Friedrichshafen. In the anniversary year, ZF Friedrichshafen AG is publishing a new company history. The book “Bewegte Geschichte – 100 Jahre ZF” [“Turbulent History – 100 Years of ZF”] was presented to the public on Thursday on the occasion of the panel discussion in the Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen.
From the early days with the production of gears and transmissions for the Zeppelin airships to the current multinational technology company in driveline and chassis technology: ZF has made industrial history. On the basis of numerous eyewitness reports and a host of previously unpublished sources, the book traces the company's development since its foundation in 1915. The focus is on the people that have shaped ZF through their actions. Yet the account goes well beyond the plant gates, taking the reader into the midst of the turbulent history of the 20th and early 21st century.
Unlike previous publications on ZF's history, the new 250-page account deliberately sets out to avoid simply chronicling the past as a series of facts and figures. “It’s about a mosaic of fascinating and interesting stories. Recollections from eyewitnesses and quotes from historic sources provide various perspectives on ZF's development,” is how Matthias Lenz, head of ZF Corporate Communications and project manager for this book describes the editorial approach. “Controversial issues are not papered over. This book is not a glossy marketing product, but the account charts the highs and lows throughout the company's development,” says Lenz.
The author Stephan Paetrow focused in particular on ZF's development under the Nazis from 1933 through 1945. “Like practically all German industrial companies, ZF was increasingly using forced labor in the final years of the war in particular. ZF also supplied transmissions and steering systems for the Wehrmacht on a large scale. These aspects are dealt with in detail, even though the account does not aim to be an academic monograph on ZF's Nazi history,” is how the historian describes his approach.
To provide a faithful account, which aims to be accessible to a wide readership and yet still stand up to critical scrutiny, Stephan Paetrow involved several experts in the writing process as academic advisers. Apart from examining the documents available in the ZF archive, large numbers of which have also been digitized for the first time, Paetrow also conducted research in various other public and, in certain cases, national archives.
In June 2013, 20 eyewitnesses were also interviewed extensively on ZF's history in Friedrichshafen. Among those interviewed were the three former Chief Executive Officers Dr. Klaus P. Bleyer,
Dr.-Ing. e.h. Siegfried Goll (honorary doctorate), and Hans-Georg Härter, as well as the former Chief Financial Officer Max Mugler, who has since died. Klara Schultheiß, the secretary of the ZF co-founder Alfred Graf von Soden-Fraunhofen, was likewise interviewed.
The historic photos which also document everyday life in the ZF plants as well as extraordinary events from 100 years of history also constitute an integral part of the account. Many of the photographs will be made available for the first time to the general public with the book.
The book illustrates company development primarily in respect of the strategic goals, the social context, economic development, and the people in the company. “In addition, the ZF history of technology, which will also be published this year, entitled: ‘Bewegende Technik [Moving Technology]’ looks at ZF's defining technologies and successful products,” adds Matthias Lenz. The technology history written by journalist Johannes Winterhagen is due to be unveiled officially in October.
"Bewegte Geschichte – 100 Jahre ZF" [“Turbulent History – 100 Years of ZF”] is published by Hoffmann und Campe Verlag, Hamburg (ISBN 978-3-455-50383-8). The book with 270 pages is now on sale in bookstores and costs € 18.00.