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Die Bremer Wollkämmerei AG (Bremen wool combing works) - BWK

…was an internationally active company in the textiles and wool industry with its main company presence in Bremen-Blumenthal.
It has remained, for a long time, the biggest company of its kind. It possessed branch offices near Istanbul (Turkey), in Australia and New Zealand. Their business activities comprised the processing of raw materials like sheep’swool and chemical fibres as well as the trade in semi-fabricated goods.


The company has been established in 1883 as a joint stock company. Investors were the consuls Albrecht, Weinlich, as well as the merchants H. Claussen, J. Fritze, J. Hachez and C. Kulenkampff.

These founding members appointed Ferdinand Ullrich as financial and Paul Zschörner as technical director. After a proposition from Zschörner, an area of 500.000 square kilometres between the Aue and the River Weser in the district town of Blumenthal, which was formerly a part of the Prussian province of Hanover and after1939 of Bremen, was decided upon as the main company site. The location had, thanks toits size, traffic connections and abundant, clean water supplies (the property had its owndeep wells), proven as viable and worthwhile until the year 2008.

On September 11th, 1884,production commenced with a workforce of 150 labourers. In 1896, there were already 200 workers employed, among them many Poles, Silesians, East and West Prussians, Saxons and people from the Rhineland. In 1897, the site was connected by Farge-Vegesack Rail to the railway network. By the year 1930, the number of employees had increased to 3700,which persuaded the BWK to build living quarters for them. This was also supported by the former district judge Paul Berthold. As the first industrial business in the small town, theBWK changed the structure of the place in a fundamental way. Apart from the population increase, housing construction and rail connection, the BWK influenced and contributed to the building of schools, churches, the regional hospital, street lighting, as well as to the general power supply.

The Second World War and its aftermath

During the Second World War, the company madeuse of a high number of forced labourers, 1198 persons in 1944. The houses in which they lived exist till today, a compound of living quarters used to exist near the Bahrsplate, taken down by now. In June 2000, former forced laboureres revisited the BWK. (Bremen woolcombing works).

At the beginning of the 1960s, the development of wage costs, the rates of exchange and a liberalization in imports threatened the combing works‘ ability to compete with foreign rivals. The company therefore had undergone restructuring and became the biggest of its kind on a worldwide scale. Its capacity allows the processing of the wool of 20,000 sheep per day. In the course of structural changes in the international trade in wooland wool products, the company executed a turnaround from the earlier product-orientatedness to the, more decisive, market orientation. The former commission edcombing works, as producer for foreign clients, became a producer of woolen tops and tows, chemical fibres and mixed fabrics. The company played an important role in the development of Blumenthal. At the beginning of the 20th century, for example, streets with housing had been built to accommodate the workers, up to 5,000. After rationalization measures caused by the changed situation on the world market, a lowering demand forwoolen produce and the technical progress, only 260 work places remained in 2006, including subsidiaries. In the year of 2003, production commenced in a combing plant in Istanbul , because lower production cost accrued. Since March 20th, 2007, company shares are no more traded at the stock exchange. The former major shareholder and investor Elders took over the stock company to 100%. With this, an important share of Bremen stockexchange history came to an end after 119 years.

On December 3rd, 2008, the complete closure of the Bremen combing works have been announced. As the main reasons high production costs for this type of product, transport cost for sheeps’ wool from New Zealand and Australia and the strong decline in demand for woolen tops and tows during thefinancial crisis were stated. The processing of raw wool at the Bremen location has ceasedon February 27th, 2009, after a period of 125 years.

After the end..

.. of the wool combing plant From the BWK AG, two companies have been spun off as independent companies, having their seats at their old site. Bremer
Wollhandelskontor GmbH (Ltd.) and BWK Chemiefaser GmbH. (Ltd.) The BREWA wte GmbH (Ltd.) operates on-site of the thermal power station Blumenthal, an evaporation facility for wastewater and aqueous waste, a high-temperature incinerator for liqud waste and a biologic water treatment plant. The city of Bremen has taken over a big part of the former BWK premises to develop a commercial estate there.

Source: Wikipedia

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