22nd July 2019

The German Button Industry: B.I.O.S. report 1/1/47

I was surprised that such a report existed. How important could the button industry be to the British Government? Quoting from the Library of Congress … “Following right behind Allied combat troops into occupied areas, representatives of the British Intelligence Objectives Subcommittee (BIOS), the Combined Intelligence Objectives Subcommittee (CIOS), and the U.S. Field Intelligence Agency, Technical (FIAT), visited German manufacturing plants, research laboratories, and other war-related facilities to interview managers, scientists, and engineers. After collecting relevant documents, these groups wrote technical briefs on individual subjects, production processes and new technologies. They also prepared reports on whole industries – notably the German dye industry – and on construction projects, such as German underground factories.”

This report included details on thermosetting and thermoplastic resins, casein, wood, MOP,  ‘natural horn’ and metal buttons as well as the machinery and chemicals used. I think the tone of the report is one of checking up on the state of the German industry, checking if there was machinery or techniques that could benefit British industry, rather than on how German industry could be helped. Some individuals , pointedly described as anti-Nazi, were named as potentially worth taking to England for further questioning for British Industry’s benefit.

Summarising from the report paints a sad picture of the state of Germany at that time …  I have left spelling and punctuation as in the report.

General Resume

“As far as the manufacture of moulded buttons is concerned, it can be said that nothing of any particular importance was found during the visit to Germany.”

“The Country as a whole was found to be well up to date with Injection Moulding Machinery but behind the times with Compression Moulding … due to the fact that from 1938 onwards, no progress was made as the industry was not considered essential to the war effort.”

“… German firms are able to produce a very high class product with plant very much out of date (because) they have an abundance of well trained and highly skilled labour which, because of very low wages existing, is able to replace the use of more modern machinery. The position with the wages is that no change has been made (in 1946) since 1938.”

“… by the use of cheap labour … a potential danger existed to our export market if they should be re-opened to German competition.”

The Casein Button Trade was found … to be practically non-existent since no supplies of Casein Sheet Material were available.”

“The Horn Button Trade was likewise non-existent … one firm trying to make a few Horn Buttons merely because they had nothing else …”

“The Metal Button Industry was found to be in excellent condition … Samples of their products were brought back.”

“Wooden buttons were found being made by all and sundry. This was because of the shortage of other materials. In general their products were quite crude and were sold merely because of the great shortage of buttons.”

“As everywhere, working time is 42 hours a week, due to the low calorie value of the present ration and the exhaustion of the workers.”

“In 1942 the premises (of a MOP button factory) were taken over in order to house Russian Forced Labour which was employed in a nearby factory. The factory was found to be still in a disorderly state. .. the proprietor was making a few articles from the small stock of shells which then existed in order to sell them to buy food for himself and his family. The manufacturing process was very primitive and done entirely by hand.”

In 1945 the Russian Occupation Forces confiscated nearly all ( of a particular) firms machinery. The proprietor, however had immediately ordered new machines …(some had been delivered, but a company supplying them)..were not now in a position to deliver anymore but that when the Russians Occupation Forces had finished dismantling their factory, they hoped to be able to resume delivery again on a smaller scale.”

“The factory (of one particular firm) was partly destroyed by fire at the end of the war. The firm employed foreign forced labour which it seemed, accounted for the fire.”



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