Simson Motorrad & GmbH Co. KG was a German manufacturing company that existed from 1856 to 2003. While the company has manufactured arms for most of its existence, it is most notable for the manufacture of its motorcycles; Simson remains the most prolific two-wheeled manufacturer in Germany.


Simson was founded by Jewish brothers Löb and Moses Simson in 1856, although the roots of the company can be traced back to 1740.[1] The company originally manufactured steel, which was forged into weapons which were used by the Prussian Army and the Saxon War Ministry. The company continued to receive contracts from various militaries for the production of various weapons such as the Mauser Model 1871.

Workshops were set up in Suhl in 1887 and the company ventured into other markets in 1896 by introducing bicycles; this was followed by the manufacture of automobiles in 1911. By 1904, Simson was Suhl's largest employer with over 1200 employees. The company had strong growth during World War I, making barrels and other components for firearms.[2]

Arms production had to stop after World War I, but an agreement was reached which allowed Simson to deliver arms; Simson also produced strollers around this time. Automobile production was stopped in 1934 in favor of arms production. As Hitler rose to power, the company was merged with a number of other companies in 1936 to form the Berlin Suhler Waffen- und Fahrzeugwerke as the Jewish Simson family fled the country, escaping to Switzerland and then emigrating to the United States. The same year, Simson produced their first motorcycles.

The merger was soon completed, removing the Simson name from the company. These acquired assets subsequently formed Wilhelm-Gustloff-Stiftung the same year and continued to produce various arms such as the MG 42. After World War II, the factories were sequestered and retooled to produce motorcycles and bicycles; arms production was outsourced to what would eventually become VEB Fahrzeug- und Jagdwaffenwerk "Ernst Thälmann" Suhl.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, VEB Ernst Thälmann was liquidated, but restarted in 1992 as Suhler Fahrzeugwerk GmbH, with the production lines modernized to produce newer weapons and motorcycles. However, demand for smaller motorcycles began to fall and the quality of the motorbikes was not considered to be as high a quality as previous bikes, and management errors caused various delivery problems. Simson filed for bankruptcy in June 2002, with vehicle manufacture stopping that September. Unable to find an investor, Simson's assets were foreclosed upon and auctioned off in 2003.[3]

The assets of the old Simson company are now owned by Meyer-Zweiradtechnik-Ahnatal GmbH, a company established in 1996; they produce spare parts for old Simson motorcycles and do not produce arms. The old site of the Simson factory is now home to the business park of TLG Immobilien, a real estate company.


Simson is known for the production of the MG 42, Gewehr 98 and various other small arms. The company also developed a submachine gun which was converted from a Gewehr 98.[4]


  1. Der Konzessionsschein der Oberaufsicht Schleusingen wurde am 20. Februar 1741 ausgestellt, vgl. A 33, B XXII Nr. 3 Bl. 25
  2. Erhard Werner: Simson-Fahrzeuge von der Wende bis zum Ende. p. 9.
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