The Kramer brothers and the District industrialization fate

The identity of the  District, which after the European Capital of Culture title year remained as a permanent spatial legacy to the city, was built on the hundred-year industrial heritage of Novi Sad. This newly formed centre of artistic creation is a combination of former industrialization and the city’s rich art scene. However, while the District stands out as a symbol of creativity, we must not forget about the past and the famous Kramer brothers. We invite you to visit the exhibition Spirit of the place – the first century of the District in the Fabrika 2 facility, where you will learn about the hundred-year history of this place. Read, first of all, the story of Gyula and Károly, the founders of the industry in the former Great Liman area, and learn more about their wire factory – unique in the Kingdom of SHS.

The first industrial zone of Novi Sad was created on the edge of the oldest part of the city, the Almaš Neighbourhood, on the dried-up part of the swamp near the estuary of the canal with the Danube. It was the place where, at the end of the 19th century, the epicentre of industry that revived the city was formed, and factories such as the State Silk Factory, which is now the home of the Svilara Cultural Station, the City Slaughterhouse (1885) and the City Refinery (1888) sprung up. At the same time, railway traffic was established, which reached its full potential only in the interwar period, connecting Novi Sad with other cities.

The first railway line, which connects Novi Sad with Budapest and Zemun, was built 140 years ago. You can read about it in the text on our website. The passenger-freight railway station, built on a desolate stretch of sand on Great Liman, had more than thirty tracks. A witness to the existence of the train station on Great Liman today is the post office building next to Liman market. It should be noted that at that time the industrial tracks stretched towards the quay on the Danube, creating fertile ground for the birth of a new industrial zone. In the 1920s, Novi Sad developed into a leading industrial centre, which shaped the path of progress and lit the way to a new age.

Great Liman as the Epicentre of Novi Sad Industry

On the former marshland, numerous factories sprung up, primarily for the processing of metal, wood and stone, but also large warehouses, whose chimneys rose to the sky. In the beginning there was the State Monopoly, the cement factory Schoman and Bauer , the Czech Magazine for the distribution of Czech goods in the Balkans, the steam lathe and box factory Mirko Steiner and Sons, the Yugoslav Emporium, the National Factory B. Mijatović and FriendsDanica, Vojvodina Foundry.

In the following years, the Great Liman area rapidly transformed into industrial zone. The turning point in the development of the industrial zone between the railway station and the pier was in 1926, when the Kramer Brothers Factory of wire cloth, knitting, fences and iron structures received a building permit for the construction of a modern factory, warehouse, and residential building in this area.

The Kramer Brothers: Pioneers of Wire Knitting

Brothers Gyula and Károly Kramer were visionaries who wrote a new page of industrial history. Their factory for making wire products in the 1920s was the only factory of its kind in the Kingdom of SHS. However, production in the factory built in 1921 became financially challenging, so, without fear of change, the Kramers made a bold decision by expanding production and moving the factory to the industrial zone in Great Liman.

The City Council supported their vision and in 1926 issued a building permit for the construction of a new factory, warehouse, and residential building, according to the project of engineers Alexander Schumacher and Mihajlo Plavec. From 1928, when the first phase of construction was completed, the Kramers knew they could not stop. They constantly invested in the modernization of production and expansion of the production programme. In the next phase, in 1932, they built a modern factory facility for the production of chains.

In the summer of 1938, the Commission of the Royal Bank Administration refused a new extension of the wire factory at Great Liman. By the beginning of the Second World War, the Kramer Brothers factory had developed into a modern industrial enterprise with a very diverse production programme, but special attention was paid to the production of wire mesh.

Decline of Distinguished Industrialists

In the interwar period, the Kramer brothers, successful industrialists and iron merchants, gained a reputation and a high position not only in economic but also in political and cultural circles. Gyula Kramer became a member of the Upper House of the Parliament, and from 1940 the president of the Yugoslav Hungarian Cultural Association. In the war year 1941, Gyula found himself at the head of the temporary City Council and president of the southern branch of the State Union of Hungarian Industrialists. However, after the end of the war, on 5 October 1945, the city Confiscation Commission made a decision to confiscate all of the Kramer brothers’ property because it was established that they were of German nationality and were members of the Kulturbund (an organization of Germans in Banat, Bačka and Srem, which helped the occupier and propagated Nazism during the Second World War).

Soon, the Novi Sad military court sentenced to death by firing squad five people who participated in the Novi Sad raid in 1942. Among them was Gyula Kramer. His decisions and cooperation with the invaders during the war years led many fellow citizens to death, and that was the reason for the once successful and respected Novi Sad industrialist to be forgotten and erased from collective memory. 

The Kramer Brothers factory was later renamed and called the State Wire and Iron Industry Fabeks, while their story remains as a reminder of the mistakes of the past and the courage to learn from them.

Source: publication by Anica Draganić, PhD, and Mária Szilágyi, PhD, (Faculty of Technical Sciences in Novi Sad).

Photo: Filip Petronijević

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