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Rheinmetall Group celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2014

History and histories beyond the mainstream of events

As noted in a highly regarded study published in the Harvard Business Review in the late 1990s, there are very few companies in the world that survive to become a 100 years old or even older. Rheinmetall, founded in Düsseldorf in 1889 and celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2014, has not only long since crossed that threshold; the Group, which remains committed to its core strategic competencies of security and mobility, is one of Germany’s oldest joint stock companies and one of very few companies to have been founded as a publicly traded enterprise. Its turbulent history, described in detail in a book „Rheinmetall – vom Reiz, im Rheinland ein großes Werk zu errichten“ published by Greven-Verlag of Cologne, closely mirrors wider political and social developments in Germany.

During the course of intensive, wide-ranging research for the book he wrote to mark the 125th anniversary of the company’s foundation, Wuppertal historian Dr Christian Leitzbach repeatedly stumbled on events and episodes relating to Rheinmetall that unfolded outside the mainstream of history – partly unusual, partly funny, partly poignant.

They include an episode from the period before the First World War when the company was expecting a major ammunition order from Turkey, and had to indulge in some rather unusual activities in order to convince its Ottoman clients. Or the recollections of a former conscript labourer, who worked at a planing bench in Düsseldorf and quite possibly survived solely because he was allowed to pursue his passion for painting during his period of captivity. Example No. 3 from the collection of anecdotes is a train journey with obstacles undertaken by employees of the Chinese carmaker FAW who travelled to the Pierburg plant in Nettetal to learn the secrets of carburettor production at the beginning of the 1990s.

The 7-part series - historical artefacts unearthed by author Dr Christian Leitzbach -, chronologically closely oriented to different formative periods of the company’s history, is interspersed with illustrations by the Dresden-based graphic artist Dirk Oberländer.