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IG Farben and the Holocaust

I.G. Farben

I.G. Farbenindustrie AG German Industry and the Holocaust


IG Farben offices in Frankfurt, Germany

I.G. Farben was a German Limited Company that was a conglomerate of eight leading German chemical manufacturers, including Bayer, Hoechst and BASF, which at the time were the largest chemical firms in existence.  

Prior to the First World War these firms had established a “community of interests – Interessengemeinschaft – hence the initials I.G. which merged into a single company on the 25 December 1925, thus constituting the largest chemical enterprise, in the whole world.


I.G. Farben’s share capital in 1926 was 1.1 million reichsmarks; its turnover increased from 1.2 billion reichsmarks in 1926 to 3.1 billion reichsmarks in 1943.


On the German market IGF had a monopoly and it was Germany’s largest single exporter, the first chairman of its board was Dr Karl Bosch, who had previously been the chief executive officer of BASF. 


Costly innovations such as the production of synthetic rubber (Buna) from coal or gasoline, persuaded IGF, when the economic crisis of the 1920’s and 1930’s that the company should establish close ties with Hitler and the Nazi Party.


At an early stage Hitler had become aware of the opportunity for Germany to become independent of imported raw materials by means of the processes established by I.G. Farben. In order to be profitable the new IGF products needed an assured market, and Hitler indicated that he would be ready to give guarantees for the purchase by the state of these products, in appropriate quantities.


At a meeting of leading German industrialists with Hjalmar Schacht, Hermann Goering and Heinrich Himmler, held on the 20 February 1933, IGF contributed 400,000 reichsmarks to the Nazi Party, the largest single amount in the total sum of 3 million reichsmarks raised at this meeting by German industrialists for the Nazi Party’s election campaign.


Notwithstanding the presence on the IGF board of several Jewish members, and the fact that even after 1933 Nazi propaganda continued for a time to attack IGF as an example of an international Jewish firm that was exploiting its workers, the contacts between IGF’s management and the government became increasingly close, since the products of the great chemical conglomerate were an indispensable element in the Nazi’s drive to re-arm.


The Four- Year plan proposed by Hitler in 1936, which intended to put the entire German industry on a war footing, further enhanced IGF’s influence. A member of the board, Carl Krauch, was given a leading position in the organisation, headed by Goering that had the task of implementing the Four – Year Plan. By this time the company was also adapting itself to the regime’s ideological requirements; in 1933 Bosch had still objected – although in vain – to the removal of Jewish scientists from the company and from various scientific institutions, but by 1937 no Jews were left in the IGF executive or on its board of directors.


The majority of the board members joined the Nazi Party; by means of economic and political blackmail, IGF took over important chemical factories in the areas annexed to the Reich or occupied by the Germans.


The IF Farben plant at Monowitz, 1941

Bosch resigned his post as chief executive officer in 1935 and was instead elected chairman of the board, his successor as chief executive officer was Hermann Schmitz, a member of the BASF board. After Bosch’s death on the 26 April 1940 , Krauch took his place as chairman of the board, adding this position to the different posts he held in the Four-Year Plan administration.


More than anyone else, Krauch personified the link between private industry and the growing government involvement in economic life during the Nazi period.


In connection with the economic preparations for the forthcoming war against the Soviet Union, the IGF board, with government support, decided to establish an additional Buna works and installations for the production of synthetic fuels.


The board decided on Auschwitz in Upper Silesia, as the place where the new installation was to be located, not only because of the excellent rail links and the proximity of its coal mines, but primarily because the concentration camp being constructed offered IGF with a considerable and cheap workforce, up to 10,000 prisoners to build the new plant.


Board members Otto Ambros and Heinrich Butefisch were responsible for the Auschwitz plant in their capacity as the managers in charge of Buna and gasoline respectively. Dr Walter Durrfeld became general manager.


At first, the plant managers protested against the maltreatment of the prisoners working in the plant and their poor physical condition, but Durrfeldeventually went along with SS policy, in order to speed up the work.


There were 5 IG Farben owned or contracted manufacturing plants that produced Buna, most of which utilized slave labor:


Read more here: www.holocaustresearchproject.org/economics/igfarben.html


The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team



Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010

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