Walter Gerstenberg

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12 Sep 1907






EMW (1953)


EMW (1953)

Car designer of the EMW, Eisenacher Motorenwerk, based in East Germany. However, that tells only a little bit of Walter's remarkable story. Born and raised in Eisenach, Walter joined his local vehicle manufacturing plant as an apprentice mechanic and was still there when the firm was taken over by BMW. In 1936, Gerstenberg became the foreman of the Durner aircraft engine factory. When war broke out in 1939, Walter was now the head of his department and was seen as too important in his particular industry to fight, so he carried on but also worked as an engineer in a repair shop for Luftwaffe aircraft in Warsaw after the Nazi's took over Poland. Walter then became operations director at an aircraft engineering company in Lodz, but had to leave after Polish resistance fighters threatened his - and his family's - life, so he returned to Eisenach and this is where his courage and humanity made a difference. The BMW depot where he worked had 12 Jewish employees and the Gestapo demanded that Walter reveal any Jewish workers they had. Although what Walter did exactly will probably remain a secret, suffice to say that no Jewish employee of Walter's ever went to the Gestapo, despite numerous efforts by them. Walter may've faced trouble himself, but the Russian advance on Berlin meant that the Gestapo had other more serious worries to face. Walter did however, get arrested in Gorlitz for being a military deserter, and had a short time in prison until BMW helped get him released. However post-war regeneration in Germany actually saw him lose his job and he had to start again as a labourer, but worked his way up again to become EMW chief designer and engine specialist. Walter died in 1974, after suffering from liver disease for nearly 10 years.

Biography last updated 10 Jul 2018