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Deutsches Technikmuseum - One hundred years of Zündapp Industrial photos by Albert Renger-Patzsch

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One hundred years of Zündapp

Industrial photos by Albert Renger-Patzsch

Gallery of the Photo Technology permanent exhibition, Beamtenhaus 2nd floor

19 April to 16 July 2017

The exact date can be confirmed: The renowned photographer Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) visited the one-year-old Nuremberg plant of the motorcycle manufacturer Zündapp on 7 February 1930.

He documented the entire company in 62 images: the buildings, break rooms and offices - but above all the factory halls and their machinery.
Twenty-three of these original photographs will now be exhibited to mark the anniversary of the company's founding in 1917.

The images reveal all the aspects that made Renger-Patzsch a main proponent of New Objectivity in photography: motorcycles arranged in exact rows reveal ornamental qualities, while handwheels on machines appear like abstract painting, and the shed roofs enclosing the factories become a play with lines.

Moreover, the photographs are socio-historical testimonies to the harsh working conditions: the worker at the acid bath does not wear goggles, open transmission belts criss-cross the factory, and the painter is not equipped with a respirator.
Renger-Patzsch also documents economic and industrial history: The conveyor belt - to which Zündapp owes much of its success - is a dominant feature in all production processes.

Profitability through rationalisation

The firm Zünder-Apparatebau GmbH was founded 1917 in Nuremberg. As the name suggests (Zünder = detonator), its main purpose was to produce odnance. The company set out to find a new purpose after the end of the First World War, which it discovered in the construction of "motorcycles for everyone". Highly innovative at the time, the conveyor belt manufacturing kept the price of the first series model, the Z22, relatively low at just 1,425 Reichsmark - a small car cost twenty times as much.

It marked the beginning of a success story: by the end of the 1930s, Zündapp had become one of Europe's five largest motorcycle factories. Releasing models like the KS 601 "Green Elephant" or the "Bella", the company returned to its previous successes after the end of the Second World War, helping to mobilise the population and contributing to the "Economic Miracle". But the company lost ground to its Japanese competitors in the early 1980s. The last family-owned German motorcycle manufacturer was forced into bankruptcy in August 1984.

The Zündapp Legacy in the German Museum of Technology

Headquarted in Munich from the 1960s onward, Zündapp was sold to a Chinese company in 1984, which dismantled the entire factory and transported it to its home in Tianjin. Opened 1983, the museum managed to acquire the entire Zündapp factory archive and the extensive company museum.

This includes a large number of vehicles, among them the result of a short-lived attempt by the company to break into the auto market: the mini-car "Janus", in which the driver and the only passenger take their seats back-to-back. This curio is now on show in the "Man on the Move" exhibition.