Karlsruhe, Germany


by Manfred Fellhauer

Junker & Ruh is one of the large industrial companies in Karlsruhe, the beginnings of which go back to the beginning of high industrialization in the 1860s. The company was also the first to fall victim to the processes of change in industrial production at the end of the economic miracle in Karlsruhe after the Second World War.


Founded in 1870

"I have to work as long as it is day" was the motto of the young journeyman Karl Junker, who came to the sewing machine factory Haid & Neu in Karlsruhe in 1862. Already in 1868 he settled as an independent master craftsman and operated "as a specialty the manufacture of sewing machines". His workshop was in the basement of his parents-in-law's house on Sophien­straße. But soon there was another competitor, August Ruh, who ran an embroidery business and also sold American Singer sewing machines. At a trade fair on Karlsruhe's Schlossplatz, Karl Junker and August Ruh met, merged and founded on 1 February 1870 the company Junker & Ruh. It was the beginning of a successful company history. Karl Junker took over the technical management, August Ruh the commercial management of the company.

By 1870, 100 sewing machines with the name Junker had left the small manufacturing facility in the residential building on Sophien­straße.

In 1872, after the war against France (1870-71), in the economic boom,  the brave young entrepreneurs had acquired a 9.200 m² site in the Gewann Sommerstrich west of the Maxaubahn and south of the Sophien­straße.

In 1895, there were already over half a million "Junker & Ruh sewing machines".  With the commissioning of its own foundry, the company made itself independent of the supply of castings from France and was also able to supply other German sewing machine factories with it. The successful expansion of production combined with the construction of additional factories resulted in a steady increase in the workforce, the number of which rose to around 600 by 1895.

In 1896, was built an enamelling plant for stoves and gas stoves and the front building along Sophien­straße.

In 1898 was built another new building on Lessing­straße.


Expanding the product range

Order in 1879 initiated a suggestion from the United States a new section of the company's history. Karl Junker was made aware of the continuous fire by his brother who emigrated to the USA. The result was the development of the "Junker & Ruh circulation filling furnace", an improved continuous fire furnace, the production of which reached 65.000 in 1895. Customers were found all over the world.

At the end of the 19th century, gas was only used in the household in Germany for lighting purposes. Cooking with gas was considered a luxury. The development of the "patent double burner" by Junker & Ruh brought about a revolution in German kitchens. The heat of the gas flame could now be transferred directly to the saucepan and cooked sparingly with gas. The gas cooker from 1893 became the "Junker & Ruh gas cooker" after corresponding technical development.

From 1904, the production of the family gas range began, on which all dishes could be prepared that were previously only made with the help of the coal range. The production numbers continued to rise,


The new production facility on  Bannwaldal­lee

In 1910, Junker & Ruh, in the meantime the founders' sons and sons-in-law were responsible, a 46.000 m² site on Bannwaldallee from the Society for Electrical Industry AG, which was significantly involved in the construction of the first Karlsruhe electricity plant at Rheinhafen in 1899/1900. A modern plant with its own foundry and energy center was built here, whose 63 m high chimney was to become the symbol of Junker & Ruh and the industrial city of Karlsruhe. Enamelling ovens and machine tools were now in large halls and bright workrooms, according to the company commemorative from 1953. Today we know how unfriendly factory halls of that time were.

In 1912 the approximately 700 workers moved from Sophien­straße to Siemensstrasse 1, which was renamed Junker-und-Ruh-Strasse in 1951. From casting to final assembly, everything was manufactured in their own factory. Further technical developments led to the manufacture of large-scale cooking appliances and special appliances such as baking and roasting ovens, grills, boilers, dressers and heated cupboards. The old factory was torn down except for the construction on Sophienstrasse. Further technical developments led to the manufacture of large-scale cooking appliances and special appliances such as baking and roasting ovens, grills, boilers, dressers and heated cupboards. The old factory was torn down except for the construction on Sophienstrasse. Technical advancements led to the manufacture of large-scale cooking appliances and special appliances such as baking and roasting ovens, grills, boilers, dressers and heated cupboards. The old factory was torn down except for the construction on Sophien­straße.


Between the First and Second World War

The outbreak of the First World War had hit the Karlsruhe economy unprepared. The situation only eased when, due to the war, which lasted longer than expected, the economy was switched to war economy and women were increasingly employed in purely male professions. Junker & Ruh profited to a small extent from war production.

In the period from January 1 to May 31, 1917, Junker & Ruh z. B. Army deliveries, the majority were arms deliveries, for 829.000 marks.

With the loss of Alsace-Lorraine after the First World War, a previously large sales area, especially for sewing machines, was also lost. The occupation of the Ruhr area by France and Germany at the beginning of 1923 was in arrears with the reparation payments imposed in the Versailles Treaty, and the economic situation deteriorated further. The banknote presses worked day and night. The previously weak marrow quickly sank into the bottomless.

The time of inflation did not end until the introduction of the Rentenmark on November 15, 1923. Nevertheless, z. B. Haid & Neu temporarily shut down production in the summer of 1924, 1.800 men and 550 women became unemployed. At Junker & Ruh the situation was not so dramatic

In October 1926, the employment office reported that the largest Karlsruhe companies, which also included Junker & Ruh, would hire new staff due to the good order situation. The workforce in the company, which had meanwhile been converted into a stock corporation, had grown to 1.500 workers. The focus has been on cooking and heating devices for years.

In 1930 the wake of the Great Depression in 1929, which caused unemployment in Karlsruhe to rise to a record high, Junker & Ruh gave up production of sewing machines and limited itself to the manufacture of a special shoe repair machine and included electric stoves in its production program. The company was now booming with large sales offices in Hamburg, Cologne, Berlin, Munich, Vienna, Wroclaw, Paris and Rotterdam. The global company Junker & Ruh also produced in plants in Sao Paulo, Milan and Turin as well as in the "sister plant" in Graudenz on the Vistula.

The outbreak of the Second World War, which, unlike in 1914 during the First World War, did not provoke a storm of enthusiasm in Karlsruhe, changed the job market situation abruptly. There was a shortage of workers due to drafting for military service, which put vital businesses and those with war-related tasks in trouble.

At the end of 1939, Junker & Ruh received numerous orders for the supply of industrial kitchens to the Navy and in early 1941 an order for 3.600 ovens for air-raid shelters and barracks. As in the First World War, weapons had to be manufactured again. This required a high need for workers. In view of the ever increasing shortage of personnel, the "needs companies" were forced to submit extensive applications for the allocation of "foreign civil workers".

On June 30, 1944, Junker & Ruh in Karlsruhe employed 1.729 people, including 47 prisoners of war and 330 forced laborers.


From the beginning of production to decommissioning

The Allied air strikes in September 1942, September and December 1944 destroyed more than half of the plant. What was left was sent to Thuringia for supposed rescue, where it fell into the hands of the Soviet Union. The factory facilities still available in Karlsruhe served the French occupation troops as tank repair workshops or were transported to France. The foreign factories were lost as well as the European sales offices.

In 1945 only 30 workers remained in Karlsruhe. The reconstruction of the production facilities took until 1953 and put a heavy burden on the company. With innovative products such as the fully-secured gas stove, which brought safety to the kitchen, the extractor hood for the kitchen, the electric cooker and commercial kitchen equipment, new market shares were won and opened with a popular range of small electrical appliances such as. B. the space heater "Pustefix" and a coffee grinder with automatic lid locking completely new markets. Nevertheless, Junker & Ruh got into financial difficulties in 1954. "Bulk layoffs at Junker & Ruh" was the headline of the "Badische Allgemeine Zeitung" of October 2, 1954, 400 workers received their layoffs with the wage bag. The causes were a previously unknown price pressure due to the increasing competition and an entrepreneurial misjudgment. The propane gas business had shifted particularly strongly for the summer season. The extremely unfavorable weather conditions caused sales of these devices to fall far short of expectations.

It was not until 1959 that the company was able to make profits again.

In 1961, the corporation became a GmbH with a capital of four million, which was increased to 14 million in 1964 and held by a Frankfurt bank and a Munich company. The further fate of the Junker & Ruh company is a particularly striking example of the structural change in the economy that began in the 1960s. Small businesses fell victim to competitive pressure and large businesses were subject to a concentration process.

Already in 1965 the Brettener Neff-Werke, a direct competitor, took over the still low-profit company Junker & Ruh with around 1.600 employees. Shortly thereafter there were wild strikes due to changes in the chord times in the foundry, the company was about to close.

Since the new owner in Karlsruhe did not want to invest in new, more profitable production methods, production had to be finally stopped in 1968 in the first recession phase of the German post-war economy. "Death in the valley" was the headline of a newspaper. However, the Neff company, which had assumed very high liabilities from Junker & Ruh, also got into difficulties and had to accept the AEG company as majority shareholder at the end of 1968 to save itself.

A huge hall complex, 320 m long, 120 m wide, remained of the former motor of the Karlsruhe industry, which was laid in rubble in 1975. After several years of efforts to sell the site, which also included the city of Karlsruhe, Metro Cash & Carry, one of Karlsruhe's first markets, where only traders of different types can buy goods for their business needs, Deutsche Telekom and from Michelin. In Karlsruhe, the name Junker-und-Ruh-Straße and Junker-und-Ruh-Brücke is the only reminder of the once so proud company, which employed up to 3.000 people in its heyday.

Manfred Fellhauer, Dipl.-Finanzwirt (FH)