Ilse Knoll, born in Hanover in 1925, talks about her work and experiences at Continental in Hanover during the war times and how her granddaughter, Ines, continued the Continental family tradition in Regensburg, after Continental took over Siemens VDO.
"My name is Ilse; I am 96 years old, and I come from Hanover. I completed my training as "Technical Assistant for Chemistry and Biology" in Berlin. However, since I definitely wanted to return to my hometown, Continental Hanover opened up as a future employer. Fortunately, I found a vacant job there and started working in the main laboratory at the Vahrenwalder Straße location in 1943.
At Continental in Hanover, rubber products were already being made at that time. Our task consisted essentially of testing all materials in order to release them for production. However, due to a laboratory fire, we were outsourced to the nearby Continental location in Limmer 4-5 months later. We spent several weeks there during the restoration and did our usual work. While other colleagues went back to Hanover, I internally transferred to a small latex rubber laboratory and worked there for the rest of my time in Continental. Altogether, we were only three people there - one supervisor, another employee and me. However, my superior was summoned to war shortly after, so I was promoted to be the boss instead. Our job in the laboratory was to check the quality of the viscosity for surgical gloves, which were also produced by the company. After the end of the war, we also designed the first car seats made of latex foam. We were always two or three people in the lab, but I found the independent work very interesting.
During the war, I lived in three different apartments, since the first two were bombed out. In the most intense phase, Hanover was the target of air strikes every night. My third apartment was located at Vahrenwalder Platz, close to the Continental factory. Thanks to our staff cards, which were already available at the time, the company was a life saver for me and many other colleagues at the time, because we were officially allowed to hide in the basement during the evening and thus were better protected from the bombing. It was assumed that the buildings built for the heavy machinery on the upper floors would stop the bombs. The bombs were supposed to explode on the upper floors and could not reach the basement. We were warned by sirens about an imminent attack, so that we could walk straight to the factory. That was a great relief to me. At the time, most people went to bed fully dressed in order to avoid wasting time in case of an emergency.
Continental's supply has also been maintained even in the worst of times. Every day at noon, we received food for a few ration stamps in the company’s cafeteria. Even after the war, when supplies were scarce, we sometimes got free bicycle tires from Continental. These could also be exchanged for food or other items that we needed. We always appreciated it greatly as it made the situation easier for us.
After about six or seven years, when I got married, my time at the company came to an end. Later, I was able to apply the knowledge about plastics that I acquired at Continental to my new profession. Together with my husband, I restored school wall maps and later also modeled relief maps. Unfortunately, I was no longer in contact with my former Continental colleagues since I moved away from Hanover.
Whenever I pass by a Continental factory, I look back with pleasure on my work at the company. Even though it was not an easy time and it was dominated by the war, I entirely associate Continental to positive memories. My granddaughter, Ines, originally worked for Siemens VDO. When I found out about the takeover by Continental, it felt like coming back home for me and for Ines it was a positive experience from the very beginning. I am delighted that this will allow me to remain in touch with the company and share my memories of Continental with Ines."
This article was written by our employee in close consultation with Ilse.