The Odyssey of 41 Glassmakers
On June 25 and 26, the international specialty glass manufacturer Schott celebrated the 75th anniversary of the so-called “Odyssey of the 41 Glassmakers” from Jena to Western Germany. This measure that was ordered by the American military leadership in Europe in the summer of 1945 after the end of World War II ended with the opening of a new main plant in Mainz in 1952.
World War II and the reign of terror of National Socialism ended at Schott’s founding location with the arrival of the American troops in Jena on April 13, 1945, just a few weeks before the official end of the war. However, because the Allies had previously agreed that Thuringia should be part of the Soviet occupation zone after the end of the war, the US troops had to withdraw from the region again. And yet the Americans wanted to secure Schott’s know-how as one of the leading specialty glass manufacturers worldwide for themselves and the West. Following the motto “We take the brain,” they therefore decided without further ado to take the management and a group of experts with them to the West. The respective individuals had no choice and had to obey the order of the American headquarters.
On June 25 and 26, 1945, two treks with American military trucks set off for an unknown destination. On board were 41 schott employees and their families, a total of 145 men, women and children. This included the Managing Director Erich Schott, the son of the company founder Otto Schott. The American soldiers first brought the ‘41 glassmakers’ to a camp in Heidenheim an der Brenz in Württemberg, from where they were later brought to villages in the surrounding area.
In 1948, when the parent company in Jena was finally expropriated and converted into a state-owned company and one year later the two German states were founded, not only Germany was divided, but also Schott. With this development, it became clear to the ‘41 glassmakers’ in the West that a return to Jena was out of the question. As a result, the management under the leadership of Erich Schott decided to build a new main plant in the west of Germany. With the ceremonial opening of the new plant in Mainz in May 1952, ‘The Odyssey of the 41 Glassmakers’ had reached its final destination after seven years.