Hugo Junkers

Name: Hugo Junkers
Nationality: German
Date of Birth: February 3, 1859
Place of Birth: Rheydt
Date of Death: February 3, 1935
Place of Death: Bayrischzell

Hugo Junkers was born on February 3rd, 1859 in a small town named Rheydt near Monchengladbach in Germany as the third out of even sons of Louise and Heinrich Junkers. Hugo Junkers grow up at Rheydt and went to junior high school there from 1867 to 1874. He continued his school education at the vocational school at Barmen between 1875 and 1878.

In 1878 Junkers started his engineering studies at the university of Berlin. In 1881 he moved to Aachen and continued his studies at the Rheinisch-Westfalische Hochschule Aachen. After ten semesters he finished his studies there as a mechanical engineer in May 1883. During the second half of 1883 Hugo Junkers took over the technical management of his father's textile company at Rheydt. In January 1884

Hugo Junkers returned to Aachen for additional studies in electrical engineering. Parallel to these studies Junkers jobbed at several Aachen mechanical companies until 1885. In June 1887 Hugo Junkers again moved to Berlin, where he continued his electrical engineering studies, as well as some economical studies.

Recommended by his Berlin Professor Slaby, Hugo Junkers moved to Dessau in November 1888 and joint the "Deutsche Continental Gasgesellschaft" of which Wilhelm Oechselhauser was the technical director at this time. The Continentale Gasgesellschaft was engaged in the development of gas engines, a field in which Hugo Junkers was also engaged during this time at Prof. Slaby's laboratory.

In 1890 Oechselhaeuser and Junkers founded the Versuchsanstalt fur Gasmotoren von Oechselhaeuser & Junkers at Dessau, an experimental laboratory for gas engines. Junkers took over the technical development of the gas engines, while Oechselhaeuser offered the necessary money for this development. The Versuchsanstalt fur Gasmotoren was the first company of Hugo Junkers. The main field of experiments headed for a large scale gas engine. In 1892 the first of this large scale engines with counter pistons was finished. Following this success, Hugo Junkers and Wilhelm Oechselhaeuser diverged from each other in April 1893.

While Hugo Junkers was still in partnership with Oechselhaeuser in the Versuchsanstalt fur Gasmotoren, Junkers founded his first own company at Dessau, the Hugo Junkers Civil-Ingenieur office in October 1892. This foundation might have been a step to prevent his newly developed calorie measuring device as an own patent outside of the Versuchsanstalt fur Gasmotoren. Also this foundation prepared the separation from Oechselhaeuser a half year later.

Due to the separation from Oechselhaeuser Hugo Junkers was now missing the financial backings. Therefore he was looking for some new partnerships for the further developments of his calorie measuring devices and some thermodynamic developments, such as gas furnace. Junkers found a new partner in Dr. Robert Ludwig, a former friend of his studying period at Berlin. In July 1895 both founded the Junkers & Co. (ICO) at Dessau. Again Junkers was responsible for technical developments in that company, while Ludwig was responsible for the economical aspects. Ludwig also supplied the required money for the further calorie-metre unit and the bath stove developments, while Junkers entered his technical knowledge. The first site of this company was still the areal of the Continentale Gasgesellschaft, where Junkers had rented a shed for his laboratory. But after Junkers & Co. was successful in selling a first batch of gas heaters to Vienna, the company bought its first own area in Dessau at the Albrechtstrasse. At the same time Junkers and Ludwig fell into discussions about the leadership of the company. These discussion took a period of two years and finally Ludwig left the company in July 1897 following a judicial decision against Junkers, who had to pay 52000 Mark to Ludwig for his investments in Junkers & Co.

Since 1894 Hugo Junkers was looking for the position of a professorship at one of Germany's technical universities, but several approaches for such a position at Berlin failed. With the support of Wilhelm Lynen, a former employee of the Versuchsanstalt fur Gasmotoren and now a professor of mechanical engineering at the Rheinisch Westfalisch Technische Hochschule of Aachen, Hugo Junkers finally was successful and was appointed "Professor of the mechanical technical laboratories of the RWTH Aachen" in September 1897. At the same time Junkers transferred the responsibility for his company Junkers & Co (ICO) to Herrmann Schleissing, a private Dessau friend of Hugo Junkers. During the following years a lot of developments from the Aachen laboratories of Professor Junkers were transferred for commercialisation to Junkers & Co. at Dessau. Junkers remained at the RWTH Aachen as professor until the end of 1911.

On March, 31st 1898 Professor Hugo Junkers married Therese Bennhold. Both had 12 children, of which the last girl was born in 1920. Hugo and Therese Junkers remained married until the death of Hugo Junkers in 1935. Some of Hugo Junkers' children became engaged in the Junkers consortium throughout the years, like the Junkers' sons Klaus and Werner. Also some of Hugo Junkers' brothers became engaged within the consortium, especially in the marketing of ICO products.

In 1906 Hugo Junkers was confronted with aircraft design questions for the first time. In that year Hans Reissner became professor for technical mechanics at Aachen university. Reissner's studies were focused on aerodynamic questions. Therefore he was also engaged in aircraft designs and he contacted Hugo Junkers for support in construction techniques and a laboratory. In 1908 Reissner decided to built his first own aircraft. Hugo Junkers discussed several construction approaches with Reissner and finally both decided to built an all-metal aircraft. Reissner's aircraft was a Cunard design. The fuselage was constructed as a steel grid and the wing was a corrugated, bulged out steel plate. The wing was built at ICO at Dessau and Hugo Junkers started intensive researches on the question of wing designs, especially the question of thick wings and flat plates. Also the Reissner- Cunard performed its first flight already in 1912, Hugo Junkers continued these researches. A wind channel was built in Aachen at the Versuchsanstalt Prof. Junkers in 1913/14 for these researches.

With outbreak of WW I Hugo Junkers moved back to Dessau and here he founded the Forschungsanstalt Prof. Junkers, which continued the Junkers research work at Dessau. During these early war years, the Junkers studies were mainly focused on the design of all-metal aircraft constructions and the development of oil engines. In late 1915 the first all-metal aircraft, designed by Hugo Junkers within the Forschungsanstalt, was finished by ICO at Dessau as the Junkers J1. This was the first out of a very successful development line of aircraft, developed by Hugo Junkers until his forced retirement in 1933.

In 1917 Hugo Junkers built up a first Junkers serial production of aircraft with the help of Anthony Fokker. Both were forced by the German government to merge into the Junkers - Fokker Flugzeugwerke AG in 1917 into which Junkers had to integrate the aircraft production facilities of ICO, while Fokker had to transfer his knowledge of serial aircraft production lines. The first serial produced Junkers aircraft Junkers J4 was produced during 1917/18 at Dessau within this Junkers-Fokker Flugzeugwerke AG.

In early 1919 Junkers and Fokker diverged from each other. Hugo Junkers took over the common aircraft company and renamed it into Junkers Flugzeugwerke AG. This was the new nucleus for the further Junkers aviation activities. A lot of aviation activities were initiated by Junkers from this Flugzeugwerke during the next five years, i.e. Junkers set up one of Europe's largest airline consortium with the help of Gotthard Sachsenberg, the Junkers Luftverkehrs AG, the Junkers Flugzeugfuehrerschule, a pilot school for Junkers pilots, aerial photographic departments etc. Parallel to the Flugzeugwerke, Hugo Junkers continued his engine studies within the Junkers Motorenwerke AG.

During the first half of the twenties Hugo Junkers also started a lot of international activities. One of these ventures led to the first financial disaster in the history of the Junkers companies, Junkers Russian venture at Fili. This venture was initiated by the German government, which was interested in a cooperation with the Russian government during the isolation phase shortly after WW I.

In November 1922 Junkers and the Soviet government signed a contract, which allowed Junkers to built up an own facility at Fili near Moscow. This facility should produce military aircraft, designed by Junkers, which should be used by the Soviet air force. The aircraft development and the facility built up at Fili is financed with the support of the German government.

In 1924 further credits are offered to Junkers for the Russian ventures, but the Fili venture did not come to a positive result. In 1925 the German government had no more interest in the Russian cooperation. Therefore it stopped its credits and ask Junkers to repay all prior credits. At the same time also credits dedicated to the Junkers Flugzeugwerke AG were stopped. Finally on October 3rd, 1925 the Junkers Flugzeugwerke AG ran out of money and were unable to pay the loans for their employees. The German government now offered a one time credit to Junkers, but Junkers had sell more than 66% of the IFA shares to the German government.

Almost 80% of the Junkers Luftverkehrs AG had to be sold to the German government. Hugo Junkers was forced to leave his management positions at the Junkers companies. With the majority of ILAG, the German government dissolved this company and integrated it into the newly formed Luft Hansa in January 1926. Hugo Junkers was forced to fight a legal struggle against the German Reich during 1926 and in December 1926 the first Junkers crisis came to end, when Junkers agreed to sell the remaining 20% shares of ILAG to the German Reich, as well as to repay 1 million Reichsmark. He also had to accept to supply aircraft in worth of 2.7 million Reichsmark to the Reich. By accepting this, Junkers regained the IFA- and Jumo-shares, which he had to offer to the Reich a year ago.

After Hugo Junkers regained control about his facilities, he fully concentrated on the further development of Junkers aircraft and engines during the second half of the twenties. When the Junkers G38 flew first in 1929, Hugo Junkers fulfilled his dream of a large scale land-based aircraft, which he had first thought in the early 20s with his J1000 design. At the same time, when Hugo Junkers reached this aim, the world economic situation became critical through the Black Friday of 1929. Nevertheless, Hugo Junkers and his companies were in a good position, as the G38 was taken over by Luft Hansa and the development of the new designs of the Junkers Ju52 and the Junkers Ju60 were requested by the German government. But as the government did not pay any prepayments for these designs,

Junkers had to finance them by himself. With the increase of the worldwide economic crisis in 1930/31 several companies, which had also debts at Junkers, went into bankruptcy. Finally also Hugo Junkers ran out of money. On March, 7th 1932 Hugo Junkers and his private owned companies were unable to pay any bills. In April 1932 Junkers went to the court for finding a settlement with his creditors. A review board was installed at Junkers by the court to check the financial status of the company. Finally Hugo Junkers decided to sell his most efficient company, the Junkers + Co. (ICO). This first Junkers company was sold to Robert Bosch AG on November, 1st 1932. Also Junkers had to sell parts of his engine facilities. He formed a new company Jukra Chemnitz, into which the stationary engine development was transferred and finally sold. By these activities Junkers managed to save his Junkers Flugzeugbau and the Junkers Motorenbau from bankruptcy.

Just three month after this second crisis of the Junkers consortium, Hugo Junkers suffered a third and final crisis. Three days after Hitler took over political control in Germany, Hugo Junkers was asked by the German Defence Ministry to transfer his privately owned patent rights to the Junkers Flugzeugwerke AG. Hugo Junkers did not agree to this request. Therefore the Nazis asked the Dessau court investigator Laemmler to attack Hugo Junkers as a spy. In May 1933 Hugo Junkers was set under partial arrest and he was not allowed to leave Dessau, while Laemmler was investigating against him. On June, 2nd 1933 Hugo Junkers was forced by Laemmler to transfer his patent rights to IFA and JUMO, otherwise Junkers would be arrested and sent into prison. With signing an agreement, Junkers transferred more than 170 personal patents to IFA and JUMO. Up to this time most shares of IFA and JUMO still belonged to Hugo Junkers himself. But Erhard Milch, who had became a major head of the newly formed Reichsluftfahrtministry already intended to take over control of IFA and JUMO at this time. Milch advised Laemmler to force Hugo Junkers to sell off the majority of his shares to the German government.

On October, 15th 1933 Hugo Junkers was forced to join a meeting with Laemmler and he was asked to sign an agreement, by which Junkers sold 51% of his IFA and JUMO shares to the German government otherwise he would be arrested due to his activities against the German government during the first Junkers crisis of 1926. Finally Junkers agreed and transfered 51% of his shares to the Reich, loosing the final control over his company and his patents. At the same time Hugo Junkers was forced to transfer his position as a chairman of the supervisory board of IFA and JUMO to the president of the chamber of commerce of Dessau Mueller.

On February, 3rd 1934 Junkers was set under arrest at his private home at Bayrischzell. He was not allowed to leave Bayrischzell and he was not allowed to get visits by third people without the participation of police officers. Hugo Junkers is no longer allowed to get into contact with his company facilities at Dessau. Hugo Junkers continued to fight for his rehabilitation during 1934. But his healthy condition became worse during this year. Hugo Junkers died on his 76th birthday on February, 3rd 1935 at Bayrischzell. Hugo Junkers grave yard is at the Munich Waldfriedhof, where he came to rest on February, 5th 1935. When Hugo Junkers died, he was still under arrest at his home and he had lost any influence upon his former company.

But the fight for the control over the Junkers consortium continued also when Hugo Junkers already was dead. His wife Therese was finally forced to accept the salary of the Junkers shares for 9.050.000 Reich mark. A further 3.5 million Reichsmark had to be paid for the utilization of Junkers patents during the next 10 years. The actual worth of the Junkers company at this time was calculated for about 32 million Reich mark. So, Therese Junkers just received a third of the company's real value. After the end of WWII, her son Klaus Junkers continued the family fight against the government of the Federal Republic of Germany, but again without any success. The Junkers family had finally lost their influence upon the work of Hugo Junkers.