Faces of Industry
Continental Rubber Works (Hannover-Limmer)
Located in Hannover-Limmer, Niedersachsen Germany
Photo © 2007 Tom Kirsch, opacity.us
Continental Rubber Works (Hannover-Limmer) History
As far back as 1871, the "Continental-Caoutchouc und Gutta-Percha Compagnie" was established in Hannover, manufacturing rubber for bicycle tires and industrial uses. In 1898 the focus shifted toward the ever-more demanding automobile industry, and after a swift recovery from World War I, the company prospered. Over the years, multiple sites were bought or built in Stöcken, Hannover-Limmer, Hannover-Vahrenwald and Korbach. The factory in Hannover-Limmer was once operated by a different German rubber company which had merged in 1928/1929 to form Continental Gummi-Werke AG.
Continental embarked on a period of intensified research in synthetic rubber production during 1944/1945 and profited from the work performed by nearby concentration camp prisoners. The company name appears in an excerpt from a story told by Benjamin Sieradzki, who describes his experience when unskilled prisoners were sent to a Continental rubber factory (presumably the plant in Stöcken):
The camp commandant told skilled craftsmen and professionals like carpenters, doctors, sheet metal workers, tailors, etc., to come forward (Ben did not feel skilled enough to dare to volunteer). The rest of would work in the Continental Rubber factory located a short distance from the camp. A few days after arrival, they were awakened around 4:00 a.m. They were then marched to work like a parade with SS guards with rifles on both sides of the column. At the factory they were assigned to the tire-making department. The stronger prisoners were sent to the area where rubber and other resins were processed using heavy roller presses. The rubber was hot and heavy. The punishment for not working fast enough was severe.
Ben was assigned to a galvanizing department. The task was to load steel parts into large steel baskets and lower them by overhead hoist into hot acid tanks, remove them later, and transfer them to other tanks with chemical solutions. Ben worked with German civilians, all of whom wore protective clothing: special rubber aprons, rubber boots and gloves, facial protection against acid splatter and the harmful smelly vapors emanating from the acid tanks. No such protection was given to the prisoners. At this hazardous work, they wore the same striped prisoner pajama-type uniforms they had in Auschwitz. This was their only clothing; they wore it day and night and had no facilities for laundry.
Nighttime brought Allied bombers. One night, there was a direct hit on the factory. The slave laborers couldn't enter it until the debris was cleaned up by other prisoners. One morning Ben was assigned to a group of prisoners to clear bombed-out houses not far from our camp. Ben worked on that detail several times out in the cold and rain. In the ruins, he always looked for food. Sometimes he found some raw potatoes, stale bread, or other old rotten food.
In 1943, during Operation Gomorrah ("Blitz Week"), both the RAF and USAAF targeted a myriad of industrial sites in an effort to cripple the Nazi war machine. On July 26th, the Continental and Nordhafen rubber works were bombed, causing severe damage to the Hannover-Vahrenwald plant. The British military granted permission as early as June 1945 for the Hannover plants to resume production.
Continental resumed a successful history in tire production, however the Limmer plant infrastructure remained painfully out of date, and expansion of the site was not possible due to it being situated on an peninsula. The site ceased operations in 2000; a slow demolition process had begun in 2007, and by 2015 the land is expected to become a housing development.