Station: [28] RAFENA: TV Production

One channel, broadcasting in black and white for two hours a day, the screen barely larger than a postcard. The beginnings of television in Germany were anything but sophisticated!

The first television came off the production line in Radeberg in 1951. It was called the “Leningrad T2”, and it’s on the far right of the top row on our wall of TVs. It was labelled in Cyrillic, and if you were running the TV in radio mode, the screen could be hidden behing a cloth cover, so it even looked like a radio. The television was exclusively made for export to the Soviet Union. Only the subsequent “Rembrandt” and “Dürer” models were also available in East Germany.

It had all started during the First World War, when ammunition parts were manufactured in the grounds of a factory south-west of the town. The employees of this “Royal Fireworks Laboratory” were housed on what became known as “Kohlrabi- Insel” – turnup island, not far from the vast works complex. The island featured modest owner-occupied houses with allotments where they were able to grow vegetables. 

Although the Treaty of Versailles had banned arms production, the Nazis ignored its provisions and brought the former armaments factory back on line in the mid-1930s. It made ammunition, radios, and rocket parts. During the war, the workforce included hundreds of forced labourers and prisoners.

In 1945, the Sachsenwerk was expropriated and put under Soviet military administration. In the beginning, it manufactured directional radio technology and electric motors. From the early 1950s, it expanded production to include the “Leningrad”, the “Rembrandt” and the “Dürer” – the first television sets manufactured in Eastern Germany.

In 1952, the Sachsenwerk became a publicly owned enterprise, and in the mid-1950s, it changed its name to “Rafena” –short for “Radeberger Fernseh- und Nachrichtentechnik” (Radeberg Television and Telecommunications). The latter, because in addition to the manufacture of radios and televisions, directional radio remained an important line of business.

Approximately 2.7 million televisions were made in Radeberg between 1951 and 1968. 

But there was another important product “made in Radeberg”, and we can only show you a fraction of it here. It was the R300 mainframe computer, which was manufactured here from 1967 onwards. Once set up and in operation, the mainframe occupied a substantial 35 square metres of floor space – more than 320 square feet!

All depictions: © Stadt- und Fachwerkmuseum Eppingen