Documentary Films


A film by Suzanne Raes

A co-production by submarine, LICHTBLICK FILM and WILDart FILM
Supported by Film- und Medienstiftung NRW, Netherlands Film Fund, CoBo Funds (NL), Mediafund (NL)

Based on the book by Paul Schilperoord

Josef Ganz was crazy about cars. Born in 1898, he grew up with the first cars roaring on the streets. He became a brilliant auto engineer and sharp-tongued journalist in Frankfurt in the 1920s. His dream: Instead of huge automated carriages for noblemen and business people, he wanted to build a small, safe and affordable car for the people - a machine of freedom that opens the world to the masses.

As a pioneer of his time, Ganz created the Standard Superior (nicknamed the “cockchafer”). Anyone who sees a design drawing will be amazed at how much it resembles the VW Beetle in terms of appearance and all the important technical details. But it was by no means used as a model for the Standard Superior, it was in fact the exact opposite. 

As enthusiastic as Adolf Hitler was about Ganz ’prototype in February 1933, he could not leave the fame as the inventor of the“ People's Car ”to Ganz the Jew. He had to be eliminated. Ganz escaped at the last minute and died impoverished in Australia. His patents were deleted and with them Ganz out of history. In 1934 Ferdinand Porsche received the order to put the "Volkswagen" into serial production.

The Dutch journalist Paul Schilperoord has rediscovered his story. With Lorenz Schmidt, Josef Ganz's great-nephew, he sets out to occupy them. Their research leads them to contemporary witnesses, doubting VW historians in Wolfsburg, to documents and original construction drawings. Finally, they find the only known original “cockchafer“ model in an East German garage. With the help of sponsors, they restore the model, which becomes a much admired attraction at car shows and VW Beetle meetings. The whole ’legacy‘ becomes visible.

With texts from Josef Ganz's lively correspondence, the voice of Joachim Król brings him back to life. The documentary by Suzanne Raes tells of his dramatic life and groundbreaking contribution to the mobile age.

Author & Director: Suzanne Raes
Producers: Bruno Felix, Femke Wolting (submarine BV) | Carl-Ludwig Rettinger (Lichtblick Film)