The Krupp family, a prominent 400-year-old German dynasty from Essen, have become famous for their steel production and for their manufacture of ammunition and armaments. The family business, known as Friedrich Krupp AG Hoesch-Krupp in modern times, merged with Thyssen AG in 1999 to form ThyssenKrupp AG, a large industrial conglomerate.


Friedrich Krupp (1787–1826) launched the family's metal-based activities, building a small steel foundry in Essen in 1811. His son Alfred (1812–87), known as "the Cannon King" or as "Alfred the Great", invested heavily in new technology to become a significant manufacturer of railway material and locomotives. He also invested in fluidized hotbed technologies (notably the Bessemer process) and acquired many mines in Germany and France. He invested in subsidized housing for his workers and started a program of health and retirement benefits. The company began to make steel cannons in the 1840s—especially for the Russian, Turkish, and Prussian armies. Low non-military demand and government subsidy meant that the company specialized more and more in weapons: by the late 1880s the manufacture of armaments represented around 50% of Krupp's total output. When Alfred started with the firm, it had five employees. At his death twenty thousand people worked for Krupp—making it the world's largest industrial company.

In the 20th century the company was headed by Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach (1870–1950), who assumed the surname of Krupp when he married the Krupp heiress, Bertha Krupp. After Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, the Krupp works became the center for German rearmament. In 1943, by a special order from Hitler, the company reverted into a family holding, and Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach (1907–67) took over the management. After Germany's defeat, when Gustav proved incapable of going on trial, the Nuremberg Military Tribunal convicted Alfred as a war criminal in the Krupp Trial for his company's use of slave labor. It sentenced him to 12 years in prison and ordered him to sell 75% of his holdings. In 1951, as the Cold War developed and no buyer came forward, the authorities released him, and in 1953 he resumed control of the firm.

In 1999, the Krupp Group merged with its largest competitor, Thyssen AG; the combined company—ThyssenKrupp AG, became Germany's fifth-largest firm and one of the largest steel producers in the world.

History of the family

Early history

The Krupp family first appeared in the historical record in 1587, when Arndt Krupp joined the merchants' guild in Essen. Arndt, a trader, arrived in town just before an epidemic of plague and became one of the city's wealthiest men by purchasing the property of families who fled the epidemic. After he got it on 1624, his son Anton took over the family business; Anton oversaw an extensive gunsmithing operation during the Thirty Years' War (1618-48), beginning the family's long association with weapon manufacturing.

For the next century the Krupps continued to prosper, generation after generation, becoming Essen's most powerful family and accumulating more and more property in the city. By the mid-eighteenth-century, Friedrich Jodocus Krupp, Arndt's great-great-grandson, headed the Krupp family. In 1751, he married Helene Amalie Ascherfeld (another of Arndt's great-great-grandchildren); Jodocus died six years later, which left his widow to run the business: a family first. The Widow Krupp greatly expanded the family's holdings over the decades, acquiring a mill, shares in four coal mines, and (in 1800) an iron forge located on a stream near Essen.

Friedrich's era

In 1807 the progenitor of the modern Krupp firm, Friedrich Krupp, began his commercial career at age 19 when the Widow Krupp appointed him manager of the forge. Friedrich's father, the widow's son, had died 11 years previously; since that time, the widow had tutored the boy in the ways of commerce, as he seemed the logical family heir. Unfortunately, Friedrich proved too ambitious for his own good, and quickly ran the formerly profitable forge into the ground. The widow soon had to sell it away.

Friedrich continued to squander the family's money. In 1810, the widow died, and in what would prove a disastrous move, left virtually all the Krupp fortune and property to Friedrich. Newly enriched, Friedrich decided to discover the secret of cast (crucible) steel. Benjamin Huntsman, a clockmaker from Sheffield, had pioneered a process to make crucible steel in 1740, but the British had managed to keep it secret since then, forcing others to import steel. But after the Royal Navy began its blockade of Napoleon's empire, British steel became unavailable, and so Napoleon offered a prize of four thousand francs to anyone who could replicate the British process. This prize piqued Friedrich's interest.

Thus, in 1811 Friedrich founded the Krupp Gusstahlfabrik (Cast Steel Works). He soon discovered, however, that he would need a large facility with a power source for success, and so he built a mill and foundry on an Essen stream. Soon Friedrich started pouring huge amounts of time and money into the small, waterwheel-powered facility, neglecting all other Krupp business. After much work, Friedrich produced his first smelted steel in 1816.

Alfred's era

Alfred Krupp (born Alfried Felix Alwyn Krupp), son of Friedrich Carl, was born in Essen. Friedrich's death in 1826 left his widow as owner of the works. Alfred had to leave school at the age of fourteen and take on the direction of the works. The prospect seemed a cheerless one. His father had spent a considerable fortune in the attempt to cast steel in large blocks: in order to keep the works going at all, the family had to live in extreme frugality, while the youthful director laboured alongside the workmen by day, and carried on his father's experiments at night. For the next fifteen years, the works made barely enough money to cover the workmen's wages.

In 1841, his invention of the spoon-roller brought in enough money for Alfred to enlarge the factory and spend money on casting steel blocks. In 1847 he made his first cannon of cast steel. At the Great Exhibition of 1851 he exhibited a 6 pounder (2.7 kg) cannon made entirely from cast steel, and a solid flawless ingot of steel weighing 2000 pounds (907 kg), more than twice as much as any previously cast.

Krupp's exhibit caused a sensation in the engineering world, and the Essen works at once became famous. In 1851, another successful invention, one for the making of railway tyres, made a profit, which Alfred Krupp devoted partly to enlarging and equipping the factory, and partly to his long-cherished scheme - the construction of a breech-loading cannon of cast steel. Krupp himself strongly believed in the superiority of breech-loaders over muzzle-loaders, on account of the greater accuracy of firing and the saving of time, but this view did not win general acceptance in Germany till after the Franco-Prussian war. Krupp supplied his perfected field-pieces throughout Europe and wished to fulfill an order of guns to Austria-Hungary on the eve of the Prusso-Austrian war, much to Bismarck's fury. His greatest grievance against the French was that the French high command had refused to purchase his guns despite Napoleon's support. Following the French defeat he did sell them his guns. Once the quality of this product gained recognition, the factory developed very rapidly. At the time of Alfred Krupp's death in 1887 he employed 20,200 men; and including those in works outside Essen, his rule extended over 75,000 people.

A curious incident took place before the Franco-German war. At the time that war was approaching Alfred was in the process of building his palatial new home, for which he needed French granite. Bowing to his demand, both the French and the Prussian monarchs agreed to have a special shipment of granite delivered to him from France despite the mutual trade embargo.

Krupp constructed special "colonies" for the employees and their families - with parks, schools and recreation grounds - while the widows' and orphans' and other benefit schemes insured the men and their families against anxiety in case of illness or death. He tried to control most aspects of his worker's lives: he demanded loyalty oaths, required workers to obtain written permission from their foremen when they needed to stop working to use the toilet, and issued proclamations explicitly telling his workers not to concern themselves with national politics.

A political conservative, Alfred frequently proclaimed he wished to have "a man come and start a counter-revolution" against Jews, socialists and liberals. In some of his odder moods, he considered taking the role himself. According to William Manchester, his great grandson Alfried would interpret these outbursts as a prophecy fulfilled by the coming of Hitler.

Friedrich Alfred's Era

After Alfred's death in 1887 his only son, Friedrich Alfred, carried on the work. His father had been a hard man, known as "Herr Krupp" since his early teens. His son was "Fritz" all his life, and was strikingly dissimilar to his father in terms of personality. He was a philanthropist, a rare commodity amongst the Ruhr industrial leaders; though part of his philanthropy went towards supporting the study of eugenics.

He did, however, possess an industrial genius, though of a different sort from his father. Fritz was a master of the subtle sell, and cultivated a close rapport with the Kaiser, Wilhelm II. Under Fritz's management, the firm's business blossomed further and further afield, spreading across the globe. It was under him as well that many new products that would do much to change history were authorized. Hiram Maxim peddled his machine gun, and Rudolf Diesel brought his new engine to Krupp to construct. The program that eventually resulted in the German U-Boat fleet was also begun during his tenure.

During his lifetime, Fritz married and had two daughters-Bertha Krupp {b.1886-d.1957} and Barbara {b.1887-d.1972-married to Tilo von Wilmowsky d.1965}. He also enjoyed living on the island of Capri, where he built a villa and did biological research. In 1902 he, and also the painter Christian Wilhelm Allers, were caught up in a pederastic scandal involving youths Fritz had "procured" in Capri and transported to the Bristol hotel in Berlin (after even the corrupt Capri authorities had had enough of his pederasty).cite web |last=Hunnicutt |first=Alex |title=Krupp, Friedrich Alfred | |year=2004 |accessdate=2007-08-16 |url=] A tumultuous few weeks ensued, which ended in the death of Fritz, ostensibly of a stroke, though suicide is a more probable answer.

Gustav's Era

Upon Fritz's death, his daughter Bertha inherited his empire. It was not thought possible for a woman to run the business, so Kaiser Wilhelm II arranged for Bertha Krupp to marry Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, a courtier and career diplomat {Ironically in view of the Krupps araments against US Soldiers in two World Wars-Gustav's mother was the daugther of US Civil War General Henry Bohlen killed in 1862}. Bohlen und Halbach took the additional surname "Krupp," which was to be passed to his eldest son but not to the couple's other children. He soon came to identify himself totally with the Krupp firm and its traditions. Gustav led the firm through World War I, which saw it concentrate almost entirely on artillery manufacturing, particularly following the loss of its overseas markets as a result of the Allied blockade. In 1918 Gustav was named by the Allies as one of the German industrialists to be tried as a war criminal, but these trials never proceeded.

After the war, the firm was forced to renounce arms manufacturing. Gustav reoriented the Krupp firm to civilian production, under the slogan "Wir machen alles!" (we make everything!). During the French occupation of the Ruhr in 1923, Gustav was imprisoned for resisting French orders, which made him a national hero. During the Weimar Republic, Krupps was deeply involved with the Reichswehr's evasion of the Treaty of Versailles, and engaged in secret arms manufacturing and planning. Gustav Krupp was initially skeptical towards Nazism and Hitler; bitterly criticising his son Alfried, his future successor for taking up with them. Gustav soon experienced a conversion and became enamoured with the party, to a degree his wife and subordinates found bizarre. Gustav was nonetheless alarmed at Hitler's aggressive foreign policy after the Munich accord but by then he was fast succumbing to senility and was effectively displaced by Alfried. He was indicted at the Nuremberg Trials but never tried, due to his advanced dementia. He was thus the only German to be named as a war criminal after both world wars.

Alfried's era

Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach inherited the firm in 1943 when Hitler authorised the transfer of all Bertha's shares to him, and the transfer of executive authority from the ailing Gustav. Like his father, he helped rearm Nazi Germany. He played an increasingly large role in the firm's management, and effectively controlled it for most of the Second World War.

During the Second World War, Krupp, used foreign slaves from occupied countries. Their total number cannot be calculated due to constant fluctuation, but the highest number at any one time was about 25,000 civilian workers and prisoners of war in January 1943, all of whom worked in Krupp production facilities.

Krupp set up a fusion factory near Auschwitz, but never used it. It was taken over by Union Werl later the same year.

Krupp was tried at the Krupp Trial held after World War II in Nuremberg following the main Nuremberg trials. He and his co-defendants were convicted of using forced slave labour, and condemnded to 12 years on prison and the “forfeiture of all [his] property both real and personal.” Two years later John J. McCloy, High Commissioner of the American zone of occupation, gave amnesty January 31, 1951.

Alfred's son, Arndt von Bohlen und Halbach (1938-1967), was married but had no children, thus the line of Krupp died out.

Roles played in important historical events

World War I

Krupp produced most of the artillery of the Imperial German Army, including its big ones: The 1914 420 mm Big Bertha, the 1916 Lange Max, and the seven Paris Guns in 1917 and 1918.

World War II

During WWII, Krupp produced submarines, tanks, artillery, naval guns, armor plate, munitions and other armaments for the German military. The Krupp-owned Germaniawerft shipyard also produced a part of Germany's WWII U-boats (130 between 1934 and 1945) using preassembled parts supplied by other Krupp factories in a process similar to the construction of the US Liberty ships.In the 1930s, Krupp developed two 800 mm railway guns, the Schwerer Gustav and the Dora. These guns were the largest artillery pieces ever fielded by an army during wartime, and weighed almost 1,344 tons. They could fire a 7-ton shell over a distance of 37 kilometers.

More crucial to the operations of the German military was Krupp's development of the famed 88 mm anti-aircraft cannon, a notoriously effective weapon that also became a deadly anti-personnel weapon and anti-tank gun.In April 1940, Krupp was dealt an embarrassing blow when two obsolete 28 cm Krupp guns, installed in the Oscarsborg Fortress in the late 19th century, were responsible for heavily damaging the German cruiser "Blücher", leading to her sinking by torpedoes. The "Blücher" was involved in Operation Weserübung, the German invasion of Denmark and Norway, and was leading the attack on Oslo. 830 German sailors and soldiers lost their lives in the sinking.

In 1940-41, Krupp acquired a controlling shareholding in the Bremen-based shipbuilders, Deutsche Schiff- und Maschinenbau AG (Deschimag).

A huge number of civilian slaves from occupied countries, Allied prisoners of war and Jews who had been rounded up in concentration camps were used as forced laborers by Krupp during the war. The total number of all foreign workers having been employed in Krupp factories cannot be calculated due to a constant fluctuation, but the highest number at a reference date was ca. 25 000 civilian workers and prisoners of war in January 1943.

In an address to the Hitler Youth, Adolf Hitler stated "In our eyes, the German boy of the future must be slim and slender, as fast as a greyhound, tough as leather and hard as Krupp steel." "(„... der deutsche Junge der Zukunft muß schlank und rank sein, flink wie Windhunde, zäh wie Leder und hart wie Kruppstahl.”)"


* Friz, D. M.: "Alfried Krupp und Berthold Beitz — der Erbe und sein Statthalter", Zürich: Orell-Füssli 1988; ISBN 3-280-01852-8.
* Manchester, William (1968). "The Arms of Krupp: 1587 - 1968". Boston: Little, Brown and Company. Paperback edition 2003: ISBN 0-316-52940-0. (Note: unreliable, deficient, outdated [why?] )
* Mason, Peter. "Blood and Iron". Penguin USA. Paperback edition 1985: ISBN 0-14-007149-0.
* Gall, Lothar: Krupp. Der Aufstieg eines Industrieimperiums, Berlin 2000;
* Gall, Lothar (ed.): Krupp im 20. Jahrhundert, Berlin 2002
* Tenfelde, Klaus (ed.): Pictures of Krupp: Photography and History in the Industrial Age, London/New York 2005
* Arendt, Hannah: Eichmann in Jerusalem, New York 1994.

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