THE GÜTERMANN ERA
Who is actually behind the family Gütermann? Find out more about our roots and more than four generations of Gütermann history.
The founder „Max Gütermann“
Max Gütermann was born in the small village of Redwitz a.d. Rodach in Upper Franconia on October 12, 1828, as the second son of eight children. His family was wealthy, respected and had already been active in the textile trade for generations. In 1854, Max married a cousin from Lichtenfels, Sophie Kon. Together with their six children Fanny, Carl, Julius, Alexander, Ludwig and Rudolf, they moved to Gutach in 1868 to the new constructed manor house right next to the Gütermann company. Max and Sophie had 30 grandchildren, 54 great-grandchildren, 118 great-great grandchildren and well over 200 great-great-great-grandchildren. In the meantime there are descendants in the eighth generation.
Max Gütermann was a typical businessman of the Wilhelmine time – intelligent, hard-working, ambitious, creative and above all, innovative. Social awareness as well played a major role for Max Gütermann from the start. At the Headquarters in Gutach, unique ways were maintained, characterized by patriarchal strictness but also goodwill and rectitude. Max Gütermann was characterized also by the vision of turning a pure working community into a living community. This was honoured by the personnel through the bestowing of the unique honorary titles of “Papa Gütermann” or “Mister Max”. This resulted in a tradition, which was maintained over four generations: the Gütermanns’ were addressed with “Mr.” and their respective first names.
And something else was kept throughout the years: whoever had a request, could knock on the Gütermanns‘ door, enter and state their wish. They were always ready to listen. And the requests were not always about business or company issues. Max Gütermann hence created a climate of trust and solidarity.
Independent production and handover
Twenty years after the foundation of the company, Max Gütermann reaches in 1884 the aim he has persistently been following from the start: independent production and therefore the prerequisite of being able to offer his customers consistent quality. For him, this success is the right moment to pull out of active business life and to hand the company over to his five sons, Carl, Julius, Alexander, Ludwig and Rudolf.
Under their leadership, numerous social beneftis were implemented from 1884 until 1931, which strongly and sustainably promoted the integration of the staff into the company and therefore their commitment to the business. In particular, these included a company health insurance fund, the foundation of a music association, which was later re-named the „Gütermann Works Band“ and was known far well beyond the Elztal for its superb performances, the foundation of a men’s choir, a shooting club, a chess club and as well a football club. This was followed by the set up of a works canteen, a works home with a works library, a company kindergarten, the construction of a hospital for employees and a girl’s home, the financing of the gymnastics hall Kollnau/Gutach for the Gymnastics Association, the foundation of the golf club Gütermann Gutach as well as 600 employees’ flats for the workers. From 1924, there was also introduced as premium system which provided employees who did extra work within a certain time with bonuses.
The Golden Twenties and Second World War
Eleven of the company founder’s grandchildren and two family members who had married into the family, found a position in the expanding company between 1908 and 1933 either in Gutach, Vienna or Perosa. Alexander’s sons Max and Paul as well as Julius’ sons Oskar, Richard and Erich worked in the Headquarters in Gutach. The youngest member of the company management was Kurt Gütermann, Ludwig’s son. Under the chairmanship of the business-minded Richard, the third generation mastered the 1920’s, the difficult period of National Socalism and the Second World War, in which five sons of the Gütermann family died. Although Gütermann lost all businesses in Eastern European countries as a result of the war, the next generation was handed over a healthy company with the conditions for a successful further development.
Post-war years - striking new paths
In the post-war years, the 4th Gütermann generation – including nine descendants and three in-laws – joined the Gütermann companies in Gutach, Perosa, São Paulo, Vienna, Paris and Zurich. In Gutach, Horst, Alex and later Peter Gütermann worked in the company management. The situation in the post-war years was desolate. Only in 1949, the economic situation began to improve, with the currency reform and the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany: in Gutach, it was possible to purchase raw materials and recruit new employees again. The years of the “German economic miracle”were dawning.
In the management, a general consensus continued to rule when it came to the values , the vision and the strategy. Their productive working relationship and mutual understanding certainly played a decisive role in the company’s ability to survive even economically difficult times relatively unscathed. The fourth generation as well felt very attached to the employees in the business and to Gutach, which was expressed in their volunteering for the community as well as their athletic and cultural activities in the associations of Gutach.