Charles de Gaulle
1962 – “No ordinary day”: More than 50 years ago the president of France, Charles de Gaulle, visited the steelworks in the North of Duisburg
“September 6 will go down as a historic day in the history of the August Thyssen-Hütte,” reported the factory magazine at the time. “This Thursday the French president General Charles de Gaulle visited us in order to speak to 4,000 employees of the steelworks from the factories and offices.” A contemporary witness who more than 50 years ago was there as a Thyssen employee remembers: “Thyssen was selected because the company was an important element in the economic miracle. It was almost a world event.” This was ensured by the transmission of the event in numerous countries via Eurovision, as well as the presence of around 250 journalists.
A warm welcome for the French politician
At the port in Schwelgern 400 apprentices welcomed “Monsieur le Président”. From the port the special train took the President to the hot strip mill, where 4,000 employees were waiting for de Gaulle in the hall. The employee newspaper from 1962 reports: “At 3:47 pm the din from the production department in the strip mill suddenly stopped. Instead, the large loading bay of the plant (…) was filled with rising applause for the guest from France. Hundreds of employees pulled their helmets off their heads and waved them around to greet the president. Others clapped their calloused hands or shouted ‘Vive’ to the general.” Charles de Gaulle gave his speech to the workforce in German and without a script.
The new era of German-French friendship begins
By addressing the employees as “Meine Herren”, he had – according to the company newspaper – “immediately found his way to the men’s hearts”. “In you I welcome the whole working population of Germany,” declared the then 71-year-old. “I invite you all to celebrate with me a new event, the greatest of our modern age, the friendship between the French and the German people.” After the speech, De Gaulle again received long applause. “Such great enthusiasm as during the visit by de Gaulle I had never experienced before,” remembers the contemporary witness with pleasure.