Then we were supported by an “old-timer” colleague who taught us the job. From this moment onward we were official Volkswagen’s assembly line workers (in German = bandarbeiter). This way started my adventure in Wolfsburg. All the Italian workers (about 4000) who worked in Wolfsburg Volkswagen’s factory during the 60’s, lived in the housing village “Berliner Brücke”, built expressly in front of the main entrance (reception East). The building of this housing village dated back to the beginning of 1962. To prevent the access to strangers, the village entrance was controlled by a reception and was organized like a small village.
There were also free time shops, bars, playrooms, food outlets and a little bazaar where you could find almost everything for the bathroom and other needs. The houses were two floors wood ready-made, with laundry and kitchen. Every employee had to pay a symbolic percentage for the room’s rental (hold by the pay slip). There were 46 houses, linked one another by streets, paths and green belts. Every level of the house had a central corridor with the rooms organized left and right.
In every single house there was a supervisor (Hauswart) who was in charge of the cleaning and routine maintenance (except of the cleaning of the house’s interior which was responsibility of the occupants) and delivered mails, posted up written communications that arrived from the factory and managed the bureaucracy between workers and Volkswagenwerke A.G. Job was organized in two work shifts: the first from 5,30 am to 2 pm, and the secondo ne from 14 pm to 22,30 pm. On Saturdays (except very rare occasion) they didn’t work. During the 60’s the Volkswagen’s factories were four: Wolfsburg, Hannover, Braunschweig, Kassel.
In Wolfsburg were assembled the Beatles and Flagship 1500-1600, while other factories produced industrial vehicles (mini van Volkswagen, Transporter), engines, auto parts and several accessorizes. To enter the factories you had to show the identity personal card (Werksausweis) at the main reception, which was given by the company during the signing of the work contract. The card had a picture of the worker and his address. (On mine it was written: Haus 40 Zimmer 3, which means house 40, room 3). From my house to my department (assembly-line Beatle VW) it took almost 20-25 minutes (by feet).
Once you crossed the reception you got into the factory’s area where you signed in and got dress in the dressing room, to arrive at our job place at least 5 minutes sooner than the beginning of our turn. An alarm announced the beginning of the work shift. During a turn you had to complete 348 cars for every assembly line. Everyday in Wolfsburg’s factories were produced 5000 cars. There were workers from all over the world during that year; the most copious communities were from Italy, Greece and Turkey. Although the evident linguistic differences, it was easy to get in touch with other workers because they were happy to communicate their impressions and problems.
At the beginnings Germans employers were could-shoulder, but after a little they began to familiarize with strangers, so we learnt a lot of things about their way of living and language. After the last assembly (of the car n. 384) you could leave the job and go to wash yourself and change clothes in the dressing room and come back home. The pay slips were distributed every 8th each month directly at your job position. It was a sealed transparent envelope containing the cash. The money was put in a manner that you could check the amount without opening it.
Once you opened the envelope it wasn’t possible to contest the possible deficit of money. Moreover the workers had the right to have a big reduction if they decided to buy a Volkswagen’s car, but they wasn’t allowed to resell it before one year from its registration. Among the workers families there was a lot of illiteracy, so the company VW decided to print some sticky tags where they could write the address for corresponding. In every room of the village house stayed 3 workers; there was one single-bad and a bunk bed, a table with chairs and wardrobes. The workers who lived in the same room had the same work shift.
I lived in room number 3 with my friend (Guerrini Mauro, so-called Guido) and a very special person (Palerma Alfredo from Migliaro, a small town in the province of Ferrara ). He was special because he was older than us (50 years old) and behaved like a father; he gave us suggestions and his expertise was very useful for us. Due to our age differences he had to bear our recurring jokes. Sometimes we hid him his wife’s mails, or tied pots to the door so when he returned he made a lot of noise.
On Saturdays and Sundays we used to go to the city centre (in the distance of 1 km) by walk or by bus. There was a bus stop right inside our village house. In the city centre, there were a lot of possible activities: the cinema (Imperial, Delphin-Palast, Bambi…), discos and pubs. I came from the country and city was very impressive to me. The major part of the Italian workers were from the Southern regions of Italy, they worked hard trying to save money to send home. It was a very sad situation. We went out rarely and homesickness was big. During our meeting in our rooms, we always speak about our families, showing pictures of wives, sons and telling family’s stories.
During those years unemployment in Italy was high, those were really hard times, especially for the southern Italians who had families to sustain. It was possible to come back home home only for Christmas or Eastern with special trains organized by Volkswagen during the factory’s closing days. Workers who wanted to come back to Italy had right to a discount for the train ticket. I remember some days before Christmas 1963 we adorned a little Christmas tree in our room’s corridor. In the evenings we saw that lights and listened to Christmas songs with a record player in a very nostalgic mood. During our way home by train when we crossed the Brennero we thought we were already arrived, but it took many other hours to arrive in Ferrara. For some days, relatives and friends overwhelmed us with questions; they all wanted to know about our experience in Germany. It was our moment of glory!”.