In 1933, the “German Heimatwerk” GmbH was founded. However, even several decades before there were efforts to spread folk art in Germany. In Bavaria from 1901 for example, markets and exhibitions offered 'folk art' products. These included various Christmas markets, the Magdalenenfest in Nymphenburg, the Oktoberfest in Munich and more.
In 1905, a committee "to revive old trade and home industries" was established. Successful sales exhibitions followed and in 1910, a store called "Native Art" opened in Munich by the Bavarian Association for folk art and folklore, which was then closed already in 1912.
In Saxony, the association for Saxon folk customs held an event called "Exhibition of Saxon arts and crafts" in the summer of 1896 in Dresden. The Museum Director Oskar Seyffert (1862-1940) is closely related to this. He was long considered in Austria as the founder of the "oldest Heimatwerk" although he never had a business or ran a cooperative under this name! It seems correct to me that in the sense of the Heimatwerk idea, he founded the local ore mountain industry in 1924. Two exhibitions can be seen as precursors to the establishing of the German Heimatwerk GmbH - the 1932 "Folk Art Homeland Dilligence and Handicraft" in both Berlin and Breslau.
In 1932, there were first attempts at establishing a "Silesian Heimatwerk". The task went in three directions: 1. Study of existing workshops and enterprises in the field of folk art, homeland diligence and handicraft. 2. Promotion through advice and summarising of the production and promotion, and 3. Inclusion in the efforts for a productive border “Germanness” and homeland care.
In 1933, a "German Heimatwerk exhibition for folk art and traditional handicraft" was held in Berlin as a sales exhibition of the "Association of folk art and handicraft". The initiators were Hans Kaiser and Erich Ziegert, supported by Nazi associations. The purpose of the exhibition was to find buyers and political support for the Heimatwerk. The Heimatwerk would help to realise the "from folklore and homeland to the German peoples’ community".
From the rise to power (30.1.1933) of the Nazis, there were already efforts for establishing a national Nazi Heimatwerk for traditional handicraft and folk art. On the 4.12.1934, the German Heimatwerk was approved as a non-profit limited company with its seat in Berlin and registered on the 22.1.1935 in the notary's register. Hans Kaiser and Erich Ziegert acted as Managing Directors. In the long term, the Reichs Nutritional Office (from 1936 as the sole shareholder) planned to set up a country branch of the DHW in every farming community in order to establish "products from rural folk art".
Hans Kaiser and the convinced Nazi Erich Ziegert were the Managing Directors. Relations with Heimatwerks in other countries fizzled out. The main business was established in Berlin with branches in Munich (1937), Breslau and Düsseldorf (1936). Shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, the Nazi "Heimatwerk East Prussia" was founded. The objectives were similar to the Tiroler Heimatwerk or the Scandinavian Homeland Diligence facilities. A Heimatwerk was also founded in the Sudetenland in 1939. In the long term, this should have been added to the Nazi Heimatwerk in Saxony.
Further branches were established in Salzburg (1940), Strasbourg and Weimar (1941). Plans for a Vienna, Frankfurt and Warsaw Branch were not realised. In addition to the German Heimatwerk, further "Heimatwerks" and "Heimat Houses" existed in the Nazi era. Heimat Houses served the idealistic culture cultivation while the Heimatwerks served to implement this economically. Gau Heimatwerks were under the Gauleiters’ management and developed programs to promote a party-compliant "homeland culture". Such a Gau Heimatwerk was the Salzburg Heimatwerk established in 1942, along with the Saxony Heimatwerk Salzburg (1935) and the Southern Hanover-Braunschweig (1941) and more.
Probably the only one to continue after the war was the Munich Heimatwerk under the new name of "Workshops of the German Heimatwerk GmbH". Counted among its customers was the Salzburg Heimatwerk. According to the will of Hans Kaiser, this sales location was to be the first link in a new chain of Heimatwerks in West Germany. In 1950, the control of the "Society of Friends of Heimatwerk and Folk Art” has handed over to Tino Schmitt and Gotthold Schneider when Hans Kaiser left through ill health. In 1952, the company was liquidated after bankruptcy. A "Board of Trustees of German Heimatwerk Association”, established in 1950, worked as a "merchandising office for German Heimatwerk" for their continuation. In 1958, the “German Heimatwerk” project finally failed.
As the name Heimatwerk is not a protected brand in Germany, unlike in Austria, private-sector oriented Heimatwerks can be setup, such as the Munich Heimatwerk on the corner of City Hall or the Bavarian Heimatwerk in Rosenheim, the Chiemgau Heimatwerk, the Tölzer Heimatwerk, the Amerang Heimatwerk or the Eggmannsried Heimatwerk. Some of these are still being successfully run today.
Author: Hans Köhl
Source notes: Monika Luise Ständecke - the German Heimatwerk - idea, ideology and commercialisation Bavarian writings on folklore Vol. 8, 2004. Archive of the Board of Trustees of Austrian Heimatwerk