You know how you notice things and keep mental lists? You sort of store things away and then something notable happens and you make a connection. For a while now, I'd research this or that automotive subject and discover that someone who I was already familiar with in the automotive world turned out to be Jewish. Jewish scientists, entertainers and businessmen are pretty well known, but perhaps because of Henry Ford's infamous Jew hatred and the connection of the Volkswagen to the Third Reich, in the popular mind cars aren't something associated with Jewish success. Actually, as I have found out, at least two important pioneers in the history of the automobile were in fact written out of history by the Nazis. Still, a surprising number of true automotive pioneers were in fact Jews. Well, maybe not surprising in light of the success of Jews in other technical and scientific fields, but something not previously noticed. So I was keeping a mental list. Then I found out about Josef Ganz, thanks to a Dutch engineer and writer named Paul Schilperood. Schilperood is writing a book about Ganz titled The Prevented Volkswagen and its his life's mission to restore Ganz to his rightful role in automotive history. Ganz was a respected automotive engineer and technical writer in Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s. As a consultant he worked on both the BMW AM1, BMW's first in-house automobile, and the Mercedes-Benz 170, a landmark design that was in production for over 20 years, both before and after WWII. Schilperood makes a compelling case that the Nazis, Ferdinand Porsche and Tatra essentially stole the concept and design of the original Volkswagen from Ganz. In 1933 Standard Fahrzeugfabrik, a German automobile company, displayed the Standard Superior "volkswagen" based on Ganz' designs and patents at the Berlin auto show, attended by Adolph Hitler and Hermann Göring. A year later Ganz was in a Gestapo jail. Eventually he escaped to Switzerland and after the war emigrated to Australia where he worked for Holden.
When I found out about Ganz the mental list that had been percolating came to the surface and I decided to write a book about Jews and cars. The funny thing is that the list keeps getting longer. Just tonight I was starting to write about Siegfried Marcus, a Viennese Jew who in 1870 was the first person to power a four wheel vehicle with a gasoline powered internal combustion engine, and also invented the carburettor and magneto ignition. Marcus was once well known as a automotive pioneer. There were four memorials around Vienna to his technical accomplishments, including a plaque in front of the technical university, but after the 1938 union of Austria with Nazi Germany they were removed.
Siegfried Marcus' first vehicle - 1870
Marcus' second vehicle - late 1880s, around the same time that Daimler and Benz were making the first practical vehicles.
While reading about Marcus I found out that in the 1850s Abraham Schreiner, a Jew in Galicia, was the first person to successfully "crack" petroleum to extract naptha, first used as a lighting fuel, later used in the formulation of gasoline. Twenty years after Schreiner "invented" gasoline, Marcus figured out how to harness it's tremendous energy density to move a vehicle. The internal combustion engine has reigned ever since. At the time of this writing, though, gasoline/electric hybrids and battery electric vehicles are now becoming a practical alternative to the ICE. It turns out that before gasoline, there was a Jew working on electric vehicles. Researching Schreiner, I found a reference to a M. Davidsohn of Darmstadt, who around the same time, in 1854, created an electric powered vehicle. The problem with Davidsohn's electric car was the same as current EVs face, batteries with enough energy density. Davidsohn faced much more serious challenges as battery chemistry was pretty primitive in 1854. Forget lithium ion, lead acid batteries weren't even invented yet.
I hope to devote a chapter to each notable Jew important to the auto industry. Fortunately for my research the National Automotive History Collection of the Detroit Public Library is one of the largest of its kind in the world. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, the DPL now charges non-residents a $100/yr or $10/day fee for using their collections.
Anyway, here's a list that I have so far:
Industrialists and EntrepreneursGerald Greenwald
, vice chairman of the Chrysler CorporationAdolf Rosenberger
- German businessman and racing car driver. Helped finance Porsche's engineering firm in 1931, and was instrumental in the famous Auto-Union racing cars from the 1930sMalcolm Bricklin
- first importer of Subarus to the US, later produced Bricklin sports/safety car, and founded Yugo enterprise.André Citroën
- engineer and industrialist, founder of the Citroen car companyEmil Jellinek
- entrepreneur and Daimler board member who had a seminal role in the development of the Mercedes 35hp, considered by many to be the first "modern" car. The "Mercedes" Benz was named after his daughter.
Engineers & DesignersJosef Ganz
- automotive pioneer, developer of BMW's first car, the AM1, consultant on the landmark Mercedes-Benz 170, and probably originator of the Volkswagen Beetle.Siegfried Marcus
- in the 1870s designed the first gasoline powered car, invented the carburetor and was an early developer of magneto ignition.Albert Kahn
- architect, developer of the modern automobile assembly plant, designed Henry Ford's Highland Park Model T plant and Rouge Complex, as well as the giant Packard plant. Zora Arkus Duntov
- engineer, 'father' of the Corvette and force behind Corvette racing.Jerry Hirshberg
- Designer, artist, founder of Nissan Design InternationalAbraham Schreiner
- Inventor of naptha/gasoline - first successful cracker of petroleumM. Davidson
- early electric car darmstadt 1850sVictor Houk
- hybrid car inventor
Race Car DriversRené Dreyfus
- racer, restauranteur & raconteur Peter Revson
- racerMauri Rose
- winner of the Indy 500Kenny Bernstein
- champion drag racerJody Sheckter
- Formula One championFrançois Cevert
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