Friday, December 6

"Nürnberg's Panzer Factory. A photographic History": in Review

You have to admire the large scale dioramas of the amazing “Panzerwerk” factories -  Intricate scenes of large tanks being built and repaired in massive factory complexes seem like another world. Well this did indeed happen in real life and when trying to recreate these scenes modellers just cannot get enough research material and inspiration. We now have the next best thing to actually being in these factories - especially the MAN factory in Nürnberg that the guys from Panzerwrecks have made the focus of their latest special book title. We have read it and can give you an extensive look at it in today's review.

Authors: Roddy MacDougall & Darren Neely. Foreword by Hilary Doyle
Text in English
No of Photos: 222. Separate colour map of the factory.
No of Pages: 223
Size: 270x210mm (Landscape)
ISBN: 978-1-9080320-6-5
Available from: Panzerwrecks

The Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg – better known to most of us as the MAN factory at Nurnberg in Germany is well known today for the making of heavy trucks, buses and heavy engine. Several modellers and historians will know the “other” past of this factory – that of turning out tanks for Hitler’s army. This book concentrates on this part of the factories history – from re-armament of the Reich in 1934 to end of war in Europe and the destruction of the factory by allied air raids in 1945.
A lot of books boast “never before seen photos” and this is a very popular feature and selling point of many books. Modellers and history buffs love to discover or “re-discover” something or an idea often lost to history. This book was brought about in part I think because of a bit of a revelation in this field of pictorial research.

The M.A.N. facilities photographer - a man called Johann Buchner who had a treasure trove of photos not before this time published anywhere else. Between his photos of the factory before and during the war and photos from US forces after the destruction of the plant – well how could you not think about releasing a book! There are 222 photographs in this book – and most of them are indeed not before published. Kudos to the researching work done here, also for the decision to keep it all in one book.
Physically this is a large landscape format hardcover book – an earthy reddish tone is on the front of the book which matches the feel of the “Panzerwrecks” series published by the same house. Those familiar with their books are in for more of the same here – but a much more specialised view on one place – and the vehicles that they made.

The book is in the most part page sized photographs of the trucks and vehicles, panzers, factory and people who worked there. For each major type there is a page set aside with text explaining the genesis and overall history of the vehicle. There is as well a table showing numbers of sub-variants made in the MAN factory and the series they were made in. When a subject is too large to discuss on the pages provided the authors point to the place where you can find more information in books they or others have authored which is a noble and helpful gesture.
 All of the pictures host the most memorable information though. As in a book like this you do loose some information due to the sheer number of pages and pictures and information provided. I seemed to remember most of the information when it was associated with the excellent large format period shots. The authors do try to explain exactly what is going on as they go along. Abbreviations and German text is translated for you on the go – so no dipping into the depths of the back of the book to root the meanings of the terminology out which is a good thing.

A colour map of the factory site by Simon Vosters accompanies the book. Its shows you the layout and major features of the factory and the real bonus of having this map in hand (and not inside the book somewhere is that you can relate what you are looking at when they tell you it is in “building 24”) well you know by looking at this large format map exactly where that is. It puts you INSIDE the factory if you will and gives you a sense of knowledge you wouldn’t get without this feature. It is printed in a thicker card than the pages of the book.
Well that is the structure of the book – ill take you through each of the chapters as briefly as I can so as to give you a feel for what is in the book.

Foreword by Hilary Doyle and Historical Overview + Rearmament:
The authors talk a little of the process which MAN went from trucks into tracked vehicles which could be used for war. A little of the structure of the business dating back to 1921 is discussed before we see several of the trucks that we associate with their brand, square and sturdy these vehicles become more and more familiar to modellers of WWII softskins as the ages and years roll on. Interestingly there are some very interesting amphibious trucks talked about and shown in large scale format.
Early Panzer Development: From hiding their renewed military zest from the world the Germans tested their equipment in the Soviet Union, there is a section about the wheeled/tracked vehicles which were under early scrutiny by the MAN factory as well as a revelation of the genesis of sloped armour (now we know where the Russians got the idea) we look at both the early Panzer I and II tanks before we look at the Panzer III. Each of these three tanks has a section dedicated to their development in text and then pictures with captions. These chapters show not just the main vehicles but their sub-types and development steps as well – for example we go through the very early Panzer II right through to the Luchs in late 1944.
Repair and Refurbishment: talks us through the process the MAN factories undertook to update and up-gun the older chassis of the now obsolete designs as well the act of repairing tanks that have been too badly damaged to fix on the front line. There are several close up pictures of heavy battle damages and very clear shots of the new incarnations on top of what were older hulls. Pictures of the very first Marder II and panzer I & II’s are excellent references as well as interesting to look at. Revealed in a picture of a “fresh” Hornisse is the use of the map by telling you exactly where the vehicle was and pointing towards which end. Interestingly in this shot the future of the MAN factory during this war – the Panther tank – sits fresh on top of a railcar – and this is the next an largest part of the story.
Probably the most famous vehicle constructed at Nuremburg is the Panther: This Vehicle’s development and construction is the real meat of this story, and the pages that show this vehicle in some pretty amazing detail dominate the middle main part of this tome.
Why the book was talking about the military value of the Hainberg district just south of the MAN factory becomes evident, this was the main trial ground where the panzer hulls (Wanne) were tested. It is this area which many of the Panthers are captured in. There are some beautiful black and white pics here which show the Panther from all angles in excellent detail.
In fact that could be said for the rest of this chapter as well. We look at the problems with the early tracks and suspension before a very interesting section of photos and text of the major parts of the Panther being built inside the factory in different parts of the plant. The massive machinery used to build these vehicles is impressive even now.
The seemingly endless production lines in an often very smokey factory are documented before we go to the outside to the test track to see some very weird looking test devices strapped to Panthers undergoing all sorts of tests. We look at the Grafenwöhr testing and training ground where the problems of reliability of the Panther were addressed in several tests. 
Several of these pictures are in heavy muddy conditions while many others are of the panthers with many “riders” atop them and the development team in discussion with several onlookers. This is an excellent personal study of the people of the time and place.
  Several incredibly clear shots of the Panther II’s running gear project could have been taken with a DSLR yesterday and converted to grey scale they are that good.

The Zimmerit coated Panther Ausf A’s are next to be shown off as there are several shots of this type with a helpful man near them to give scale. There are several pages of Bergepanzerwagen repair vehicles showing their options and examples of them in their mission towing other Panthers.
Next we travel back to the testing grounds of Hainberg to see turretless panthers with special weights undergoing 15km trials before their turrets are added and nearly finished panthers in high speed and other tests. They really did kick up some dust and must have looked pretty terrorizing when tearing around on trial like this.

Very late production “steel wheeled” Panthers are seen in  some very clear photographs in the next series of shots in which we also go inside these pristine vehicles in perfectly exposed pictures of the interiors. These are a boon to modellers who want to model their Panther interiors as they were and not a reproduction as they are now.

Destruction of the Factory: From 1942 the allies were trying to destroy this factory from the air. And after many raids the place was left in utter ruin. Several large and clear photos from the MAN photographer are shown in this section of the damage to these buildings and their equipment inside. Whole factories with the outside structures completely taken away or left like a bare skeleton over the machinery dominate these pages. These are complimented by pictures of the clean underground bunkers used on the facility which are intriguing in their own right.
Empty Shells: Shows some other large shots of the factories obliteration and the Panthers that were left behind after capture. The destruction of these buildings reminds me of a child kicking over an ant nest – and then the ants trying to rebuild it – and that is what the feel is in this and the next chapter Nürnberg's last Panthers.
Panoramic views from on high show the devastation of this factory which led to almost no Panthers being built at the end of the war. In these last few chapters the map really comes in handy as you can see which direction you are looking at the factory and the author helpfully gets you to compare the same buildings on pages so you can see in perspective the real destruction wrought. Prizes for the allies were valuable but few by the end of fighting however close up and very detailed pictures of what was left fill these pages.
Suppliers: parts of these Panthers came from other manufacturers and these are documented in a two page table at the rear of the book.

Well that is the whole book – The text itself is just enough to let you enjoy and examine the photographs without getting in the way. The transformation of the factory and it’s surrounds is pretty dramatic to see while the use of the large separate map is a great addition – you need not flick back and forth in the book to know what you are looking at. The same goes for the annotations which are kept brief and on the page they are noted on.
For a while now I have had plans to build a “Panzerwerks” factory in model scale – and with this book I feel properly armed to go into it. I have seen random shots of this and other factories like it around – but never anything so well put together, clearly presented and as compelling as this book. Showing the MAN factory in it's prime right through to it's destruction in all states of wear and disrepair this is a well researched, lovingly put together book that shows quality not just in the writing but of the binding and the pages that must be noted as well. This is a top shelf product and I hope to see more like this in the future.

Adam Norenberg

Thanks to Lee at Panzerwrecks for sending us this book to read, review