Young and Euphoric – Two Zeissians Tell Their Story

What became of the young people who finished their training at Carl Zeiss in the West and East during the political upheaval in the fall of 1989? There were serious ramifications in Jena in particular, since the young technicians were forced to look for a new employer after completing their training. Two trainees from back then, Hans-Jörg Furtwängler from Oberkochen and Torsten Weigold from Jena, related what reunification meant for them.


Torsten Weigold

As of 2011, lathe adjuster in component assembly at Carl Zeiss Jena GmbH

“Back then I was simply euphoric. I was young, everything was exciting, and I wanted to earn money. I was right in the middle of training to be a toolmaker at the time. Right away, though, I sensed that the apprentices wouldn’t be taken on by Carl Zeiss after completing their training. There were drastic changes in the company, so much so that I looked around for alternatives. I looked for a job in the western states. I knew perfectly well that I would find something new very quickly with my excellent training. I joined up with two of my colleagues who had worked with me in the same department at Carl Zeiss. We were employed by a small company in Hessian Gladenbach near Marburg as toolmakers.

We shared accommodations and the travel expenses home.

 

Still, I was always sure that I would go back to Jena for good some day.

After a year and a half in the western states, I returned to my home town to do civil service as a paramedic and stayed. I then worked for six years in nearby Bad Klosterlausnitz for a company that makes locking systems. When Carl Zeiss in Jena was looking for lathe adjusters in 2000, I applied for the position and was hired. I’ve accomplished quite a lot so far, I’m happy, and I’d do the same thing all over again.”


Hans-Jörg Furtwängler

2011 Assembly Technology Manager at Carl Zeiss IMT GmbH

“I was training as an industrial mechanic when the Wall fell. We watched the footage from the Brandenburg Gate on TV at a party my sister was throwing. We were very happy and had a totally positive impression of it all. Back then, my aspirations tended towards sports. I was mainly hoping to achieve success in team sports, for instance by winning a lot of gold at the Olympics. In East Germany, I once went to East Berlin during a school excursion. That was a completely different world. I remember that we all stocked up on records. But we still had a lot of money left over that we weren’t allowed to take back with us.

So we pooled what we had and bought a sled for a boy we’d never met.

 

We knew about Jena from what we’d been told by a few of our instructors who’d come to Oberkochen from Carl Zeiss in Jena before the Wall was built.

They were very happy about the events in the fall of 1989. Only later did the people here in Oberkochen also express their fears about shifting business and job cuts. Luckily, I wasn’t personally affected; after finishing my training in 1990, I pursued a technical diploma through continued education in order to be able to study machine construction in Aalen afterwards. Then I went to IMT in the USA for three years and finally came back to Oberkochen in 2000.”


A prospective toolmaker

A prospective toolmaker

A prospective toolmaker
Technician training for machine tools in the company school of VEB Carl Zeiss Jena in Göschwitz in 1989.

Technician training for machine tools in the company school of VEB Carl Zeiss Jena in Göschwitz in 1989.

Technician training for machine tools in the company school of VEB Carl Zeiss Jena in Göschwitz in 1989.
Technician training for machine tools in the company school of VEB Carl Zeiss Jena in Göschwitz in 1989.

Technician training for machine tools in the company school of VEB Carl Zeiss Jena in Göschwitz in 1989.

Technician training for machine tools in the company school of VEB Carl Zeiss Jena in Göschwitz in 1989.
Technician training for machine tools in the company school of VEB Carl Zeiss Jena in Göschwitz in 1989.

Technician training for machine tools in the company school of VEB Carl Zeiss Jena in Göschwitz in 1989.

Technician training for machine tools in the company school of VEB Carl Zeiss Jena in Göschwitz in 1989.