Berlin is attempting to recover from American aerial bombing, although life, industry and daily activities continue on the city’s outskirts.
Also in farmhouses, where a mix of ex-convicts, Chinese laborers, and other workers fill glass bottles of a cloudy, brownish liquid, in what was one of Coca-Cola’s makeshift bottling operations.
In short, they are making Nazi Germany’s signature beverage.
And yes, probably you didn’t know that the soft drink popular today as Fanta was invented by American company Coca-Cola inside of Nazi Germany during World War II.
Developed at the height of the Third Reich, the new drink ensured the brand’s continued popularity, becoming a point of nationalistic pride, consumed by all locals, including the highest officials of the Nazi party.
The drink was technically fruit-flavored, but due limited wartime resources its ingredients were actually less than appetizing: leftover apple fibers, mash from cider presses, and whey (a cheese by-product), basically the leftovers of the leftovers.
When Hitler and the Third Reich marched into Austria, Coca-Cola had been in Germany for nearly a decade.
It was invented in 1886 by Dr. John Stith Pemberton, who sold it at a local Atlanta pharmacy for five cents a glass.
Already in 1895, Coca-Cola’s CEO boasted of its presence in every American state and territory, in 1920, the company’s first European bottling plant opened in France, and by 1929, Coca-Cola was being bottled and drunk also in Germany.
In 1933, right when Hitler and the Nazi Party were assuming power, German-born Max Keith tall, intimidating, with little Hitler’s style mustache (and utterly devoted to Coca-Cola) took over the company’s German subsidiary, Coca-Cola GmbH.
Max, who considered his allegiance to the drink and to the company more than his allegiance to his own country, saw no quarrel with boosting sales by tying Coca-Cola to every aspect of German life and, above all, Nazi rule.
Meanwhile, in America, the Coca-Cola Company led by Robert Woodruff sponsored the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which he attended, making banners featuring the Coca-Cola logo alongside the swastika.
Moreover, Max Keith used a 10th anniversary party for Coca-Cola GmbH to order a mass Sieg-Heil, a Nazi salute, in honor of the dictator’s 50th birthday, and literally declared that this was to commemorate their deepest admiration for their Fuhrer.
But Coca-Cola wasn’t alone in supporting Hitler’s campaign, as other American industries went out of their way to retain German business.
Not even Hitler’s invasion of Europe in 1939 didn’t faze Keith or Atlanta-based Coca-Cola, as the company continuously supplied its German subsidiary with syrup and supplies.
Max Keith also followed German troops into conquered countries including Italy, France, and Holland to take over their respective Coca-Cola businesses and, as a result, by 1940, Coca-Cola was the undisputed soft drink king of Nazi Germany.
It seems there’s even a photo in the Coke archives of military leader Hermann Göring drinking a bottle of Coca-Cola, and was rumored that Hitler enjoyed the drink while watching American movies like Gone with the Wind.
And then, on December 7, 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.
The U.S.’s entrance into World War II meant that all American companies had to immediately stop their business activities with the enemy.
In addition, the German government was threatening to seize enemy-owned businesses.
Also Coca-Cola HQ in Atlanta cut off communications with Max Keith in Germany and even halted the export of 7X flavoring, the popular top secret formula for Coca-Cola syrup.
As a result, Coca-Cola GmbH was on the verge of going flat: Max couldn’t make the beverage and, at any point, the Nazi government could seize his beloved company.
But, luckily, he had an idea: an alternative beverage specifically for the German market.
So, working hard with his chemists, he created a recipe within the limitations imposed by wartime rationing, basically made from the leftovers of other food industries: fruit shavings, apple fibers and pulp, beet sugar, and whey, the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained during cheese production.
To name it, Joe Knipp, a salesman, said “Fanta”, shorthand for the German word for “fantasy”, the same still today.
And, name apart, it was the beverage that saved Coca-Cola GmbH.
Sales rose gradually during the war, particularly as other choices became harder and harder to find.
Fanta was popular also as a sweetener for soups due to severe sugar rationing, since the drink’s renown earned it an exemption from the rationing after 1941, but it was likely used for a variety of other cooking needs as well.
As a result, by 1943, sales had reached nearly three million cases.
In any case, according to the legend, as the liberating American troops rode into Germany in the summer of 1945 found Max Keith in a half-bombed plant still bottling Fanta.
And, even if its production ceased before the end of the year, Max was hailed as a hero by the Americans back in Atlanta for keeping the company alive in Germany.
The company’s VP of Sales, Harrison Jones, called him a great man for operating in very difficult circumstances, and he was given command of Coca-Cola Europe with some rebellious bottlers who referred to him as “Super-Führer.”
It was April 1955, when Coca-Cola officially reintroduced Fanta with a new orange-flavored recipe and, in 1957, Coke USA also gave boxing legend Max Schmeling control of bottling operations in Hamburg, and made him brand ambassador for Germany.
The new Fanta debuted in Italy, before reaching to the United States in 1958 and, apparently nobody at Coca-Cola cared that Fanta had roots inside of Nazi Germany.
And, in fact, people love it still today!
Images from web – Google Research