21

It if often cited that Adolf Hitler designed the VW Beetle. Is there any truth to this myth, did he perhaps commission it?

It seems strange that a car supposedly designed in the 30s could have been in production for so long.

  • 1
    There is a joke that the soviet era muskovitch car has four doors because when it was the (two-door) prototype was presented to Stalin, the dictator sat in the front passenger seat and told the car designer to get in... Point being that while the Hitler most likely didn't play an active role in the development, I'm certain that his approval was sought throughout the design process. – crasic Apr 9 '11 at 18:04
  • 1
    It may seem strange that a car model was produced for 65 years, but it was gradually updated. A 1949 interior en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:1949_VW_dash_.jpg and a 1990 interior flickr.com/photos/benteen/2935960023/in/photostream helps visualize that. But the car never got a big redesign, it was just gradually improved, which is testament to the genius of the design. And you know, it still looks kinda cool and cute. – Lennart Regebro Apr 10 '11 at 20:29
  • 1
    @crasic - Nitpick. The proper car name is "Moskvitch" as opposed to "muskovitch". – user5341 Apr 11 '11 at 15:24
  • 7
    Where is this often cited? I never heard it. Hitler wasn't a designer, and did not work in the automobile industry. – user unknown Aug 9 '11 at 22:29
  • I'm commenting the above answers. I'm not providing new sources. You can also check the Steyer 50, an Austrian Bettle lookalike made in the same era. Hitler was Austrian. – user20865 Jun 25 '14 at 18:36
44

No, he did not design it. It was designed by Ferdinand Porsche.

It was however commissioned by Hitler. Hitler met with Porsche in 1933 and asked him to develop a cheap good car affordable for everybody, a "Peoples Car". Porsche was a natural choice for this, because he in fact already had developed such a car, the Porsche Type 12, produced by Zündapp from 1931.

Porsche Type 12

In 1932 he produced the Porsche Type 32, a car quite strikingly similar to the Volkswagen, including having a 4-cylinder air cooled engine.

Porsche Type 32

Claiming that Hitler designed the Beetle is hence nonsense, as Porsche's Type 32 has most of the striking design and many of the Beetle's technical elements in place, well before Hitler and Porsche ever met, and looks more like a Beetle than the alleged sketches by Hitler.

Further reading, and sources:

14

There is no reliable evidence that this is the case

What information is available?

According to the Hitler Historical Museum, possibly biased, Hitler did design it on a piece of paper or a napkin.

Sitting at a restaurant table in Munich in the summer of 1932, Hitler designed the prototype for what would become the immensely successful Beetle design for Volkswagen
source

However — according to practically any other source I could find — Hitler commissioned the Beetle to Ferdinand Porsche, and gave design specifications (speed, size, cost) - but the actual work was done by Porsche.

For example:

Impressed by Porsche's design capabilities, Hitler delivered him the design brief of a car that could carry two adults and three children at a speed of 60mph with at least 33 mpg. The price was to be 1000 Reichmarks, not much more than a motorcycle at the time.
source

Given the possible bias of the museum, I am inclined to give more credence to the more common version: Hitler did indeed commission the Beetle, but did not do the actual design of it.

What about the evidence?

There is clear evidence that Hitler commissioned the Beetle — see for example this picture of Hitler examining an early prototype at a Volkswagen factory with Porsche.

Hitler and Porsche examine a Beetle
(source: hubimg.com)

Regarding the sketches — purportedly hand-drawn by the dictator himself — there are two versions circulating on the Internet and none of them seems to come from a reliable source.
Furthermore, they look very different — they can't possibly be both true.

All in all, I find this evidence unconvincing for the above reasons.

sketch 1

sketch 2
(source: hitler.org)

  • 3
    I think it's also worth noting this image of Hitler examining a model VW. Mostly, I just find it bemusing, I don't think it really differentiates between the possibilities. – Joel Rein Apr 12 '11 at 13:43
-3

The sketches are included in Werner Maser's Hitlers Notes and Letters. Maser is a reputable historian, and the sketches are authentic. Hitler had a penchant for mechanical design. Included among his notes etc. are ruled drawings of battleships. During the war, he also sketched out at least one plan for a pillbox that was actually used. He had a talent for architecture and design, as was recognized in his younger years. Hitler was not the sole source for the Volkswagen - he was well aware of other similar ideas and he never made such a claim. However, as his drawn conception makes clear, he was an important contributor. Being a mass murderer does not mean one is not otherwise talented. Correctly crediting Hitler does not undermine in any way the nefarious nature of his racial policies etc.

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

  • 3
    This site is for evidence based answers only. Please don't point us at an entire book as evidence. Find where in the book the evidence is presented and quote it here with page numbers. – Sklivvz Nov 5 '16 at 20:54

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .