Volkswagen Beetle Essay

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This ad from the early ’60s coined a phrase that has entered colloquial German.

It praises the Beetle's sturdy reliability as the cause of its phenomenal success, proclaiming ‘it runs and runs and runs’ (‘und läuft …’).

The circumstance that neither Wehler nor his interviewers ever mentioned the vehicle in their conversation was by no means unusual.

Volkswagen's most famous product has been called upon as a symbol of the Federal Republic with such frequency and regularity that it seems superfluous to Germans to spell out how exactly this automobile stands for the postwar order.

That this car would secure such prominence in postwar German culture was by no means a foregone conclusion.

Like many a popular material object, the Beetle has taken numerous twists and turns over its long life as a commodity from Nazi Germany to the present.

His research interests include the cultural history of technology, the history of memory, postwar Germany, and transnational history.

He is currently working on a book tentatively entitled ‘The People's Car: a Global History of the Volkswagen Beetle’ that places the car in German, British, US-American and Mexican contexts.

That slightly incredulous reference to Wehler's staying power was not the only the allusion to Volkswagen's fabled product.

As Wehler denounced the GDR's repressive politics, praised the stability and wealth of the Federal Republic and warned against rising social disparities in unified Germany, a central inset photograph from 1957 provided a light-hearted counterpoint to his observations.


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