Gritta Gramm, Curator of Heritage Archives at Sennheiser, is a historian trained to carry out detective work, especially when there are important historic documents waiting to be discovered in cellars, warehouses or even private properties. Like most of her fellow historians, the first place Gritta found herself when she joined Sennheiser was the basement.
“It’s quite normal that you never see the light of day at the beginning.” Nevertheless, Gritta was in for a surprise: “Many of my colleagues had obviously been waiting eagerly for there to finally be a contact person for the archive, storing historical items for me in their offices and proactively telling me all their stories.” Anyone who delves deeply into the rich history of a company hopes that it will pay off sooner or later. “Historians refer to this as hidden treasure. You come to crave it after inhaling dust for long enough.” And suddenly there it was: Gritta’s treasure—the oldest authorization document of the British Military Government, which provides information about the founding of the company.
On April 8, 1945, at the end of the Second World War in war-torn Germany, the Allied troops advanced in the north of Hanover. The small villages of Wedemark were captured. In Wennebostel, the Institute for High Frequency Technology and Electroacoustics of the Technical University of Hanover had been housed in a half-timbered construction since 1943. A British unit occupied the research facility and inspected it closely, since telecommunications and encryption were now banned in Germany. The institute stood empty and was sealed off by the military-it was unclear when work could be resumed. A small number of employees stayed on-site, including Chief Engineer Dr.-Ing. Fritz Sennheiser, who felt a sense of duty toward his colleagues. The precarious situation eventually turned the university lecturer and laboratory manager into an entrepreneur. In order to resume work, he had to give up his research and produce something to aid the reconstruction. Measurement equipment for electrical engineering and telecommunications equipment to help reform the destroyed infrastructure and aid communication.
Under the title of Director for “the Repair of Telecommunications Equipment and Development and Construction of Electrical Musical Instruments,” Sennheiser submitted the permit to re-open the institute on May 10. Thanks to an initial order from Siemens & Halske, who were responsible for the repair of railway and traffic routes and the telephone connection for the British military government, the engineers were now under the protection of the Allied occupying power. An “Off Limits” notification, which Gritta claimed as her treasure, was issued by the British on May 13. This was intended to prevent further seizures by the troops. The first vacuum-tube voltmeter and measuring devices were built. The next order came in the summer of 1945. Sennheiser’s company, which was at that time known as “Laboratory Wennebostel” or “Labor W” for short, was to build microphones. This company would eventually become the globally successful brand we now know as Sennheiser.