner.