Pressure Lamps International

Hugo Schneider Aktiengesellschaft-Metalwarenfabrik, Leipzig
(HASAG)

©AWMoore 2003


The roots of this company go back to the first half of the 19th century, a time that was rich in development and enterprise in Europe. The young Hugo Schneider had become proficient as a metalworker, and in 1863 he became involved in a small business, making products from sheet metal in Leipzig, south west of Berlin. He also made oil lamps, and within a few years this product had become something of a speciality, and a larger production unit had been set up to deal with this area of the market. In 1871, Schneider took overall control of the business, which had been a shared concern up till then. The workforce had increased by over four times by 1880, and over 200 people were employed at that time.

 

The next ten years saw a further specialisation, and under the leadership of Johannes Schneider-Dörffel, burners for oil lamps started to be the most important product. By the end of the century the name HASAG was in use, from the corporate name Hugo Schneider Aktiengesellschaft.

Products now included lighting for the new popular automobiles, and the new oil lamps with light output over 200cp developed under foreign patents. Expansion brought relationships with other names such as Otto Müller

One of the products was an early form of street lighting. Model 14 is shown on the right, this is a kerosene fueled lamp, unusual for its time as many large lamps by HASAG's contemporaries were designed to work with gasoline. This lamp dates from between 1915 and 1920.

 

 

hasag14

HASAG Model 14

Just as in Britain, the Great War brought many changes to Germany, and Hugo Schneider AG became heavily involved in the production of items, including military armaments, for the duration of the war. The war's end brought an unsteady peace and a crisis in the trading economy, first for Germany, then later for Britain and the rest of Europe. Schneider's narrowly avoided the disaster in economics that befell many other companies, and some close co-operation with other German manufacturers in the middle 1920s resulted in the development and production of perhaps the most famous pressure lamp of all time - the Petromax. This design of lamp was to remain in production by Ehrich & Graetz right through to the end, and it still lives on today in countless forms manufactured in several countries.

In the 1930s, under Hitler's New Reich, Schneider's was expanded and directed towards military output, with a truly huge range of products. The rival firm Erfurter Sturmlaternenfabrik Fr. Stübgen, hurricane lamp makers and owners of Die Fledermaus brand name, were adsorbed by Schneiders in the late 1930s. There is also evidence that Schneiders has taken over the Müller name at this time.

hasaghead1936

1930s heading

Once again, brooding conflict brought an imperative to the production lines at Schneider, and as the war progressed, so the need to maintain the workforce grew, leading first to the employment of women while the men were away at war, and ending with the forced labour of Jewish people and other nationalities, in total over 8000 prisoners. The Ehrich & Graetz factories in Berlin were maintained in a similar way, using forced labour from the late 1930s onwards. Schneider also had plants in Berlin, Meuselwitz, Taucha, Langewiesen, Kielce (Poland), Altenburg, Eisenach, Oberweissbach, Schlieben, and Dermbach, and while some of these became notorious in their treatment of forced labour, it is possible that only the Leipzig factory continued to make pressure lamps . One particularly significant product to come out of the same HASAG Leipzig factory at this time was the "panzerfaust" anti-tank weapon, which Hitler thought would boost the morale of his troops. Another well known military product from the Leipsig plant was the 'Fliegerfaust' weapon.

HASAG operated four other camps in Czestochowa, Poland. The largest, HASAG-Apparatexbau held seven thousand Jewish prisoners. In general, the policy of Vernichtung durch Arbeit ("extermination through work") was applied. Selections were held, and those no longer fit for work were killed. From July 1944 to early 1945, HASAG transferred most of its equipment and Jewish workers from the remote plants back to Germany. HASAG, though under the direction of the political regime, was still a privately owned company, and was the third largest employer of slave labor after Farben and the Goring Werke. The company was run by Paul Budin, a highly placed member of the Nazi party. Beginning in the summer of 1944, labor camps were established next to each HASAG plant in Germany, all of which were satellite camps of Buchenwald. More women were employed since HASAG paid the SS less for women than men.

Up to and during this time, as many as 50 different models of HASAG lanterns were made, including street lights, indoor lamps, windproof lanterns, and outdoor lamps with toroidal reservoirs, and there is some evidence to show that exports to the rest of Europe were made in the 1920s and 30s, with lanterns sold under localized brands. It is thought that Provincial Incandescent Fittings Co (Pifco) included some HASAG products, and there is a confirmed link with Eugene Schatz in Switzerland, although dates are not clear.

In April 1945, the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division overran Leipzig-Schönefeld, where the prisoners were forced to work for Hugo Schneider. The SS had permitted the Hasag's Leipzig field office to establish an ammunition factory for the German military in 1944. On March 28, 1945, Schönefeld housed some 4,765 female prisoners; however, at the beginning of April, the SS evacuated many of the inmates to prevent them from falling into Allied hands. When the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division arrived on April 14, 1945, only some 250 prisoners remained in the camp. According to the Division's report, the SS killed between 400 and 600 prisoners from December 1944 to April 1945. After occupying the camp, the members of the Division arranged for proper burial of the dead and collected evidence to be used in the prosecution of the SS personnel. Eventually, some HASAG personnel were also put on trial by the Allies in the Nuremberg proceedings. The head of the company, Paul Budin, is assumed to have committed suicide with his wife in April 1945, when he blew up the company's head office in Leipzig.

At the end of the war, the need for domestic utensils was overwhelming, and for a short time a range of kitchen and household ware was produced. Within a year of the war's end, occupation of north east Germany by the Soviet Union was complete, and Leipzig became part of the territory that was to be known as East Germany.

At some time in this process, some of the lantern production tooling was saved from demolition and narrowly escaped requisition by the Soviets. It had either been moved earlier, or at this time, to the Fr. Stübgen & Co premises in nearby Erfurt. Stübgen was already part of the HASAG empire, and production of the basic pressure lantern started again, either continuing with the HASAG name, or bearing the name Bat. The same lantern was also sold later using the MEWA brand name. Since the name Bat was used instead of Fledermaus, it might be assumed there was a potential market in the English speaking world, but it is unclear how that came to be, given the difficult relations between Germany and the rest of the world at this time.

In Leipzig, the company once gave its name to a main road in the north of the city, but Hugo Schneider Straße is now called Permoserstraße and an environmental research centre stands on the site of the long gone factory.

hasag34 hasag51 hasag71 hasag72

HASAG pressure lanterns - model 34, 51, 71 and 72

 

hasag51l hasag li hasagba

Collection of older HASAG lanterns by Stefan Schmitt

 

hasag351l

HASAG 351 L kerosene lantern thought to be from the 1940s......

hasag351l 02

.....and the plate bearing the name and factory of manufacture

 

When you hold an old wartime HASAG lantern, please spare some thoughts for the people who made and assembled them. The lamp you hold may have passed from their hands to yours - it is part of history that deserves a quiet moment of remembrance.

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References

Holocaust Learning Centre. (2004) http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/

Holocaust Survivors http://www.holocaustsurvivors.org

INFOTHEK http://home.t-online.de/home/laternen-shop/infot.htm

Mölkauer Gemeindeblatt April 2002 http://www.moelkau.de/gemeindeblatt04_02.html

Shinzo Kono. 2004 Gasoline and Kerosene Pressure Lamps and Lanterns. http://www.geocities.co.jp/Outdoors-River/8607/euro.html Chiba, Japan

Van der Velden 2004 http://home.planet.nl/~velde190/HASAG/HASAG.html The Netherlands

Victor, E.(2004) Judaica Philatelic Resources Edward Victor

Yad Vashem HMHRA http://www.yadvashem.org.il/

 

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