The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 3/The Future of Škoda Works

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4189310The Czechoslovak Review, volume 3, no. 5 — The Future of Škoda Works1919

The Future of Škoda Works

Next to the immense Krupp shops in Essen the most famous munition factory in the world is the great industrial plant at Pilsen, Bohemia, controlled by the Austrian Baron Škoda. Here were made the famous Austrian howitzers that battered down the fortifications of Liege and gave such a marked superiority to German artillery during the first years of the war. The changes brought about by the cessation of armed conflict are graphically described in the Právo Lidu, a Prague daily. From this account we reprint the following facts:

Before the war the Škoda Works in Pilsen employed about 8,000 people. During the war the number of employed increased to 37,000 , including about 5,000 women and an administrative personnel of 2,000. Only he who could secure admittance beyond the high fencing around Škoda factories can have a conception of the immensity of this industrial enterprise, its productive activities, its technical perfection and its terrible mission in time of war. The factory grew into a city with many principal buildings and innumerable small plants and shops which together composed a single colossal workshop. During the war the Škoda Works gathered within their walls thousands of workers from the immediate district and from all parts of the Austrian empire; this enterprise was not merely a producing center for instruments of murder, but it was truly a slave camp.

The revolution of October 28th put a stop to the activities of the Škoda Works. War production ceased and the munition plant is being liquidated. On the very day of October 28th the last new gun was tried out on the proving grounds at Bolevec, but immediately afterwards the noise was stilled, lathes were abandoned, anvils were silenced and munition works were empty of human presence. Tall chimney stacks ceased to vomit mighty columns of smoke—the Škoda factory breathed its last, finished its task of destructive production and found nothing to do in the cause of peace. Its department for normal industrial manufacture had a few orders, but found it difficult to get coal. The immense plant which for so many years centered its energy on the needs of war became in spite of its size and efficiency a dead house without hopes of finding new tasks.

Today there are still six thousand people employed there more or less regularly. If this industrial enterprise could get orders and material, it could give employment to ten thousand people. In the munition department there is no work of any kind done. The main shops are silenced and their immense spaces are filled with multitudes of guns of all kinds; there are the smallest mountain and field guns, machine guns and quick firers, there are hundreds of anti-aircraft guns, there are long distance cannon and tremendous naval guns. The smallest as well as the largest lie here as inoffensive material, some of them brought back here for repairs after doing their share of the work of destruction, others just finished and never employed on the battlefronts. In the largest hall of the munition plant the mass of small guns is dominated by two40-centimeter monsters, and next to them are two immensely long steel tubes, long-reach cannon one of which was to have been employed against Paris and one against Venice. The steel beasts lie here powerless, covered with dust and contemptuously spoken of by all civilians who come now and then to inspect the masses of the steel war material. The mouths of the ugly guns and mortars that were employed in the perfidious invasion of Belgium face other heavy cannon used in the battles of Verdun and Piave.

But the dissolution and liquidation of war production is not the liquidation of the entire plant. It would be erroneous to think of the Škoda Works as merely producing armaments. During the war this plant received the addition of the so-called Hindenburg buildings; these were structures planned by Hindenburg for a base of his technical campaign for supremacy against the entente; immense and costly structures, entire city of factories destined exclusively for the making of guns, munitions and airships. This industrial city awaits utilization for the purpose of peace production. For even before the war the Škoda Works had large departments making bridges, locomotives, motors, plows, together with immense technical outfit of machinery, tools, cranes, terminal railroads, all forming together a foundation for the most important industrial enterprise in the whole Czechoslovak Republic.

This is today one of our great problems. What shall we do with the mammoth plant upon which the livelihood of thousands depends, with which the prosperity of Pilsen and the whole district is inseparably bound up? Can the domestic market consume all that the Škoda factory can produce, can the plant compete with foreign capital in the manufacture of export goods? It is a problem that deserves the most careful and expert attention of our authorities. The most immediate need from the point of view of the workingmen is to guarantee enough coal to take care of the existing orders which will keep the men busy for the next four months.

This work was published before January 1, 1929 and is anonymous or pseudonymous due to unknown authorship. It is in the public domain in the United States as well as countries and areas where the copyright terms of anonymous or pseudonymous works are 95 years or less since publication.

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