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The ascent through the forest up to the ancestral castle of the Dukes of Nassau-Orange takes twenty minutes, but once at the top, the hikers are rewarded with a wonderful view over the Westerwald - and of the sights of Nassau an der Lahn: the carefully restored town hall of 1609, the half-timbered beams of which have all been preserved in their original form, the city palace, in which the Prussian reformer Freiherr vom und zum Stein was born, or the recently upgraded spa gardens.
“We have so many beautiful things”, enthuses the shopkeeper from the office with a circling movement of the hand, “you just have to look around.”
Another special feature of Nassau is usually hidden from visitors to the idyll: around three kilometers from the center, hidden in the forest below the main road, behind a huge metal gate are several low factory buildings, gray, inconspicuous, almost shabby. Cameras record every movement in front of the factory premises. According to the company, “high-precision, technologically sophisticated products” are manufactured behind the walls. Powerful, effective, certified. In addition, “low in pollutants” - without toxic fumes, without contamination of the soil, the company attaches great importance to this.
German ammunition factories
We are talking about the metal works Elisenhütte Nassau (MEN), one of the largest. Bundeswehr soldiers equip pistols, rifles and machine guns with cartridges from the Westerwald, police officers from Canada, Norway and Switzerland use them, Europe’s armies from France to Poland, but also those in Singapore and Japan fire with bullets made in Germany. The company’s export share is over 50 percent. MEN played a large part in the fact that Germany is the third largest arms exporter in the world.
"If they don’t make the ammunition, others will do it"
For most of the residents of Nassau and the surrounding area, the munitions smithy was always there on their doorstep. Founded in 1957 on the occasion of the German rearmament, it was initially only intended to equip the young Bundeswehr - which was used exclusively for national defense. But even when MEN entered the export business and when German soldiers took the ammunition into battle abroad, the 5,000 residents did not torment themselves with excessive moral concerns. “Those are normal jobs,” says Thomas Schäfer, who owns a junk shop in the center of the village. In the butcher’s shop next door, owner Brigitte Engel announces a common argument in the city: “If they don’t make the ammunition over there, others will do it.” And Thomas Treis, self-employed electrical engineer,