75 years of family business with history
BERNSTEIN AG is one of the leading developers and manufacturers of switches, sensors, enclosures and suspension systems. On 23 May 2022 we already celebrated our 75th anniversary. BERNSTEIN AG has always been a family business, which is now managed in the third generation by the siblings Nicole and Achim Bernstein.
In May 1947, a train stops at Porta Westfalica station. Hans Bernstein, his wife Ursula and their then four-year-old son Hans-Joachim are also on board.
The young family has just moved from Leipzig to southern Germany to set up a branch of their joint company there.
But things turn out differently.
The train on which the Bernstein family is sitting can no longer continue for some unknown reason. So, the three decide to get off the train and stay in Porta Westfalica. The course is set for today's BERNSTEIN company.
"Father Janke" becomes the first employee
It all began at the address "Dorfstraße 10" in Porta Westfalica-Lerbeck. Here Hans Bernstein founded the company "Hans Bernstein Spezialfabrik für Schaltkontakte" (Hans Bernstein Special Factory for Switching Contacts) as a branch of the "Monopol" company from Leipzig. He had run the company there together with his brother Herbert.
But the new beginning is not easy. At the beginning, for example, both the family and the business premises of the new company were housed in just one room. Hans himself wrote about the situation at the time:
„The operating space is also available, the only thing I'm missing is a flat. I think you would throw your hands up in horror if you saw how I live with my family, between boxes and crates.“
From this one room, business connections were now established with the agencies based in the West. But the Bernstein family did not have to master the new beginning alone. They found loyal support in Wilhelm Janke – also affectionately known as "Father Janke". In 1947, Hans hired him as the very first employee and he was to remain loyal to the company until his retirement.
Around 1900, Robert Hugo Bernstein - father of Hans and Herbert Bernstein - founded an electrical wholesale business in Döbeln (Saxony).
After completing his two-year apprenticeship at the "Elektrohandels-Gesellschaft", his son Hans also worked as an employee in his father's business.
The early death of their father in 1925 forced the brothers Hans and Herbert Bernstein to rethink. They decided to take over the company and move its headquarters to Leipzig. From then on, they continued to operate there under the name "Monopol".
Low-current products such as bell pushers and bell ringers were sold, mainly for telecommunications. But in the same year, Hans is able to convince his brother Herbert to give up the wholesale business and start manufacturing the products he had previously traded.
They quickly made a name for themselves and were able to establish themselves in the industry. But the coming years were not to be easy - world economic crisis, mass unemployment, the Second World War and the inner-German division. Events that would shape people and companies alike.
Our story actually begins in Leipzig in 1902: this is where the future company founder Hans (Johannes) Bernstein was born on 25 December.
As a young man in the 1920s, Hans ran the company "Monopol GmbH" in Leipzig together with his brother Herbert. Things went well for the two brothers. They quickly became market leaders and were able to establish themselves in the industry despite the world economic crisis and mass unemployment in the 1930s.
After the end of the Second World War - Leipzig was now part of the Soviet occupation zone - the introduction of a "socialist planned economy" became apparent early on.
As a result, the owners of numerous companies looked into relocating their operations to the western zones - including Hans and Herbert Bernstein. In 1947, the brothers finally received permission to set up a branch production in the West.
So on 30 June 1947, Hans Bernstein, his wife Ursula and four-year-old son Hans-Joachim left Leipzig for southern Germany. The rest is history.
In the spring of 1949 came the general recession. This meant that western companies had increasing difficulties in procuring materials for their production. The still young company from Lerbeck was no exception.
So Hans and Ursula had to find new ways to procure the products of the "Leipziger Palette". Hidden in suitcases, they regularly carried the cases directly from the pressing plant in Leipzig across the "Green Border" in the Harz Mountains to Porta Westfalica. This was not a risk-free venture, but it enabled the Bernsteins to secure their supplies.
The beginning of the upswingThe "golden 50s"
Hans Bernstein, however, was not deterred, as the company had already been through several crises. He constantly worked on new and further developments, which soon found the hoped-for sales. The young company was doing better and better, so that it was soon exhibiting at its first trade fairs. At the beginning of the 1950s, the family finally found a new place to live.
The first visit to the Hanover exhibition
Year after year, the company was able to present more and more new products at numerous national and international exhibitions. The industrial trade fair in Hanover was an important hub. Many long-lasting partnerships began here.
Planning and construction of the main factory in Neesen
In search of a new manufacturing location, the family moved to the upper floor of the "Großer Kurfürst" hotel in 1950. The manufacturing operation was moved to the basement. Thanks to a number of large direct orders, construction of what would later become the main factory in Neesen could begin just 4 years later.
Start of production at the Röcke factory
In 1970, construction work began on a 40 x 20 m production hall in the neighbouring town of Röcke in Schaumburg-Lippe. The production started already in November. Soon after, an administration was established, and the complete individual production was relocated here.
The old school in Hartum becomes a production site
Hans-Joachim Bernstein bought the empty primary school in Hartum in 1982 in order to meet the company's expansion and market demands. After some preparations, the company H.-J. Bernstein Compact Gehäuse was launched here on 01 January 1983 with 22 employees.
Bundling of all company activities in BERNSTEIN AG
The BERNSTEIN Group, which at the time was still operating as "Hans Bernstein Spezialfabrik für Schaltkontakte GmbH & Co.", had several international branches, partner companies and joint ventures at an early stage. In 1999, all the activities of the individual GmbHs were bundled into BERNSTEIN AG.
BERNSTEIN moves into the BBC
At the beginning of 2001, BERNSTEIN AG moved its headquarters from Neesen to Hausberge in the former "Sanatorium". Almost 100 employees moved into the former rehabilitation clinic in the first phase - including the entire administration. The BERNSTEIN Business Centre (BBC) is still home to the headquarters today.
Founding of the subsidiary in China
The Porta Westfalica and BERNSTEIN Safe Solutions locations in Taicang, China are 8,617 kilometres apart. Founded in 2005, the 10th anniversary was celebrated in September 2015. At the same time, the new building was inaugurated.
Opening of the new logistics centre in Hartum
On Wednesday, 08 May 2013, Hans-Joachim Bernstein opened the celebrations with the laying of the foundation stone and the bricking in of the copper casket. The construction work progressed quickly, so that the building could already be ceremoniously inaugurated in December. In 2014, the logistics centre could officially begin operations.
75th company anniversary of BERNSTEIN AG
More than 70 years have passed since a train broke down at Porta Westfalica station in 1947, setting the course for the foundation of the company. BERNSTEIN AG celebrated its 75th anniversary on 23 May 2022. The family business is now managed by Nicole and Achim Bernstein in the third generation.
Always a Family BusinessBERNSTEIN AG today
Today - 75 years after a coincidence led the Bernstein family to Porta Westfalica - the company's headquarters are still located here and are already being managed by the 3rd generation of Hans Bernstein's grandchildren. In the past decades, BERNSTEIN has developed into one of the leading developers and manufacturers in the industry and founded numerous subsidiaries around the globe.
Started in 1947 with just one employee, today the company employs more than 500 people worldwide. They also work on new and further developments of the products every day and thus continue the legacy of Hans Bernstein.