Siegburg 1919: Jean Walterscheid has survived the war and also found happiness in his private life. He marries Gertrud Buchholz from Mülldorf (now part of Sankt Augustin). But what about his professional future? The 27-year-old makes a brave decision and takes the step into self-employment. As a passionate cyclist, he decides to manufacture sprockets for bicycles. He took over a lathe from his workplace at the now closed Siegburg armaments factory and rents a former washhouse on Mühlengasse (now Mühlenstraße) where he sets up his lathe. He is supported by his friend Adolf Mletzko, who also becomes a partner. In September 1919, the Mletzko & Walterscheid metal goods factory commences operation. The two owners employ one worker, so they now form a trio. This marks the start of a company’s success story. But who is Jean Walterscheid?
Johann Josef Walterscheid was born in Siegburg in 1892, the son of Peter and Anna Walterscheid. He is referred to in the French form “Jean” or “Schäng” as is common in the Rhineland. After attending primary school, in 1906 he starts an apprenticeship as a lathe operator at the “Königlichen Werke” in Siegburg. He is employed in the pyrotechnics laboratory, one of the two armaments factories. His hobby is cycling: in 1908, he becomes a member of the Siegburg cycling club. After completing his apprenticeship, he briefly joins a company in Hameln before he returns to the pyrotechnics laboratory in 1912. He experiences how the arms factory produces armaments for the First World War (1914–1918) under intense pressure.
As the First World War ends with the capitulation of Germany in November 1918, the allied troops occupy the Rhineland. The first to arrive in the district are Canadians, followed by the English and, finally, the French. Siegburg, on the right side of the Rhine, also belongs to the French occupied area as part of the bridgehead around Cologne. The German military is forced to leave the region, and the armaments industry is banned. The bullet factory and pyrotechnics laboratory are closed on 13 September 1919 and the employees are dismissed. The attempt to convert the factories to peacetime production fails after a few years. Only a few of the 27,000 employees manage to keep their jobs, and Jean Walterscheid is not one of them. He now takes the step into self-employment.
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