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The end of scythe and sickle production in Scharnstein

Sensenmuseum Geyerhammer
Scharnstein, Austria

In 1928 the Austrian scythe industry faced an ongoing crisis due to the import stop of the main customer Soviet Union. Also, production restrictions and layoffs had been necessary in Scharnstein. By focusing on the scythe and sickle production and rationalizations in the administrative areas, attempts were made to counter the crisis. However, exports only stabilized after the Austrian scythe producers had merged in a cartel association. Due to the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in 1938, the Austrian scythe industry faced a slump in exports because it was boycotted by the Eastern European countries and the USA. The Redtenbach works were integrated into the union of German scythe works (“Vereinigung deutscher Sensenwerke”). During the war, they delivered “harvesting equipment important for the war” as economic operations to conquered eastern territories. The climax was reached in the forging year 1942/43 with the production of 700,000 scythes. During the war, many women also worked in the making of scythes and sickles since the men were drafted. After the end of the Second World War, the demand was large. Due to the lack of raw materials the production was handicapped, however. Next to scythes, metal goods such as carpenter's nails, trowels and shovels were produced at the Redtenbacher works. In part, however, production was standing still due to a lack of materials. The progressive mechanization of agriculture since the 1950s and the construction of sickle factories in the main customer countries of Mexico, Peru, Ethiopia and Morocco led to the closure of sickle production in 1971. The machines of the tooth sickle factory were sold to Ethiopia and the proceeds were used to build the generation of precision metal parts, which still exists today. The production of scythes remained despite more difficult working conditions. It wasn't until 1987 that the decision was made by the company management to sell the scythe brands and discontinue the scythe production. That didn’t just mean the loss of jobs for the remaining 65 workers, but also the end of the 400-year-old tradition of Scharnstein’s scythe production. The market town of Scharnstein finally bought the Geyerhammer and set up a museum that is operated by the culture and home association.