“Leads Imported From American Zone, Germany”

Pencils in general are a snapshot in time, or perhaps, of the times in which they were made. Like miniature time capsules most are just silent witnesses to, and a reflection of, the people, places, and events that surrounded their manufacture. There are a few in particular though that speak a little more loudly.

For a few years during the mid-1940s, pencils such as the Castell 9000 made by the American branch of A.W. Faber-Castell had the following information stamped on them:


Of the pencils I’ve owned whose date of manufacture is certain, few create a more visceral connection to history than these post-war pencils. And after doing some preliminary research, there’s much more to their story than I first imagined.

When post-war Germany was divided among the Allied Powers in 1945, the American Zone included much of southern Germany, home to several major pencil manufacturers including A.W. Faber-Castell.

US_Army_Germany_occupation_zones_1945 Allied Occupation Zones in Germany, 1945 (U.S. Army)

Pencils were in high demand during the war, especially indelible pencils, and Germany was a major provider of pencils to much of Europe. Getting the pencil-making industry up and running then was not only important to Germany’s recovery, but to that of western Europe in general. But restoring Germany’s industries wasn’t just a matter of repairing factories and obtaining raw materials.

F-CHead1947 American newspaper headline

During the mid-1930s, the infamous Gauleiter of Franconia Julius Streicher—a man so abhorrent that even the Nazis would eventually dispossess him of his party offices in 1940, and who was executed in 1946 as a consequence of the Nuremberg Trials—purportedly issued an ultimatum to Count Roland von Faber-Castell: sever relations with his wife (the daughter of a Jewish banker called Simon Oppenheim) and her family, or have the pencil factory seized (Kohl, 2010). Streicher, also the publisher of the propaganda-based newspaper Der Stürmer, was known for seizing factories around Nuremberg so this was no idle threat, and his extortion tactics were all but sanctioned by the National Socialist government. Count Roland von Faber-Castell re-married in 1938 to Katharina Sprecher von Bernegg, but nothing could stem the tide: the Nazis seized the factory anyway, and converted it in part to produce arms and ammunition.

The operation of Faber-Castell was then put into the hands of a non-family member who was appointed by the Nazis. During the war however, Count Roland von Faber-Castell’s wife did much to return the company to being a sole proprietorship, which was an invaluable contribution toward the re-establishing of the company from 1945 onward.

Once the war was over, the Americans chose to set up operations in the Faber-Castell Schloss, which included the housing of war correspondents. During this time American soldiers and officials got to know Count Roland von Faber-Castell, and looked favorably upon him owing to his lack of co-operation with the Nazis. In fact, he was even purported to have had some connection with the circle involved in the July 20th assassination plot. Nonetheless, he was still called before the Denazification Court:


The same article, which described the Count (then 42) as being “more of a fashion plate than a tycoon”, reports that all of Stein was rooting for him. In turn, the Count expressed his affection for Stein and his employees:


Production at that point in 1947 was around 4,000,000 pencils per month, though the factory produced nearly four times that amount just prior to the war. But he was still without the necessary military permissions and approvals to export, a decision that would be tied to the outcome of his Denazification trial.

I am still gathering details of the trial itself, but as far as I know Count Roland von Faber-Castell was cleared of any ties to the Nazis, ushering in a new era for the company and for the rest of the world.

NB: Count Roland von Faber-Castell at one point was asked about Eberhard Faber in America, and he referred to the company as a “friendly competitor” and that “they are in constant correspondence, swapping trade information.”


  • Faber-Castell, Wolfgang-Anton von. Faber-Castell Since 1761. Munich: Collection Rolf Heyne GmBH & Co., 2013. Print.
  • Kohl, Christiane. The Witness House: Nazis and Holocaust Survivors Sharing a Villa During the Nuremberg Trials. New York: Other Press, 2010. Print.
  • Petroski, Henry. The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance. New York: Knopf, 1990. Print.
  • Shirer, William L. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1960. Print.

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11 Responses to “Leads Imported From American Zone, Germany”

  1. Matthias says:

    Very informative and detailed, thank you.
    I’m surprised how many pencils were made at the time. I would have never guessed that the number is that hight, but I guess pencils were more common in those days.


    • Sean says:

      I’d be curious to know what percentage of pencils made during the war were done so specifically for the army, especially when part of the factory was forced to make munitions (and perhaps running at lower capacity). For example, I recently read that 2/3 of Tombow’s output during the war was for the Japanese army alone.

      What of Staedtler during the war years? Of Schwan? Of Lyra, etc.?


  2. Gunther says:

    Thank you for these details! – I am still hoping that you will write a book someday 🙂


    • Sean says:

      You’re welcome. I’m hoping to write one too, about the three brothers. I’ve got plenty to get started with but I would want to have a publisher lined up first for this one first — perhaps some day.


  3. Gregg says:

    I just came across 7 of these pencils that have never been used. They are the erasureless type in perfect shape, they all have the ” lead imported from American zone Germany” they are amazing pencils.


  4. violavienna says:

    If I may, what happened to Roland’s first wife?


    • Sean says:

      From what I know, Alix-May (von Frankenburg und Ludwigsdorff) had four children with Roland Graf von Faber-Castell: Felicitas, Erika-Elisabeth, Roland-Alexander, and Hubertus. She was divorced from Roland in 1935 and I believe she remarried at least once, to Jaromir Graf Czernin de Chudenitz, with whom she had one child: Sophie, in 1945. Alix-May died in Spain in 1979.

      Liked by 1 person

      • violavienna says:

        Thank you! This story is very interesting, I was also wondering about that “von”: If the first Faber was an ebanist how was the nobiliar title added to the family name? When?


  5. Eugen says:

    In my collection there are pencils with the symbols of the NSDAP and Reich,
    and in advertising Faber-Castel of the early 40’s there is a characteristic symbolism of that time and sayings. From open sources it is known that one shop produced products for the party and the second wife of the count Roland sympathized with the new regime.
    Only thanks to the connections of the Count’s wife, Roland did not lose the company.
    His second marriage was politically motivated, unlike the first.
    Now they say – “then all of these were …”


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