Jakob’s rope machine from the former GDR
East Germany Lives on in Trubschachen
30 years ago, the GDR ended. But a machine made in GDR still produces wire ropes for Jakob.
30 years ago, on 3 October 1990, the Eastern German state ceased to exist and Germany reunited. It existed for almost 40 years and left many traces. Unexpectedly, one of them leads to the Jakob factory in Trubschachen. Since 1992, a machine built in the former GDR still produces several hundred meters of wire ropes every day. Built in 1978, the machine of the SKET brand still works faultlessly. Thanks to regular maintenance, it continues to produce Swiss quality wire ropes. But how did this machine end up in the Emmental?
SKET was well known, also in non-communist countries, for the quality of its metalworking machines. At its height, it employed several thousand workers in Magdeburg. It was named after Ernst Thälmann, the leader of the German communist party during the Nazi era.
Martin Jakob was involved in bringing the SKET machine from East Germany to Trubschachen. Together with his brother and current CEO Peter, Martin managed Jakob Rope Systems in the 1990s. Already in 1989 he had tried to obtain a rope making maching from SKET.
Several years later, a former SKET manager contacted Martin Jakob. He had found a suitable machine for Jakob in a derelicted rope factory. Together with two colleagues, Martin travelled to Boxberg near to the German-Polish border. The site had an eerie post-apocalyptic character, Martin remembers:
‘The factory had been abandoned for almost two years. All electric cables had been cut. It was totally dark, no one around, and I had to inspect the machine under torchlight.’
Dismantled and refurbished
Martin soon discovered that the machine was perfectly sound. The reason behind it, however, was a dark secret. Most of the time it had produced small diameter wires that did not cause much wear for the heavy machine. These 8 millimeter wires were used for booby traps at the border between the two Germanies and prevented Eastern Germans from fleeing to the West.
Together with local engineers and his Jakob colleagues, Martin had the machine moved to Western Germany. After a thorough refurbishment, the same workers reassembled it in Trubschachen, where it still stands today. Since 1994, the machine produces Jakob wire ropes. It has survived the end of the GDR, a move to Switzerland, and also the latest renovation of the Jakob factory. 30 years after its end, parts of the GDR still live – in the heart of Switzerland.