Bells ringing out doom

The period between the two world wars was overshadowed by gaps in demand due to the disappearance of pre-war markets, financial crises, emergency operation, reduced working hours, redundancies and unemployment. Arthur Krupp’s life’s work in Berndorf was greatly impacted in the years following the collapse of the monarchy, and suffered lasting damage as a result – as did his personal outlook. Krupp, who had always seen himself as the “first of the workers” in “his factory” was forced by major bank Creditanstalt to accept the reorganisation of the company into an Aktiengesellschaft, or stock corporation. By the 1930s Krupp concluded that he lost his status as the “master in his own house” to the external shareholders.

Among the most successful products made by the Berndorf Metal Works in the years following the First World War were church bells. During the war, many bells had been requisitioned and melted down to support the war effort. On the newly acquired Cornides site in St. Veit, Berndorfer Metallwerke built the most advanced bell casting plant in Europe, producing bells that rang in the new peace. Countless church chronicles – for example those in Fels am Wagram, Heiligenkreuz and Gastern – record that missing church bells were replaced by those cast in Berndorf.
In Berndorf itself, peacetime manufacturing soon once again gave way to arms production. Arthur Krupp died in 1938, after witnessing the incorporation of Berndorfer Metallwerke into the industrial conglomerate run by the Essen Krupp family. His great-nephew, Claus von Bohlen und Halbach, took over running the business for a short time (before dying in an aircraft accident in 1940), and relatively quickly the company experienced a recovery.

However, unfortunately this was not down to any economic miracle, but preparations for the Second World War. Instead of bells, cutlery and kitchenware, now semi-finished and aluminium products for the Luftwaffe were running off the production lines. In 1945, the Eastern Front reached Berndorf, and the metal works had to suspend operations. The end of the Second World War marked a major event in the history of Berndorf Metallwerke: after more than 100 years, the company’s connection with the Krupp family of industrialists came to an end.

Science and technology in this time

1928: Turbojet – Frank Whittle, England

1938: Photocopier – Chester Carlson, USA

1938: Ballpoint pen – László Bíró, Hungary/USA

1938: Nuclear fission – Otto Hahn, Friedrich Strassmann and Lise Meitner, Germany

1942: Nuclear reactor – Enrico Fermi, Italy

1942: V-2 rocket – Wernher von Braun, Germany

Schornstein für die Leichtmetallgießerei (1942)