War and post-war period
Before the start of Second World War the company ran its own sales offices in many countries around the world. Merkel’s sales network spread from Argentina to Bessarabia to France, Greece, Norway, Romania, Spain and the USA. Again, this network was broken up by the Second World War. Hunting guns played a subordinate role in the war production from 1939. Merkel became a parts supplier for carburettor engines, carbines and rangefinders – and the number of employees rose to 350 in peak periods. Even in the anti-training atmosphere of wartime Germany, the Merkel Company took the initiative to restructure the job specifications around the gunmaking trades, thereby ensuring the continuation of handcrafted gunmaking.
The war ended in Suhl on 3 April 1945 at 8.30 in the morning – of all the factories in the city, only Merkel was to escape dismantlement. The good reputation of the precious hunting guns spared Merkel this fate – The Suhlers and their machine workshop, which was hi-tech at the time, stayed unified. By the end of 1945 hunting guns were already being manufactured again; by 1947 almost 700 rifles had been sent to Eastern Europe as reparation payments. Merkel developed into a showcase company of the German Democratic Republic.
The dispossession of the founding families followed in 1948 – under disastrous conditions, the descendants of the Merkels lost everything to socialism; everything the brothers had built up and the second generation had enlarged. In 1952 the state-owned company again had 200 employees manufacturing hunting guns. The company was integrated into a state combine, but the brand and the products remained independent. In 1953 the GDR government presented Merkel hunting rifles to the two most powerful men at that time, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Nikita S. Chruschtschow. And in 1963 the first man in space, the cosmonaut Juri Gagarin, was honoured with a Merkel Drilling.