Hitler’s Jewish car connections

Written by on January 12, 2012 in Perspectives - 9 Comments
This adorable little Jewish girl unknowingly lent her moniker to a car prized by one of history’s most despicable despots – Adolf Hitler.
Yes, that little girl’s name was Mercedes, and her grandfather was ironically also named Adolf – Jellinek. However, grandfather Adolf/Aaron Jellinek was a highly respected Austrian rabbi and scholar. Mercedes’ father, Emil Jellinek, must have caused his father some grief in the early days – he dropped out of several schools, was a practical joker, and got booted from a railway job for wrangling train races at night.
All of which would make him a seemingly perfect candidate for the car industry. These days, Emil would likely be driving a Koenigsegg and dating Kim Kardashian. Back then, he became a diplomat and dallied in the insurance business and stock market, where he made a lot of money and picked up a penchant for fast cars. By then Emil had married and his darling Mercedes had been born. Since he was partying with the rich and famous, it was only natural for Emil to start selling cars to his wealthy bon vivants. Stationed in France, on the Riviera, the only stumbling block to Emil’s burgeoning car sales was the distaste his French clientele had for the Germanic name Daimler. And so he anointed the car with his beloved daughter’s name – and the rest is history.
One can’t help but wonder if Hitler would have saluted quite so proudly in his 770K Mercedes parade car if he knew the provenance of its name?
He might have felt as he did about the Jew behind the Volkswagen Beetle – a fellow by the name of Josef Ganz. In the 1920s and 1930s, Ganz was a respected engineer who worked for Mercedes and BMW, and schmoozed with the likes of Ferdinand Porsche and Hans Ledwinka, both of whom have been credited with inventing Hitler’s little “people’s car”. Ganz was the editor of a motoring magazine and wrote about the need for an affordable car which could be accessible to everyone. He even called it a “volkswagen”!
A few car companies took interest in Ganz’ ideas and designs and some prototypes were produced. In 1933, a company called Standard Fabrik produced and sold the Standard Superior Volkswagen, debuted at the 1933 Berlin auto show. And that’s where Adolf Hitler saw it. He was a fan of the car – but not of the Jewish Ganz. Once Hitler set the Gestapo on Ganz, it took only a year for poor Josef to flee the country in fear for his life. He spent the rest of his life fighting to get the record straight – it’s a fantastic story, documented in a book recently translated into English “The Thrilling Life of Josef Ganz”.
People’s car, indeed …

9 Comments on "Hitler’s Jewish car connections"

  1. kushibo August 20, 2012 at 11:58 pm · Reply

    This is quite interesting.

    Though I realize it’s not the main idea behind this post, I’m glad to know the cars were named after a girl named Mercedes instead of girls named Mercedes being named after a car.

    • Krystyna Lagowski August 29, 2012 at 2:27 am · Reply

      It would be like putting the cart before the horse – or would it be the CAR before the name? Or something like that. In Spanish, it means “merciful” and has something to do with the Virgin Mary – really, nothing to do with cars at all!

  2. Peter Kubicek February 5, 2014 at 9:37 pm · Reply

    There is a very brief mention of BMW above. This company was originally called Bayerische Motor Werke.
    The company became a staunch supporter of Hitler’s war effort. The SS acknowledged this gratefully by building a slave labor camp for them, to supply them with cheap, expendable labor.

    My Jewish friends here in New York City appear to have a particular penchant for this car. As a former slave laborer in Germany myself, this is one car I would never buy. So, what do I drive? A nice Japanese Lexus. I know all about the Japanese during WWII, but they did not persecute me — the Germans did.

    Peter Kubicek
    Author of “Memories of Evil — Recalling a World War II Childhood”

    • Krystyna Lagowski February 7, 2014 at 3:32 am · Reply

      My late mother was a Holocaust survivor, and swore she would never ride in a Volkswagen because it was Hitler’s car. Of course, we know now that it was so much more! I’ve heard about BMW, and also Mercedes. There were so many corporations that were part of the Third Reich – IBM, Siemens, Bayer – the list goes on and on …

      • Peter Kubicek February 7, 2014 at 3:07 pm · Reply


        Oh, yes, SIEMENS. I was an inmate of two Siemens slave labor camps, both located in Siemensstadt, near Berlin. Ever since, the innocuous name Siemens sends chills down my spine.

        Peter Kubicek

  3. Elizabeth Danzig-Teck February 7, 2014 at 3:52 pm · Reply

    Hear, hear, Peter Kubicek!!!

  4. Peter Kubicek February 7, 2014 at 9:09 pm · Reply


    And don’t think I am not bothered by the presence of Siemens in this country. I see their ads; I see their presence on the NY Stock Exchange. Siemens AG closed today at $127, in case you wish to buy their shares.

    Peter Kubicek

  5. Elizabeth Danzig-Teck February 7, 2014 at 9:53 pm · Reply

    Krystyna Lagowski: Why did you write this piece? I’m serious. Did you write this to garner publicity for the newly translated to English book, ““The Thrilling Life of Josef Ganz”? You say in response to the important points made by a survivor of The Holocaust, Mr. Peter Kubicek, “My late mother was a Holocaust survivor, and swore she would never ride in a Volkswagen because it was Hitler’s car. Of course, we know now that it was so much more! I’ve heard about BMW, and also Mercedes. There were so many corporations that were part of the Third Reich – IBM, Siemens, Bayer – the list goes on and on …” What does your statement or answer mean? I’m quite serious. I’d like to know. Your answer makes no sense to me and it does not address any of the points made by Mr. Kubicek made. Your statement almost feels like you are making light of these corporations’ involvement in supporting Hitler. I mean no disrespect. I look forward to your response to my query.

    • Krystyna Lagowski February 7, 2014 at 10:05 pm · Reply

      I don’t understand your objections. This is a post about a couple of little known Jewish connections to Hitler. It is not a post about the Holocaust. This is not a blog about the Holocaust. This conversation does not belong here.
      Thank you for your interest, but I would like to close this discussion.

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