Seventy years ago, at the end of World War II, Germany was on its knees. After the fall of Hitler’s empire, its car industry lay in ruins.
In August 1945 the British Army sent a major called Ivan Hirst to take control of the giant Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg, which had been built under the Nazis to produce ‘people’s cars’ for the German masses.
Ignoring his sceptical superiors, Hirst could see the potential amid the shattered debris of the Wolfsburg factory.
Rebuilding Volkswagen, he thought, would be a step towards rehabilitating Germany as a prosperous, peaceful European ally.
In the next few years, Hirst restarted production of a car we know today as the Beetle. And from then on, VW was flying.
By the late 1950s, with production up and employment buoyant, West Germany was enjoying an economic miracle, and the Germans began to rebrand themselves as a forward-thinking, hard-working and supremely modern industrial nation.