02 November 2023

Rebuilding Time

On January 16, 1945, after relatively short but intense fighting, Radom was occupied by the Red Army. Almost immediately after the end of the battles, members of the special Operational Group of the Ministry of Heavy Industry arrived in the city. Their task was to secure the property of local industrial plants and, in the long run, also participate in their reconstruction. On January 21, 1945, they organized a meeting in one of the residential blocks on Poniatowski Street, attended by former employees of the factory as well as representatives of military and civilian authorities. It was decided to establish a committee for the reconstruction of the Armament Factory and appoint engineer Marian Poniatowski as its director.

Presumably, the next day, the members of the new management and their colleagues carried out an inspection of the factory premises. All of them were empty and devastated. Mines, explosives, and unexploded ordnance were scattered in many places, which were later cleared by sappers. However, the complete lack of machinery and equipment made it impossible to start any production. The factory's machine park began to be restored by confiscating machines and engines from private workshops and factories, which were useful for resuming the production cycle. The Radom plant was also supported by the loan of a certain amount of machinery and equipment from the ammunition factory in Skarżysko-Kamienna.

However, the future existence of the arms factory was conditioned by the reclamation of its equipment from Germany, which had been taken to the headquarters of the "Steyr" concern and subsequently relocated to other locations. The work in this field started relatively late, in the spring of 1946, a year after the end of the war. It turned out that at least part of the Radom machine park ended up in the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp in Austria, where thousands of prisoners were used for forced labor in the German armaments industry, including the "Steyr-Deimler-Puch" concern. Director Poniatowski and his colleagues delegated two labor crews for the transport of the machines. Thanks to the selflessness of the people involved and numerous bribes given to the occupying Russians in Austria, around 1,000 machines and equipment were successfully brought back to Radom during the reclamation operation, which took place from August 1946 to April 1947. Although this was only a modest part of the factory's machine park (the estimated number of machine tools at the Armament Factory in Radom at the time of the German evacuation was around 3,500), it provided hope for the future. However, the equipment was severely damaged, and significant investments were required to restore it to full functionality.

Although official publications on the history of the factory (which operated for a long time under the name "Fabryka Broni in Radomiu" and, from September 15, 1948, under the name "Zjednoczone Zakłady Wyrobów Metalowych. Zakład Nr 1 w Radomiu") stated that it engaged exclusively in civilian production in the early post-war years, this is not true. Already in 1946, the production of the Soviet TT pistol, popularly known as the "Tetetka," became the basis of its activity. This pistol was the standard equipment of Red Army officers and Polish People's Army officers serving alongside them. In the same year, about 1,200 sets of "Tetetka" parts were manufactured in Radom using machines found and confiscated in the city, as well as machines borrowed from Skarżysko-Kamienna. Assembly of 360 pistols was also carried out. In 1946, Radom also produced nearly 300 barrels for the PPS-34 submachine gun, known as the "Pepesza." Military production based on pistols, submachine gun barrels, and spare parts continued in the following years. In 1948, it was expanded to include the production of signal pistols. At the same time, efforts were made to develop civilian production, primarily focusing on manufacturing spindles for textile machinery. This enabled an increase in employment, which reached 600 workers in 1946, nearly 2,000 in 1948, and around 4,000 in 1949.

The cooperation of the Radom plant with the textile industry, considered strategic and crucial for the country's reconstruction, resulted in an extraordinary achievement in those days - the preparation of the production of the first Polish sewing machine. Without any foreign licenses, thanks to the efforts of the factory employees, production of the "Łucznik" LZ3 machine began in late 1948. It was not intended for private consumers but for clothing industry plants. The entire construction was prepared in Radom, including a special table, while the drive motors came from the factories in Bielsko-Biała. These machines were successfully produced until 1952.

The early post-war years also brought efforts to involve workers in political life. Due to pre-war and occupation sympathies, the attitude of the workforce towards communist ideology was very reluctant. In 1949, only 400 factory workers, less than 10 percent of the total, belonged to the Polish United Workers' Party. To build sympathy for the leftist authorities, the factory management provided social care for the workers. The establishment of the factory clinic became an important event for the whole of Radom. In 1947, a kindergarten for workers' children was organized in a barrack on Traugutta Street, and a nursery on 1905-go Roku Street, which was later moved to a building on Kościuszki Street. Similarly to the interwar period, the management also sought to promote the cultural development of the workers and their families. Therefore, a club was established in the building of the former casino, which was transformed into the "Gen. Walter Metal Works Workers' Club" in 1948. Dance, recitation, and music groups were formed, and the brass band was reactivated. Several social organizations also found their headquarters in the club, including the revived sports club "Broń" (following the orders of the ministerial authorities, it changed its name to "Stal" in 1947), focusing on competition with teams from other metal industry plants.

Dr. Sebastian Piątkowski

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