Soviet troops took the Berndorf metal works and the virtually deserted town of Berndorf after heavy fighting on 8 April 1945. Most of the production facilities were destroyed and dismantled and the company was requisitioned for weapons production.
The factory was in ruins and now belonged to the Administration for Soviet Property in Austria (USIA). In the first few years after the war, about 700 people were employed at the factory in the production of cable, metals, cutlery and various devices. USIA also operated two other companies on the site of the metal works: a repair workshop for army trucks and an army laundry.
Although almost the whole of Europe was undergoing an economic miracle, the situation in Berndorf was bleak. Its people were experiencing great hardship, mirroring the plight of the town’s formerly international company. Crowds of Berndorfers commuted to work in Vienna and St. Pölten, returning home for just a few hours’ sleep. The alternative to commuting was unemployment. During the day Berndorf was like a ghost town.
The treaty which re-established Austria as a sovereign state was signed on 15 May 1955, and Soviet administration came to an end. It was no longer possible to sell Berndorf products into Eastern European markets. With empty order books, outdated production facilities, a great deal of scrap still to clear and debts to pay back to the Soviet military bank, it was time for some innovative thinking. With their newfound authority, the Austrian government nationalised the Berndorf works and turned its focus to a promising material: aluminium. In 1957 Berndorf was merged with the Ranshofen aluminium works in Upper Austria to create Vereinigte Metallwerke Ranshofen-Berndorf (VMW), which manufactured products branded with the Berndorf bear logo.
Science and technology in this time
1946: Microwave oven – Percy LeBaron Spencer, USA
1953: Heart-lung machine – John Heynsham Gibbon, USA
1953: Double helix (structure of DNA) – Francis Crick, James Watson, Maurice Wilkins, England
1954: Photovoltaic cell – Gerald Pearson, Bell Telephone Laboratories, USA
1955: Optical fibre – Narinder Singh Kapany, India
1957: Artificial Earth satellite (Sputnik) – USSR
1957: Laser – Gordon Gould, Arthur Leonard Schawlow, Charles Hard Townes, Theodore Maimann, USA
1961: Space flight – Yuri Gagarin, USSR (first person in space)
1964: Word processor – IBM, USA
1965: Scanning electron microscope – Charles Oatley, Dennis McMullan, K. C. A. Smith, England
1965: Hologram – Dennis Gabor, Hungary/UK