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Deutsches Technikmuseum - February

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The Websites of the donation Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin at a glance:


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Exhibit of the Month February 2019

Photo: Punch clock with round clock face and pendulum in a solid oak wood housing weighing around 40 kilos. The slot for the time-punch cards runs horizontally beneath the clock cabinet.

Durable and easy to use: The K29 monitoring device for workers‘ hours was the first in-house construction of the Bürk clock factory in Württemberg. © SDTB / Photo: C. Kirchner

Bürk Model K29 Punch Clock, 1929 - 1974

"Eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest" – the eight-hour day was a central demand of the worldwide labour movement in the 19th century.

This demand became part of German law after the end of World War I. The eight-hour day has been the policy for workers since 1918. Salaried employees are celebrating its 100-year anniversary in 2019.

Personalised control of working time

During the period of Germany’s industrialization it was not unusual for workdays to be 12 hours and longer – and that, six days a week. Punch clocks, clock card machines or time recorders came into use in order to better monitor the growing number of employees and their working hours. The workers had to register their comings and goings on the machine with a certification mark or control card.

Anyone not at work for the prescribed time was penalized with a reduction in pay. Technical improvements were constantly being added in order to make cheating more difficult for the employees.

The labour movement derided time clocks as symbols of capitalist oppression. Many of the state-owned enterprises in the GDR thus refused to implement them at all. They preferred using a system of mutual control and reward as a way to motivate people.

An interesting look into the world of work in the GDR can be found in the photo exhibition entitled "Gesichter der Arbeit" ("Faces of Work. Photographs of East Berlin Industrial Plants by Günter Krawutschke, 1971-1986"). The exhibition will be on display from March 6, 2019 in the Deutsches Technikmuseum and run for one year.

BW photo: A man in work clothes is standing in the middle of a machinery room and punching his card on a time clock.

Tracking work time by means of a punch clock, no date © SDTB, Historical archive