The Rape of the European Chemical Industry

In the five years since Bosch made his compact with Hitler to prepare Germany for war I.G.’s descent into the theory and practice of Nazi morality moved with accelerating speed.


During that time I.G. had become the leading industrial-financial backer of the Nazi party; it cleansed itself of identifiable Jewish directors and executives; and the Aryan officials who remained joined the Nazi party and some the dreaded S.S. I.G. proclaimed the inviolability of Nazi doctrine as corporate policy. But I.G. had not even begun to plumb the depths of Nazi depravity.

In the spring of 1938 Hitler’s program of military conquest took a great leap forward. Action was ready to replace rhetoric; the time for talk was over; the drive for territorial expansion by force was about to become reality. Terrified by Hitler’s diplomatic onslaught, his opponents scattered in retreat. As country after country collapsed in the face of Hitler’s “Operation Terror,” I.G.’s embrace of the Nazis became progressively more passionate. As country after country fell to the Wehrmacht’s assault, I.G. played the jackal to Hitler’s lion.

Despite Hitler’s apparent invincibility, I.G. continued to calculate the odds and prepare for all contingencies. The acquisitions, no matter how brutal, were inevitably accomplished with the color of legality, a charade designed to protect I.G.’s interests in the improbable event that Germany lost the war. But this veneer of lawfulness could not conceal the terror I.G.’s methods evoked in its victims. And those in I.G. who would challenge the wisdom of such a course were silenced not only by a fear of Nazi retribution but also by I.G.’s great success.

The invasion of Austria on March 11, 1938, marked the beginning of Hitler’s policy to move beyond the borders of Germany by force. I.G. was ready within days after the troops started to march. It presented the Nazi occupation officials with a memorandum entitled “New Order for the Greater Chemical Industry of Austria.” 1


Essentially, the “new order” plan was a request for government permission for I.G. to take over Skoda Werke Wetzler, the largest chemical concern in Austria. I.G. made sure to clothe its plea with the rhetoric of German national interests.


The erstwhile Jewish company was now ready to goose-step with Hitler. The absorption of the Austrian concern, I.G. promised, would aid in the pursuit of the aims of the four-year plan as well as promote the elimination of Jewish influence in Austrian industry. Skoda Werke Wetzler was dominated by the Jewish Rothschild, and I.G. made the most of this fact. The Rothschilds were not naive. Even before the Anschluss, they had recognized I.G.’s intentions. Through the general manager of Skoda, Isador Pollack, they tried to thwart I.G.’s acquisitive plans. 2


To this end, Pollack explored the possibility of merger with two other European chemical organizations, Montecatini of Italy and Aussiger Vereign of Czechoslovakia. But I.G. proved too formidable, and the mergers were never seriously entertained by either the Czech or the Italian company.

Hitler’s move into Austria left terror in its wake, and the chemical industry was no exception. Immediately after the Anschluss, all the top Jewish personnel of Skoda were dismissed by government decree. I.G. filled the breach by supplying Aryan technicians. 3 However, to protect the takeover against possible future legal challenges, I.G. entered into negotiations with Josef Joham, the personal representative of the Rothschilds. 4


Joham, also a Jew and therefore personally vulnerable, was hardly in a position to oppose I.G.’s demands. These kept enlarging as the so-called negotiations proceeded. When necessary, I.G. was not reluctant to use the anti-Semitic threat to squeeze out the terms it considered suitable. After a series of annoying difficulties posed by the Nazi bureaucracy in Austria, I.G. finally in the fall of 1938 claimed Skoda as its own. 5


By that time Joham had fled the country 6 but Pollack, not so fortunate, was literally stomped to death by Nazi Storm Troopers before he could make his escape. 7 Czechoslovakia was next on Hitler’s schedule. Anticipating another industrial meal, I.G. prepared a special study of the chemical plants of the Czech Sudetenland. 8


Particularly coveted by I.G. were two plants owned by Aussiger Verein, the largest chemical company in Czechoslovakia, a participant in the European dyestuff cartel dominated by I.G., and a respected member of the world’s chemical community. 9 Once again I.G. looked forward to exploiting a special advantage in dealing with Aussiger Verein. Under the formula applied by the Nuremberg laws, Aussiger could be classified as a Jewish company. 10


Twenty-five percent of its directors were non-Aryan. By the summer of 1938, the demands of Hitler upon Czechoslovakia with regard to the Sudetenland were becoming so outrageous that a general war seemed imminent. A terrified British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, with the assistance of Edouard Daladier of France, forced Czechoslovakia to capitulate to Hitler’s terms.


The humiliation of the democracies was certified on September 29 with the signing of the Munich agreement and the immediate occupation of the Sudetenland by German troops. To soften the blow, Hitler declared that this was his last territorial demand in Europe.


The next day, in a telegram of congratulations, Hermann Schmitz, now the head of I.G., let Hitler know of I.G.’s interest in the Sudetenland:

“Profoundly impressed by the return of the Sudetenland to the Reich which you, my Führer, have achieved. The I.G. Farbenindustrie A.G. puts a sum of half a million reichsmarks at your disposal for use in the Sudetenland territory.” 11

Before long I.G. was engaged in negotiations with Aussiger Verein for the “purchase” of the Sudetenland plants. 12


Just about the only defense left to the Aussiger directors was to stall the so-called negotiations as long as possible in the hope that something would turn up to rescue them. Finally, Schnitzler proclaimed to the Aussiger representatives that as the result of their inflexible attitudes and unwillingness to negotiate in good faith, he was planning to send a complaint to the German government that “unrest and a breakdown of social peace” in the Sudetenland appeared inevitable.

Schnitzler did not conceal the threat that Hitler might very well use this charge as an excuse to occupy the rest of Czechoslovakia. 13

In desperation the Aussiger directors appealed to the Czech government, which only confirmed the force behind Schnitzler’s threat. The Aussiger men were advised to manage on their own as well as they could. No official help was possible. Accordingly, they decided the next day to “sell” the plants on I.G.’s terms. 14


However, it made little difference to the future of their country. A few months later, in March, Hitler’s troops marched into Prague and soon occupied all of Czechoslovakia. Poland was next on Hitler’s timetable of conquest. Once again, I.G. made plans to be in on the kill. It compiled a list of prospective booty: “The Most Important Chemical Plants in Poland.” 15


Three dyestuff companies in particular interested I.G.: Boruta, the largest; Wola, a small company owned by three Jews 16 ; and Winnica (of which Joseph Frossard was chairman), jointly owned by I.G.’s Swiss affiliate, I.G. Chemie, and Kuhlmann of France.

On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. This time the Allied countries resisted and World War II began.


Schnitzler, who personally followed right behind the troops, wired the I.G. agent in Berlin to stay close to the Reich Ministry of Economics and keep informed as to the status of the Polish chemical industry.

“The factories contain considerable and valuable stocks of preliminary, intermediate, and final products,” telegraphed Schnitzler“... we consider it of primary importance that the above-mentioned stocks be used by experts in the interests of the German national economy. Only the I.G. is in a position to make experts available [emphasis added].” 17

When Schnitzler returned to Berlin from Poland a week later, he called on the Ministry of Economics to make it clear that only I.G. was capable of operating the Polish plants. 18


The ministry, through General Hermann von Hanneken, agreed to I.G.’s provisional management of the three Polish companies. He was not, however, pleased with I.G.’s greed or methods. Undoubtedly aware of I.G.’s activities in Austria and Czechoslovakia, Hanneken warned I.G. not to expect to take over the Polish plants permanently.


His words were as stern as they were unmistakable:

“I expressly emphasize that there will be no changes in the condition of ownership of the concerned plants; and that also no preparations for a change in the ownership conditions are to be seen in this appointment.” 19

Hanneken’s attitude shocked Schnitzler. I.G. particularly wanted to control and operate the large Boruta plants with “a certain permanence.” 20


Schnitzler thereupon went over Hanneken’s head to I.G.’s friend Hermann Goering, who had just set up an organization to confiscate and dispose of Polish property in accordance with the needs of the four-year plan. 21


But Goering’s power in Poland was under challenge by a rising star in the Nazi firmament, Heinrich Himmler, head of the S.S., who had his own ideas about the disposal of Polish property. When Goering’s representative proved unable to help I.G., the reason soon emerged. I.G. discovered that Himmler’s deputy in Poland, S.S. Brigadefuehrer Ulrich Greifelt, was vested with the power to veto any sale of confiscated Polish property authorized by Goering’s office.

The change in political climate was not wasted on I.G.; it shifted its allegiance from Goering to Himmler and Greifelt. Greifelt was worthy of Himmler’s trust and he exercised his authority in Poland with a ruthlessness that made his chief proud: among his accomplishments was the forced sterilization of Polish men and women, the kidnapping of children to be raised by the S.S., the enslavement of large segments of the population, and the mass shooting of hostages. 21

Schnitzler was assigned the project of cultivating Greifelt. Not long thereafter, I.G. took over the Polish plants on its own terms, proving once again its ability to prosper in the world of Nazi intrigue. 22


This time I.G.’s choice of ally would have more than an ordinary effect on its future. A fateful step in the alliance with Himmler was already taking place in the small community of Auschwitz in Polish Silesia.


As I.G. and Hitler became more indispensable for each other’s goals, Bosch’s physical and mental decline became more noticeable. His recurrent depressions deepened as he brooded over the thought that the war itself was the direct result of his great achievements, the creation of the vital synthetics of nitrates, oil, and rubber. He refused to see anyone from I.G. except Krauch; alcohol became his only solace.


By February 1940, Bosch could no longer bear living in Hitler’s Germany. He decided to move to Sicily and took with him as his only companion an ant colony from the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, where his name was still revered. The change gave Bosch no relief and his physical condition worsened. In April he returned to Germany with no hope of recovery.


As he lay dying, he predicted the coming defeat of France. But this he told his doctor would only be an interlude.


Ultimately, Hitler’s lunacy would result in the destruction of Germany and the end of I.G., which for him were equal disasters. Bosch did not live to witness the accuracy of his prediction. On April 26, 1940, two weeks before the Wehrmacht launched its attack on France, Bosch, not quite sixty-six years old, died. 23


Without Bosch’s towering reputation and personality hovering over the company, Hermann Schmitz assumed in fact a position he already held in name, the head of I.G. At the same time Krauch was elected to succeed Bosch as chairman of the supervisory board, 24 giving up all managerial duties to spend more time as a plenipotentiary of the four-year plan. Hereafter, Schmitz would call the I.G. tune. On May 9 Hitler mounted his assault on France, and on June 22 it was all over.


Except for England and the Soviet Union, all of Europe was firmly in Hitler’s grip. I.G. was ready to share in the booty. It had already prepared a “new order” plan for the chemical industry of the world that would provide for the “recovery and securing of world respect for the German chemical industry.” 25


I.G. spelled out in its detailed, written plans the absorption of the chemical industries of France, Norway, Holland, Denmark, Luxembourg, and Belgium. 26


But its appetite did not end there. I.G. also included in its scheme the Soviet Union, at the moment a friendly neutral; Switzerland, certainly not an unfriendly neutral; England, not yet conquered; and finally Italy, an ally. After only a brief interlude, the chemical industry of the United States, which was an unfriendly neutral, was added.

In I.G.’s view France was the key to controlling the chemical industry of Europe.

Broadly stated, the “new order” plan for France recommended that I.G. and the German government enter into a partnership to own and control the French dyestuff industry, in line with the Third Reich’s program of territorial and economic expansion.


This offered “the best solution to bring about a uniform regulation of French production and marketing for all time to come [emphasis added] .” 27


I.G.’s plan for France was delivered to Gustav Schlotterer of the Ministry of Economics in early August. Schlotterer completely agreed with the necessity of restoring I.G.’s position of leadership under the so-called new order and said that in his opinion I.G.’s proposal for France was not at all excessive and would probably fit into the coming peace plans. 28 While I.G.’s “new order” plan was under consideration, a shortage of coal and electric power brought the French dyestuff plants to a standstill. 29


The executives of the French industry realized quite early that I.G. held the key not only to the resumption of production but also to the future of the French industry. They began to press for a meeting with the I.G. officials to be arranged through the armistice commission in Wiesbaden. 30 Mistakenly, the French anticipated favorable treatment from their former cartel partner.


Schlotterer, a high official in the Ministry of Economics, who agreed in principle to a meeting between I.G. and French industry officials, nevertheless suggested to I.G. that delay was in their best interests. Actual negotiations, he advised, should not begin until the French realized that they were not coming to bargain for a favorable ownership status but rather to cede “first place” to the German dyestuff industry. 31


A period of uncertainty, coupled with despair, would soften the French. Hans Hemmen, chief of the economic delegation of the German armistice commission, echoed this advice. He also counseled a policy of delay rather than premature action, specifically suggesting that I.G. should stall at least until late fall or early winter, when the situation in France would be more desperate. 32


I.G. agreed. In the meantime, I.G. gathered intelligence from its employees in Paris about the leaders of the French industry with whom it would eventually have to deal. The most intriguing information concerned Joseph Frossard, Bosch’s “trump card” at Versailles. He was now the leading figure in Kuhlmann, along with René Duchemin.


Frossard, who was then in unoccupied France, with the rest of the directors of Kuhlmann told the I.G. people that he could not enter the German occupied zone because he would have to expect trouble as “a German deserter.” 33


It was a strange fear for the acknowledged leader of the French chemical industry. As a Frenchman, how could Frossard be a German deserter? But neither the Germans nor the French have ever supplied an explanation for this unusual remark, which may be the clue as to why Bosch had referred to Frossard as a secret trump card.

Frossard and the other French industrialists continued to press the French armistice delegation to arrange a meeting with I.G. I.G., however, kept stalling. An I.G. official remarked,

“We do not think that the time has come to initiate these negotiations - a view shared by both the government and military representatives in Paris, and by Hemmen.” 34

Hemmen, acting out his role in accordance with I.G.’s scheme, informed the French armistice delegation that these negotiations would have to await the final settlement of the demarcation line between occupied and unoccupied France. 35


As I.G. planned, the French chemical situation continued to deteriorate. In early October Frossard sought out Hans Kramer, head of the I.G. sales agency in France.

With Bosch dead, Frossard had been unable to make effective contact with I.G. Frossard beseeched Kramer to arrange a meeting between himself and a member of the I.G. hierarchy. The situation of the French chemical industry, he said, made collaboration at an early date imperative. It was absolutely clear to him that Germany would win the war and that the organization of the European economy must come under German leadership. Frossard offered the support of the entire French chemical industry in Germany’s war against England. 36 In his view the end was a foregone conclusion. England was doomed.

Frossard added that he regretted the actions taken against the German chemical industry before the 1927 cartel agreement was signed, explaining that these were measures forced by French government pressure. (He was referring to Kuhlmann’s efforts to keep I.G. from taking over the French dyestuff industry in 1926.)


Now Frossard suggested a secret collaboration with the French industry under I.G. leadership - a clandestine “marriage” in the dyestuff and chemical fields. 37


Frantically, Frossard pleaded with Kramer to find out whether I.G. would enter negotiations. I.G. could depend on him for anything it wished. If I.G. objected to any Kuhlmann executive, he would be dismissed. 38 All Frossard needed was a sign and he would become a trump card ready to be played again.

In the meantime, political events of great moment were taking place. On October 24, Hitler and Pétain met at Montoire, where French collaboration with Germany was settled.


According to their secret agreement,

“The Axis Powers and France have an identical interest in seeing the defeat of England accomplished as soon as possible. Consequently, the French government will support, within the limits of its ability, the measures which the Axis Powers may take to this end.” 39

In return, France was to be given the place in the new Europe “to which she is entitled.” 40


The “collaboration” principle now was presumably to be extended to the entire private economic sphere. Hitler and Pétain agreed in essence to what Frossard had privately urged for I.G. and the French industry two weeks earlier. The German government should not confiscate French industries but rather permit German and French companies to deal with each other on a private, voluntary basis. The change in direction was welcomed by I.G. It would be free to act without entering a partnership with the Reich in the exploitation of French industry.


Since I.G.’s partners would now be private French firms, it could truly assert its claim to leadership and demand a controlling ownership in the French dyestuff industry. 41


I.G. was now ready to “negotiate” with the French. Within a week after the Montoire agreement was reached, Hemmen, with I.G.’s consent, informed the French armistice delegation that the time had come for the conference sought by the French chemical industry. In anticipation, I.G. engaged in preliminary meetings in Paris with Frossard and René Duchemin, both of whom were becoming openly known collaborationists.

According to an I.G. file note on these conferences,

“the situation had already been prepared and clarified to the greatest extent in line with German ideas.” 42

The French dyestuff companies would be merged into a company to be called Francolor, in which I.G. would own fifty-one percent and the French forty-nine percent. Francolor would be confined to the French market and prohibited from exporting to the rest of Europe. 43

With all the basic questions apparently agreed upon privately, it was time for official negotiations to begin. Schnitzler decided that the meeting should take place at Wiesbaden under the direct aegis of the armistice commission because,

“it is quite obvious that our tactical position towards the French will be far stronger if the first fundamental discussion takes place in Germany and, more particularly, at the site of the Armistice Delegation; and if our program as outlined, is presented, so to speak, from official quarters.” 44

As planned, the meeting was held at Wiesbaden on November 21, 1940. Schnitzler and Ter Meer led the I.G. delegation; Duchemin represented the French. Frossard was missing; his French colleagues were informed that he was home sick in bed. 45 Schnitzler miscalculated. Matters did not run as smoothly as the preliminary meetings in Paris with Frossard and Duchemin had promised.


An I.G. official noted,

“The transfer to Wiesbaden gave the French cause an opportunity for a ‘change of tactics’ and necessarily encouraged the hope in them of achieving something better in ‘official surroundings’ than what had been prepared unofficially, so to speak, in Paris.” 46

The French delegation proposed that the parties revive the Franco-German dyestuff cartel of 1927. French legal experts, they said, had advised them that the cartel agreement had not been abrogated by the outbreak of war in 1939 but was merely in temporary abeyance. With peace restored, the agreement could be put back in force.


The industrialists, they pointed out, should follow the direction of the collaboration agreed to by Pétain and Hitler at Montoire. After all, they were now allies and collaborators, not victor and vanquished. 47


The French were stunned by the German response to their proposal. Hemmen interrupted the French with a violent tirade. Pounding the table, he shouted that it was an insult to insist that the 1927 cartel agreement still was valid after the German victory in 1940: the cartel was merely the product of the Versailles treaty. Hemmen forbade any discussion of such an amazing proposal. The French must come to their senses and recognize that they had lost the war and that the time had come to accept the leadership of I.G. in the chemical field. Hemmen left no doubt in the minds of the Frenchmen that I.G.’s demands were fully backed by the Reich. 48


Schnitzler then spoke in a modulated voice but in equally hard terms. The French suggestions, he said, ignored political and economic realities. After all, France had declared war on Germany and now French industry would have to pay the price of defeat and accept I.G.’s leadership. It was, in truth, a relationship of victor and vanquished. 49 One of the French representatives mustered the courage to ask a final question.

Exactly what did I.G. “leadership” mean? Schnitzler did not equivocate. Leadership meant that I.G. would have unrestrained financial, industrial, and ownership control of the French chemical industry. 50

Hemmen concluded the session with the announcement that the French and I.G. representatives would meet the next day without the armistice officials to work out the details of their agreement. It was the German ambassador’s wish that the parties come to an agreement that would serve as a model for all German-French industrial relations. 51


That evening Schnitzler wrote to Hermann Schmitz.

We have just returned from the first conference with the French dye-stuff industrialists in Wiesbaden. Thanks to the very methodical and energetic chairmanship of Minister Hemmen, we were able to get down to business at once and shall now hear tomorrow morning what the French dyestuff industry... thinks of our “claim to leadership.” 52

At the scheduled meeting the next day Schnitzler pressed I.G.’s ultimatum.


I.G. was to own fifty-one percent of a new Franco-German dye-stuff company; the French were to abandon the export market and accept I.G.’s control of all elements of production and sales. 53 The French vigorously protested. I.G.’s terms were too severe. However, they realized that the entire French chemical industry could cease to exist at the whim of German authorities under I.G. influence. The hard attitude of Hemmen and Schnitzler underscored the reality of this alternative. 54


The French, hoping to salvage what they could, stalled, saying they would have to go home and get the advice of their government.

In Paris a few days later, Kramer again met with Frossard, who “talked fairly openly about the whole problem of the agreement.” 55 Frossard assured Kramer that he himself had “the deepest understanding” of I.G.’s position.


As Kramer later reported to I.G.,

“Not only did he think to a certain extent along German lines because of his origin and education, but he was now facing the fact that Germany had won the war. It was true that not all of his colleagues thought as he did.” 56

Apparently Frossard was ready to come to an agreement.


The French hesitated to accept a joint manufacturing company under I.G. control, he said, since it would mean officially abandoning the character of a “national” dyestuff industry headed by a Frenchman. Frossard suggested that an exclusive sales company jointly owned but under I.G. control would accomplish the same thing and still preserve French pride.

As soon as the French industrialists returned to Paris from the Wiesbaden conference, they took up I.G.’s proposals with the French government. It was agreed that many obvious difficulties would attend the German takeover of the French dyestuff industry. Plants indispensable to French national defense would be in the hands of the Germans. Moreover, a dangerous precedent would be established, and the Germans could then demand control of other French industries. 57


The French industry representatives realized that care must be taken, however, to avoid too brusque a rejection of I.G. demands. They feared that if the negotiations were broken off, I.G. would see to it that their plants, already in a precarious state, would be compelled to close down permanently for lack of raw materials, coal, and power.

Nevertheless, despite these anxieties in December the French government emphatically rejected the German demand for a controlling, fifty-one percent interest. 58

The French industrialists then prepared a counterproposal. They returned to the suggestion of a joint “marketing organization” or sales agent rather than a joint manufacturing company. Only forty-nine percent of the stock would be assigned to the Germans, a majority interest of fifty-one percent to the French. A president would be selected who would be agreeable to both the French and the Germans. Each group would have the right to select an equal number of directors. With French government approval, it was agreed that the new plan be submitted to I.G. 59


Duchemin met with Kramer and others at the headquarters of the German occupation forces. He tentatively presented the French counterproposal. The Germans stated that it was absolutely unacceptable. 60 Duchemin, with a surprising show of backbone, replied that so long as negotiations between the German and French industries continued on a free, voluntary basis, the French would never consent to a fifty-one percent participation by the Germans: “I would rather see my hand cut off than sign such an agreement.” 61


Under these circumstances, Kramer said, there was no point to further negotiations. He pointed out, however, that breaking off negotiations could have “detrimental” consequences. Then, changing his tune, Kramer introduced a new element into the discussion. He would use the carrot rather than the stick. Would the French industrialists change their mind if I.G. offered some sort of compensation?


Duchemin was intrigued. In that case, he replied, the transaction might be more bearable. 62


For the moment the kind or the amount of the compensation was not specified. Kramer hardened his appearance of reasonableness with the warning that Duchemin and his associates avoid any instructions from the French government restricting their freedom to act. This would keep the negotiations within the area of “private enterprise.”

Otherwise, he added sternly, the matter would go back to the armistice commission and the “mercies” of Ambassador Hemmen. 63

Negotiations were resumed on January 20 in Paris. Despite Kramer’s warnings to Duchemin, the French once again pressed their counterproposal of a joint sales company in which the French would hold a majority interest. They claimed that they would make no further concessions. 64 I.G. continued to demand that only a majority interest would be acceptable. At this point, the I.G. representatives officially offered their “carrot” hinted at by Kramer to Duchemin. I.G. would turn over to the French industrialists one percent of I.G.’s stock. 65

I.G.’s “generosity,” however, was coupled with a very meaningful threat. Duchemin was told that if he was not willing to accept the I.G. plan, Kuhlmann would be classified as a Jewish concern and all of its plants would be confiscated by the Germans. The fact that Raymond Berr, a Jew, had been a managing director of the Kuhlmann plants before the German occupation was sufficient to have it so classified. 66


In the face of pressures that were becoming progressively uglier and more intense, the resistance of the French industrialists began to crumble. They reluctantly agreed in principle to I.G.’s demand for a joint manufacturing company, still protesting, however, I.G.’s demand for a majority of the stock. They declared that the French government would have to approve that concession. 67

All protestations were in vain, however.


At a “peace conference” on March 12, it was officially revealed that a new company, Francolor, was to be formed for which I.G. would compensate the French with one percent of its stock; in return, I.G. would receive a controlling interest of fifty-one percent in Francolor. To reassure the French government that this agreement would not become an example to pave the way for German takeovers of other French industries, it was agreed that the Francolor case was to be regarded as a special circumstance and not as a precedent for future German action. 68

Both I.G. and the French shareholders would have the right to nominate an equal number of administrative officials. And, in what on its face appeared to be a major concession, I.G. agreed that the president of Francolor would always be a Frenchman. 69

By May, however, the Germans began to realize that French capitulation would not be quite as easy as they had been led to believe. The French were complicating their surrender with a number of counterproposals. Kramer complained to Schnitzler, “The French are going back on practically all matters which are essential for us.... Thus, in our next meeting, we will have to tackle anew these problems.” Duchemin himself admitted to Kramer that the French were stiffening their position. 70

Once again Kramer sought out Frossard. At their meeting Frossard explained apologetically that the various countersuggestions from his French colleagues did not represent his views. He went on to describe the difficulty of his position. Less flexible elements in the French chemical industry, particularly within Kuhlmann, Frossard said, had “gained momentum.” From what Frossard told Kramer, the resistance of the French chemical industry was going to be somewhat more formidable than the March 12 understanding indicated. 71

Despite the fact that I.G. could exercise an ultimate power to break French intransigence, the negotiations dragged on.


Nevertheless, Frossard assured I.G. that as far as he was concerned, the establishment of Francolor was a reality and that he would not engage in any important transactions without the approval of I.G. 72

To prove his devotion, Frossard now involved himself in the Aryanization of the French plants as Duchemin himself temporarily assumed the duties of Raymond Berr, the highest ranking Jewish victim. 73 Even in this performance Frossard remained an ambiguous figure. He made a real effort to prevent “miscarriages of justice” caused by faulty or mistaken information as to who was Jewish.


In at least two cases Frossard made strong protests to the Nazis on behalf of two Kuhlmann employees accused of being Jews. One was Serge de Kap-Herr, whose son had married the daughter of the French writer André Maurois (whose name, Frossard volunteered, was really Herzog). 74

Frossard insisted that Kap-Herr was Aryan. The Germans were convinced, and Kap-Herr was not dismissed from his job. The other case involved Frossard’s longtime associate and close personal friend M, Rhein. Like Frossard, Rhein was born in Alsace when it was part of Germany. Unlike Frossard, he had remained in Germany as a chemist for BASF before and during World War I. After the war, as an Alsatian, he chose to become a French citizen and joined Frossard in the government-owned Compagnie Nationale Française. Rhein had been with the French dyestuff industry ever since.

Frossard told I.G. that Rhein’s father was not a Jew, as had been charged, but a Christian clergyman from Hamburg and he insisted that Rhein had “no Jewish blood at all in his veins and is in no way affected by the laws concerning Jews.” 75


Frossard’s efforts were fruitless, however, and Rhein was dismissed. 76 By mid-summer of 1941, the resistance of the French dyestuff men was broken and most of the details of a final agreement were worked out. I.G. was to assume majority control of the dyestuff plants in France and of all the French company’s foreign properties that were in German-occupied territory. 77


This included the French interest in Winnica, the Polish dyestuff plant, which Frossard headed as chairman of the board. Although I.G. agreed to surrender one percent of its own stock to the French, even this concession carried a severe condition. The stock was so restricted that it could not be sold to any buyer outside the French dyestuff group and could never be pledged as collateral. 78


One last problem remained to be resolved. I.G. objected to the French version of the preamble to the Francolor agreement because it emphasized “the fact that the French Government surrendered participation in the French dyestuff industry... under pressure.” 79 In the unlikely event that Germany failed to win the war, I.G. was concerned that “the preamble as it now stands might... prove of great disadvantage to us.” 80


It could provide the basis for the French to “annul the convention” when a “change in conditions” arose. 81


To avoid the possibility that the French might “demand the termination of the convention” sometime in the future on the ground of duress, the I.G. lawyer insisted upon wording that indicated consent by the French government.


The preamble as finally agreed upon satisfied I.G. It included the sentence:

“The French Government is to recognize the legality... of the present contract, which may be contrary to present or future laws of France.” 82

During one of the last conferences at which the details of the agreement were being worked out, Ter Meer unconsciously expressed the atmosphere of the negotiations. On a folder titled “France, 1940-41: German-French Dyestuff Discussion,” he doodled a line from a ditty popular in Germany, “For in the woods there are robbers.” 83


On November 18, 1941, one year after the Wiesbaden conference, the Francolor agreement was signed in Paris by Schnitzler and Ter Meer for I.G. and by Duchemin, Thesmar, and Frossard for the French dyestuff industry. 84


Frossard was elected president of Francolor by agreement of both contracting parties. This was expected. Schnitzler had already proclaimed earlier:

“Of course, there cannot be any doubt that Frossard would be president.” 85

As agreed, too, the supervisory board of Francolor was equally divided between French and Germans: Schnitzler, Ter Meer, Ambros, and Hermann Waibel from I.G.; Frossard, Duchemin, and two other Pétain collaborators from the French industry. 86

The signing of the agreement was celebrated at a luncheon for about a dozen or so key participants, both French and German. Ter Meer, who was present, reported that Frossard got up and made a speech which, in my opinion, exceeded the form of mere politeness, for he was visibly touched and strongly impressed personally. He said then that he wanted to express his personal gratitude for the fine confidence and trust that was placed in him by appointing him president of the new firm. 87


In Frossard’s opinion, the Francolor Contract could be called ideal. The annual meeting of Etablissements Kuhlmann, at which the agreement was to be ratified, took place in Vichy. When a stockholder rose to protest the surrender of the fifty-one percent stock interest in Francolor to I.G., it was explained to him that the transfer of a majority interest to the Germans was counterbalanced by the selection of a Frenchman, Frossard, as president. 88


The stockholders thereupon voted to approve the agreement, although a surprising 50 stockholders voted nay and another 406 abstained from voting. 89 The new order for the French chemical industry now had legal sanction. I.G. was at the zenith of its power. From the Barents Sea to the Mediterranean, from the Channel Islands to Auschwitz, it exercised control over an industrial empire the likes of which the world had never before seen.

Frossard, the “trump card” played by Bosch with such success at Versailles, continued his special role for Krauch and I.G. In the summer of 1942, with Hitler’s dreaded two-front war depleting the German labor supply, Nazi eyes turned to the conquered countries of Europe. In his post as plenipotentiary, Krauch tried to recruit foreign labor in France. At first this effort was a miserable failure. Of the expected 350,000 French workers, only 36,000 were sent to Germany. 90


To correct matters, Krauch called upon his successful experience in rebuilding the Oppau plant after the explosion of 1921.


At that time, it will be recalled, he prevailed upon companies all over Germany to send complete units of workers to help reconstruct the destroyed plant. In a letter to Schnitzler, Krauch, wearing the hats of both an I.G. official and a Nazi plenipotentiary, noted that the decision to invoke the “closed unit” system would increase the supply of workers from French factories for German industry. 91


He explained that the French workers “would remain employees of the French mother company and return to France after their work [was] completed.” 92 He was delighted that Frossard approved the new approach.

Out of the negotiations which took place up to now I have learned that Mr. Frossard is entirely of the opinion... that the use of closed units is the right way to bring... French workmen [into] the German works on a broad basis. Mr. Frossard has, therefore, used his own initiative for the conclusion of the first unit work contract with the I.G. Ludwigshafen. I hope therefore that further workmen of Francolor will be sent to Germany. 93

Schnitzler replied that Frossard could be relied upon to help fulfill Germany’s need for labor:

“You can be convinced that General Director Frossard handles the question of sending workmen in closed units to works of the I.G. with just as much understanding as goodwill.” 94

The French workers soon learned that “closed units” was a euphemism for forced labor. In a nasty bit of gallows humor, an I.G. official referred contemptuously to those Frenchmen with whom the company dealt in the recruiting of such labor battalions as “slave traders.” 95


The crime of slave labor was now being committed with greater refinement and efficiency and in far greater numbers than it had been during World War I. But that was only the beginning. This practice was soon to reach proportions that the world could neither believe nor comprehend.

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Slave Labor and Mass Murder

In August 1942 the office of the World Jewish Congress in Lausanne, Switzerland, received the first report that the Third Reich had embarked on a course that could only be described as insane.


A German industrialist reported, at the risk of his life, that for the past eight months the German government had been “solving the Jewish problem” by an organized scheme of mass murder. Its goal was to exterminate the entire Jewish people. Killing centers had been erected in Poland, he said, where hundreds of thousands of Jews had been asphyxiated by a lethal gas in sealed chambers designed for the singular purpose of killing them.

In the following months, increasing evidence began to surface of Germany’s extraordinary program to destroy the Jews. At the end of August 1943, an Allied report of Axis war crimes was released to the public. The report accused Germany and its satellites of “carrying out with increasing tempo a deliberate program of wholesale theft, murder, torture and savagery unparalleled in world history.” 1


It charged that Germany had deliberately exterminated 1,702,500 human beings. Incredible as the figure appeared at the time, it was a gross understatement.

German war crimes soon became a matter of major concern to the Allied leaders. On November 1, 1943, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin, at their Moscow summit meeting, jointly drafted “The Declaration of German Atrocities.” 2


The Germans were put on notice that they would be held responsible for their crimes, tried in appropriate courts, and punished.

The Moscow declaration was delivered to the German people, their satellites, and the occupied countries by all means available - continuous radio broadcasts, leaflets dropped by planes, and underground newspapers. The warning was unequivocal and blunt.


At the time of the granting of any armistice to any government which may be set up in Germany, those German officers and men and members of the Nazi party who have been responsible for, or have taken a consenting part in... atrocities, massacres, and executions, will be sent back to the countries in which their abominable deeds were done in order that they may be judged and punished according to the laws of these liberated countries and of the free governments which will be created therein.


Lists will be compiled in all possible detail from all these countries having regard especially to the invaded parts of the Soviet Union, to Poland and Czechoslovakia, to Yugoslavia and Greece, including Crete and other islands, to Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, France and Italy. 3


The Moscow declaration proved no deterrent at all; in fact, the pace of the Reich’s program of extermination accelerated.

On March 24, 1944, therefore, President Roosevelt issued his own warning to the German nation:

In one of the blackest crimes in all history - begun by the Nazis in the day of peace and multiplied by them a hundred times in time of war - the wholesale systematic murder of the Jews of Europe goes on unabated every hour.... It is therefore fitting that we should again proclaim our determination that none who participate in these acts of savagery shall go unpunished.... All who share the guilt shall share the punishment. 4

By November 1944, millions had been killed in Hitler’s deliberate destruction of the Jews.


John Pehle, executive director of the War Refugee Board, decided to make public the reports of two prisoners who had escaped from Auschwitz, the largest of all the killing complexes. Pehle released these reports to the newspapers, vouching for the reliability of the information.


The reports described in great detail the organization of Auschwitz, the concentration camps, the terrible conditions under which the inmates lived and died, the brutality of the German authorities, the immense gassing buildings in which victims were asphyxiated by the thousands every day, the crematoria where their bodies were disposed of - almost all the terrible facts of the Nazi program of extermination. 5


Elmer Davis, head of the Office of War Information, demanded that Pehle recall the reports, which had not yet been published because of a ten-day “hold.” Davis argued that publicizing these reports would be counterproductive. The American public, he said, would not believe them but would regard them as mere atrocity stories like those circulated during World War I.

Pehle had great regard for Davis and appreciated his opinion; yet, he believed that the desperate situation demanded that these reports be made known to the public. Convinced that only by exposure was there any hope of saving the remaining Jews of Europe, Pehle refused to withdraw the reports, and the public learned of the gruesome details of Auschwitz for the first time.

Among the extraordinary facts disclosed by the reports was the existence at Auschwitz of an enormous industrial establishment owned and operated by I.G. Farben.


The men who had written the reports had been inmate workers in the Buna division of this installation, and the details they supplied showed how far I.G.’s compact with Hitler had progressed.

We worked in the huge Buna plant, to which we were herded every morning about 3 A.M. At midday our food consisted of potato or turnip soup and in the evening we received some bread.


During work we were terribly mistreated. As our working place was situated outside the large chain of sentry posts, it was divided into small sectors of 10 X 10 meters, each guarded by an SS man. Whoever stepped outside these squares during working hours was immediately shot without warning for having “attempted to escape.” Often it happened that out of pure spite an SS man would order a prisoner to fetch some given object outside his square.


If he followed the order, he was shot for having left his assigned place. The work was extremely hard and there were no rest periods. The way to and from work had to be covered at a brisk military trot; anyone falling out of line was shot. On my arrival about 3,000 people, of whom 2,000 were Slovak Jews, were working on this emplacement. Very few could bear the strain and although escape seemed hopeless, attempts were made every day. The result was several hangings a week. 6

In the American business community, especially in companies that had had prewar dealings with I.G., these disclosures met with disbelief.


Nevertheless, the reports of I.G.’s involvement were only too true. I.G. was building enormous synthetic oil and rubber factories at Auschwitz.

Pehle, who as chairman of the War Refugee Board was responsible for saving tens of thousands of Jewish lives, was the first official anywhere to urge consideration of the bombing of the industrial installations and mass extermination equipment at Auschwitz. He wrote to the U.S. War Department in this regard. In reply, the War Department explained that a bombing attack against Auschwitz was an unwarranted diversion of planes needed elsewhere.


Pehle replied that Auschwitz was an important producer of war materiel. The War Department still refused.

By embarking on the Battle of Britain in the late summer of 1940, twenty-six years almost to the month after the decisive Battle of the Marne, Germany miscalculated again. Despite assurances from Hermann Goering that the Luftwaffe would break the English will to resist within weeks, if not days, Britain refused to be subdued.


The British Isles remained as an “unsinkable aircraft carrier” aimed at the heart of Germany. Hitler, ignoring Germany’s tragic experience with a two-front war, refused to let the British setback change his timetable of conquest. His plans to attack his ally, the Soviet Union, remained fixed. Certain of the invincibility of his military power and the inviolability of his military judgment, he ordered his generals to prepare for an early attack. Hitler’s generals were not so sanguine. Once again the problem was the shortage of raw materials.


They informed Hitler that the battles of Poland, France, and Britain had seriously exhausted the supply of munitions and such basic raw materials as oil and rubber. Any attack against the Soviets would be imprudent until additional facilities to produce synthetic rubber and oil were built and the reserves replenished. The size of such a conflict would demand amounts never even contemplated before.


A reluctant Hitler agreed to wait but ordered that the attack on Russia begin in the spring. With Hitler’s personal views on military raw material autarky acting as a goad, the war planners began at once to prepare for the construction of the necessary synthetic rubber facilities to fulfill the enormous requirements projected for the Soviet invasion.


The Ministry of Economics immediately summoned Fritz ter Meer and Otto Ambros to a top secret, high priority conference.


At the meeting, the I.G. officials were informed that there must be “an increase in Buna production with the greatest possible speed.” 7 To reach the projected production demanded by the ministry required the construction of two new plants. These installations, when added to the existing plants at Huels and Schkopau, would bring the Buna capacity of I.G. to a healthy 150,000 tons annually, enough to mount the Russian invasion.

The I.G. officials were assured that the German government was prepared to support the expansion in every way. They were given further assurances that the irritations of the past with the army would be eliminated.


This was underscored by the High Command’s promise of “all suitable assistance.” 8


Speed was crucial and Krauch, acting in his government role of plenipotentiary general for special questions of chemical production, ordered the immediate construction of one of the new plants, which was to operate in conjunction with the existing I.G. high-pressure plants at Ludwigshafen. Construction of the second plant, he noted, would begin as soon as a suitable site was chosen.


At the moment, Krauch was considering Norway and Polish Silesia. Krauch assigned Ambros, one of I.G.’s most talented Buna chemists, to survey Silesia.


Ambros had joined I.G. in 1926, at which time he was sent to Sumatra for a year to study the chemistry of natural rubber. By 1935 he was I.G.’s leading synthetic rubber expert. Ambros’s expertise was formally recognized by Bosch, who placed him in charge of the construction and operation of the first large-scale Buna plant at Schkopau. Ambros was an unusual figure. He was the I.G. expert on both Buna and poison gas.


Moreover, in 1932 he had conceived the underlying theories which ultimately led to the modern magnetic tape technology. In view of Ambros’s later fate it is worth noting that he was a protégé of Nobel laureate Richard Willstaetter, under whom he wrote his Ph.D. thesis. Even after Willstaetter was driven out of Germany to become a stateless Jew, Ambros continued to correspond with him.

In evaluating the Polish Silesian area Ambros made a personal and detailed exploration of the proposed sites. The one he finally recommended was particularly suited for the installation. A coal mine was nearby and three rivers converged to provide a vital requirement, a large source of water. Together with these three rivers, the Reich railroad and the autobahn afforded excellent transportation to and from the area.


These were not decisive advantages, however, over the Norwegian site. But the Silesian location had one advantage that was overwhelming: the S.S. had plans to expand enormously a concentration camp nearby. The promise of an inexhaustible supply of slave labor was an attraction that could not be resisted. 9


Krauch wholeheartedly accepted Silesia over Norway, where the population was already in ferment over the brutality of the German occupation. The historic nature of Krauch’s choice could never have crossed his mind. The name of the Polish village he selected for the Buna site was Auschwitz! 10


Once the project and site were formally approved by the Reich, the I.G. management, enthusiastic about expanding its operations, assigned the name “I.G. Auschwitz” to the new division, hereafter the official designation in I.G.’s meticulously ordered table of corporate organization.

Technologically and economically it was only natural that a synthetic oil plant be built as a companion to the rubber factory. For Bergius and Buna, high pressure chemistry was the common ground. Accordingly, a large hydrogenation plant to convert coal into oil with a capacity of 778,000 tons a month was also begun.


The I.G. directors selected Ambros for the rubber installation and Heinrich Buetefisch for the gasoline plant at Auschwitz. For the two youngest members of the managing board of directors, both still under forty, these appointments represented an important step upward in the I.G. hierarchy. After all, it gave Ambros and Buetefisch authority over the largest synthetic rubber and oil installation in the world. With Hitler and I.G. marching together, the future appeared to be without limit.

It was at this point that I.G. made another crucial, even fateful decision. With the U.S.S.R. about to be attacked, I.G. began to contemplate the enormous opportunities for expansion to the east. The possible rewards appeared boundless.


Everything about the Auschwitz project indicated that it was heaven-sent.

The Soviet Union and Asia represented a potential market to challenge even the commercial imagination of I.G.’s directors. For I.G., Hitler’s “Drive to the East” promised to open a vast new area for profitable exploitation. Indeed, so great did I.G. regard the postwar potential of the Auschwitz project that it decided to make an unusual gamble on its future. Rather than let the German government finance the building of the installations, the I.G. directors voted to put up the funds to make I.G. Auschwitz a privately owned I.G. enterprise and to assume the entire risk.


With almost no opposition, they committed more than 900 million Reichsmarks, over $250 million, 11 to the building of the single largest project in the I.G. system.


With such an enormous risk, officials of I.G. carefully watched over their huge investment. There were other factors supporting the risk and indicating the prudence of such an investment. The I.G. Auschwitz projects were so vital to Germany’s military plans that I.G. was able to marshal the aid of the most powerful figures in the Nazi government.

Krauch, in a top secret letter to Ambros, wrote:

In the new arrangement of priority stages ordered by Field Marshal Keitel, your building project has first priority.... At my request, [Goering] issued special decrees a few days ago to the supreme Reich authorities concerned.... In these decrees, the Reich Marshal obligated the offices concerned to meet your requirements in skilled workers and laborers at once, even at the expense of other important building projects or plans which are essential to the war economy. 12

Krauch was already taking steps to insure an adequate labor supply for the construction of the I.G. Auschwitz plants.


He had arranged for Goering to write Himmler on February 18, 1941, asking that,

“the largest possible number of skilled and unskilled construction workers... be made available from the adjoining concentration camp for the construction of the Buna plant.” 13

Between 8000 and 12,000 construction and assembly workers were needed.


Goering requested Himmler to inform him and Krauch,

“as soon as possible about the orders which you will issue in this matter.” 14

Acting on this request, Himmler ordered the S.S. inspector of concentration camps and the S.S. economic and administrative main office “to get in touch immediately with the construction manager of the Buna works and to aid the... project by means of the concentration camp prisoners in every possible way.” 15


After Himmler issued this decree, Krauch wrote to Ambros, “These orders are so far-reaching that I request you to apply them to the widest extent as soon as possible.” 16


So that there would be no misunderstanding of the urgent priority of the I.G. Auschwitz project, Himmler delegated S.S. Major General Karl Wolff, chief of his personal staff, to be liaison officer between the S.S. and I.G. 17 On March 20, General Wolff met with Buetefisch to discuss “the details of the ways and means in which the concentration camp could assist in the construction of the plant.” 18


Buetefisch was chosen to deal with General Wolff not only because of his eminence as a synthetic fuel authority but also because of his rank as a lieutenant colonel in the S.S. At the meeting it was agreed that I.G. would pay the S.S. three Reichsmarks a day for each unskilled concentration camp inmate and four Reichsmarks for skilled inmates. 19 Later, the S.S. agreed to furnish children at one and a half Reichsmarks. 20


These payments were for the S.S.; the inmates, of course, received nothing. Wolff guaranteed that the payment would include “everything such as transportation, food, et cetera and [I.G.] will have no other expenses for the inmates, except if a small bonus (cigarettes, etc.) is given as an incentive.” 21


Both parties realized, in calculating the rate of payment, that a concentration camp inmate could not be as productive as a free, normal, well-fed German worker; thus, it was estimated at the meeting that a seventy-five percent efficiency was all that could be expected. 22 A week after this preliminary conference, a meeting was held at Auschwitz among various I.G. technical men, including Duerrfeld, chief engineer in charge of construction at I.G. Auschwitz, his senior engineer, Max Faust, and the Auschwitz concentration camp commandant, S.S. Major Rudolf Hoess. 23


Duerrfeld, in his summary of the conference, assured his superiors, Ambros and Buetefisch, that “the concentration camp showed its willingness to assist in the construction of the plant as far as it could.” 24


One big problem, however, troubled him. This, he reported, was the procurement of Capos, “straw bosses” with “special talents” recruited from among concentration camp inmates.


However, Commandant Hoess told Duerrfeld that I.G. would have a priority in obtaining these inmate-leaders whose special talent was sadism.

“These Capos,” reported Duerrfeld, “are being selected from amongst the professional criminals and are to be transferred from other concentration camps to Auschwitz.” 25

Every twenty inmates, it was estimated, would require a Capo.

A few weeks later Himmler himself, on an inspection tour of I.G. Auschwitz, gave assurances of his personal support to I.G.’s project. He guaranteed I.G. an immediate labor supply of 10,000 concentration camp inmates. 26


Ambros wrote Ter Meer, “Our new friendship with the S.S. is proving very profitable.” 27


Soon that tune changed. With the personal blessing of such Nazi luminaries as Hitler, Himmler, Goering, and Keitel, I.G. Auschwitz should have been a tremendous success. Despite the cooperation of the Nazi hierarchy, especially the S.S., however, the project continually was disrupted by shortages, breakdowns, and delays.


As the difficulties began to pile up fears began to mount correspondingly that the rubber and gasoline works would never be completed in time to help the German war effort. Some malign influence seemed to be affecting the entire operation.

The I.G. executives on the spot laid most of the blame on the S.S. According to them, the leaders of the S.S. at Auschwitz did not seem to understand “the working methods of... free enterprise.” 28


Their treatment of the concentration camp inmates, by far the largest segment of I.G. Auschwitz labor, was proving counterproductive. These complaints were detailed in the weekly I.G. Auschwitz reports sent back to I.G. headquarters in Frankfurt.


The report of August 3-9, for instance, included the following doleful note:

We have... drawn the attention of the officials of the concentration camp to the fact that in the last few weeks the inmates are being severely flogged on the construction site by the Capos in increasing measure, and this always applies to the weakest inmates who really cannot work harder. The exceedingly unpleasant scenes that occur on the construction site because of this are beginning to have a demoralizing effect on the free workers [Poles], as well as on the Germans.


We have therefore asked that they should refrain from carrying out this flogging on the construction site and transfer it to... the concentration camp. A few months later the I.G. Auschwitz weekly report began exhibiting greater appreciation of the difficult problems faced by the S.S.


The work, particularly of the Poles and inmates, continues to leave much room for improvement.... Our experience so far has shown that only brute force has any effect on these people.... As is known, the Commandant always argues that as far as the treatment of inmates is concerned, it is impossible to get any work done without corporal punishment. 30

The delays and construction problems continued and the report ended on a note of concern for the economic consequences confronting the I.G. management. The combination of all the difficulties encountered “will increase costs considerably.” 31


A greater appreciation of S.S. methods, however, did not solve I.G.’s problems. At an I.G. Auschwitz construction conference attended by technical personnel including Ambros, Duerrfeld, and Faust, a variety of troubles were reviewed. 32


Among the problems were bottlenecks in housing, transportation, fuel, and plumbing facilities and late deliveries of all kinds of necessary supplies. The overburdened railroad station and the shortage of motor vehicles added to the delays. Faust reported that the free Poles were only half as efficient as German workers and concentration camp inmates were not even a third as efficient.

Life at Auschwitz was not all beatings, shortages, inefficiencies, and other problems.

The weekly reports at the close of 1941, for example, ended on a happier note:

“On December 20 representatives of the I.G. took part in a Christmas party of the Waffen S.S. which was very festive and which ended up alcoholically gay.” 33

Moreover, although the failures of the Auschwitz project kept mounting, cordial relations between the I.G. management and the S.S. officials were not affected. Duerrfeld and the commandant went on hunting parties together and, with their wives, frequently exchanged visits.


The difficulties in building the rubber and oil facilities continued, however, and the progress at the Buna works fell further behind schedule. I.G. viewed the performance of the first year at Auschwitz as far from satisfactory - in fact, as nearly disastrous.

Inmate labor proved the most vexing problem in the construction of the I.G. Auschwitz installation. The labor details were marched more than four miles from the main Auschwitz camp to the I.G. construction site through the extreme summer heat and winter cold.


The lack of guards caused security problems. The result was that,

“the inmates can only march out in daylight and must return to the camp in daylight. If it is foggy in the morning, the inmates are also not permitted to leave the camp.” 34

Sickness, malnutrition, the work tempo, and sadistic S.S. guards and Capos also took their toll. It was an unsettling sight for I.G. officials to witness work details carrying their dead back and forth so that all inmates could be accounted for at roll call when the work day began and when it ended. It was a strange way to run a business.

I.G. Auschwitz was approaching a financial and technical crisis. With the investment of almost a billion Reichsmarks in jeopardy, the I.G. managing board of directors decided on a drastic solution. It made a further and dramatic descent into the Nazi hell.


In July 1942, just after Hitler had begun his second year of troubles in the Soviet Union, the I.G. managing board voted to solve its Auschwitz labor problems by establishing its own concentration camp: The initial appropriation was five million Reichsmarks, 35 a modest amount to protect its investment of almost a billion Reichsmarks.


For a private company to set up its own concentration camp to insure a supply of labor may have been an odd undertaking, but the problem called for imagination and audacity, especially since the size of the investment and the certain consequences of Hitler’s wrath made abandonment of the project unrealistic. The managing board of directors, without any recorded opposition, felt that economically and politically I.G. had no other choice.


On the other hand, under the circumstances, an I.G. concentration camp had obvious advantages to recommend it.


Inmates would not be drained of their already limited energy by the long marches from the main concentration camp to the construction site. Security would improve and fewer of the scarce S.S. guards would be required. Discipline and punishment would be more effective, and I.G. would also have greater and more immediate control over the use of the inmates.


Of no small consequence, costs would be reduced.



The site chosen for I.G.’s concentration camp was called Monowitz. In the operation of this unique facility I.G. was to be responsible for the housing, feeding, and health of the inmates; the S.S. was charged with the security, punishment, and supply of inmates.


Monowitz was completed in the summer of 1942. Although it belonged to I.G., Monowitz had all the equipment of the typical Nazi concentration camp - watchtowers with searchlights, warning sirens, poised machine guns, armed guards, and trained police dogs.


The entire camp was encircled with electrically charged barbed wire. There was a “standing cell” in which the victim could neither stand upright, kneel, nor lie down. 36 There was also a gallows, often with a body or two hanging from it as a grim example to the rest of the inmates. Across the arched entrance was the Auschwitz motto, “Freedom through Work.”

In the administration of Monowitz, I.G. adopted the principle enunciated by Fritz Saukel, plenipotentiary for labor allocation of the four-year plan:

“All the inmates must be fed, sheltered and treated in such a way as to exploit them to the highest possible extent, at the lowest conceivable degree of expenditure.” 37

The complete Auschwitz installation was now comprised of four entities:

  • Auschwitz I, the original and vast concentration camp with hundreds of thousands of inmates

  • Auschwitz II, the extermination center of gassing chambers and crematory ovens at Birkenau

  • Auschwitz III, the I.G. Buna and synthetic fuel works

  • Auschwitz IV, I.G.’s own concentration camp at Monowitz

When I.G. took its place in the industrial labor complex of Auschwitz and accepted Himmler’s offer of concentration camp labor, it embarked on a road that led ultimately to participation in the most extraordinary crime in civilized history, what Winston Churchill called the crime for which there is no name, the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question.” 38


Even before the Final Solution became the official policy of the German Reich in January 1942, Heinrich Himmler had already started an S.S. program for killing Jews.


When the German armies conquered Poland, Himmler organized special S.S. squads to begin the mass slaughter. The first extermination center was set up at Chelmno, Poland, in the fall of 1939. 39 Three mobile gas vans, using the carbon monoxide from their exhausts, became the first instruments of mass murder.


Primitive and inefficient as this early extermination center was, it reached a killing rate of 1000 a day. 40 Soon the methods of mass destruction of Jews were refined and killing centers with permanent gas chambers, still using carbon monoxide, were opened. One of the most notorious was at Treblinka, near Warsaw, built in early 1941.

In June 1941, Himmler instructed Commandant Hoess to begin the extermination of the Jews at Auschwitz.


Hoess visited Treblinka to study the use of carbon monoxide. Hoess then set up a similar installation at the Birkenau site in Auschwitz. 41 Very soon he realized that carbon monoxide was not sufficiently lethal and was much too slow if Himmler’s goals were to be achieved. 42


Hoess cast around for a better way. What he found was to make him the most successful mass killer in modern history.


In August 1941, using 500 Russian prisoners of war as an experimental group, Hoess introduced into the airtight chambers of Birkenau a new asphyxiating agent, Zyklon B. 43


Actually, Zyklon B, whose generic name is prussic acid, was new only in its application to human beings; its traditional, commercial use was as an insecticide. The result was a revelation of efficiency.

Only one firm, Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Schaedlingsbekampfung (German Corporation for Pest Control), known in the trade as Degesch, supplied this lethal chemical.


The firm and its most valuable asset, the monopoly of Zyklon B manufacture, was owned,

  • 42.5 percent by I.G. Farbenindustrie

  • 42.5 percent by Deutsche Gold und Silberscheidenanstalt - known as Degussa (in which I.G. owned a third)

  • 15 percent by the Theo. Goldschmidt concern. 44

That I.G. dominated Degesch was general knowledge in the chemical industry.


In fact, in its official corporate pronouncements Degesch described itself as an exclusive selling agent for I.G. Moreover, I.G. dominated the Degesch supervisory board: of its eleven members five were from I.G., including the chairman, Wilhelm Mann. 45

Five months after Hoess’s introduction of Zyklon B, Himmler’s personal program to exterminate the Jewish people was transformed into the official policy of the Third Reich. Its formal adoption under the title of the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question” took place in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee, at a meeting presided over by Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the security police and security service of the S.S., and attended by undersecretaries from the various Reich ministries and the top officials of the S.S. 46

At the meeting, Heydrich unfolded the details for the complete annihilation of the Jewish people. Until this program was revealed at Wannsee, only Goering, Goebbels, Himmler, and Bormann knew of Hitler’s ultimate plans for the Jews. 47 Now the civil service was enlisted, and the German bureaucracy became an active party in the execution of this plan. As the preparations began for the Final Solution, the purchases of Zyklon B by the S.S. increased tremendously.

In the past the S.S. had bought moderate amounts of Zyklon B from Degesch as a vermin control in its concentration camps. When the Final Solution added Jews to the S.S. extermination plans, Degesch profits reflected the new prosperity. I.G.’s dividends on its Degesch investment for the years 1942, 1943, and 1944 were double those of 1940 and 1941. 48


At least one top official of Degesch, Gerhard Peters, the managing director, definitely knew about the new use of Zyklon B.


He had been specifically informed of the details of the Final Solution by Kurt Gerstein, the chief disinfection officer of the S.S., who did the purchasing of Zyklon B. 49 There was still another episode that gave the officials of Degesch more than a hint of the dread purpose to which their Zyklon B was being put by the S.S. When manufactured as a pesticide Zyklon B contained a special odor, or indicator, to warn human beings of its lethal presence.


The inclusion of such a warning odor was required by German law. When the S.S. demanded that the new, large order of Zyklon B omit the indicator, no one familiar with the workings of the S.S. could have failed to realize the purpose behind the strange request. The Degesch executives at first were unwilling to comply.


But compassion was not behind their refusal. What troubled them was the fact that the S.S. request endangered Degesch’s monopoly position. The patent on Zyklon B had long since expired.


However, Degesch retained its monopoly by a patent on the warning odor. To remove the indicator was bad business, opening up the possibility of unwelcome competition. 50 The S.S. made short shrift of this objection and the company removed the warning odor. Now the doomed would not even know it was Degesch’s Zyklon B.

I.G.’s camp at Monowitz began operations in September 1942 stocked with inmates from Auschwitz who were to work on the construction of the I.G. rubber and fuel installations. Despite the availability of workers, I.G. was still faced with a labor problem. As Jews from all over Europe were brought into Auschwitz, S.S. physicians picked inmates strong enough to work at I.G. Auschwitz.


People who were considered too weak for construction work were selected for the gassing stations and crematoria of Birkenau. “Selection” was the most dreaded word in a world of dread.

It soon became apparent that the “selections” were being made without sufficient regard for the urgent demands of war production. Too many skilled and reasonably strong workers were being rushed to the ovens although months of useful labor were still in them. For example, during the early months of Monowitz, those in charge of the construction of I.G. Auschwitz were promised a carefully chosen batch of workers culled from a shipment of over 5000 Jews.


However, when the transports were unloaded near the crematory ovens, the camp officials, ignoring the labor needs of I.G. Auschwitz but with punctilious devotion to the Final Solution, sent 4092 of the 5022 to the gas chambers. When objections were raised over such a high rate, the explanation offered was that the males were too frail and the females were mostly children, little girls incapable of construction work. 51


Sometime later, when the transports were reported to contain a more choice supply of skilled Jewish workers, an S.S. official in charge of labor allocation suggested a possible means of avoiding overzealous application of the selection process. He recommended that the trains be unloaded near the I.G. works instead of the “usual place” near the crematory. The improvement was noticeable.


On the next shipment of 4087 Jews, only 2398 were selected for extermination; this was a lower rate than before.


The complaints, however, continued:

“If the transports from Berlin continue to have so many women and children as well as old Jews,” an official said, “I don’t promise myself much in the matter of labor allocation.” 52

From the moment the transports were unloaded at Monowitz, those fortunate enough not to be selected for gassing lived in horror of the extermination center at Birkenau.


When the construction fell behind the scheduled deadlines, I.G. officials often complained that the poor physical condition of the inmates chosen to work at I.G. Auschwitz was responsible.


“Consequently,” observed an eyewitness, the Labor Allocation Officer in Auschwitz went to Monowitz early in the morning when the squads left for work, posted himself near the gate, and picked out those people whom they considered sickly amongst the laborers who marched to their work in files of five. These people were sent to the gas chambers straight away. 53


For thousands of inmates, Monowitz thus became merely a brief stop on the way to Birkenau and extermination.

Conditions were such that sickness was a pervasive fact of life among the inhabitants of Monowitz. The hospital wards built by I.G. were so inadequate that even the S.S. suggested additional wards be built. I.G. refused because of the cost. 54 Later I.G. did expand its hospital facilities but also enforced a rule that no more than five percent of the Monowitz inmates could be sick at any one time, a procrustean matching of beds and illness. The overage was disposed of by shipment to Birkenau.


Even under the five percent rule, inmates confined to the hospital had to be returned to work within fourteen days. Those who failed the fourteen-day test were deemed unrecoverable. On the records that I.G. kept was added the final phrase “Nach Birkenau.” 55

Starvation was a permanent guest at Auschwitz. The diet fed to I.G. Auschwitz inmates, which included the famous “Buna soup” - a nutritional aid not available to other prisoners - resulted in an average weight loss for each individual of about six and a half to nine pounds a week.


At the end of a month, the change in the prisoner’s appearance was marked; at the end of two months, the inmates were not recognizable except as caricatures formed of skin, bones, and practically no flesh; after three months, they were either dead or so unfit for work that they were marked for release to the gas chambers at Birkenau.


Two physicians who studied the effect of the I.G. diet on the inmates noticed that,

“the normally nourished prisoner at Buna could make up the deficiency by his own body for a period of three months.... The prisoners were condemned to burn up their own body weight while working and, providing no infections occurred, finally died of exhaustion.” 56

As for shelter at Monowitz, the inmates slept in three tiers of wooden cubicles.


Each slot, barely large enough for one person to lie down, actually held three. An eyewitness reported, “As a result it was practically impossible to sleep, since if one man was in a reclining position, the others would have to sit up or lie over him.” 57


The simplest comforts were denied; even tables and chairs were almost unknown. Hygienic conditions were subhuman. In the summer the heat was oppressive, almost beyond endurance, and in the winter there was no heat at all.

In cases of infractions of the rules by inmates, the I.G. foremen sent written requests to the S.S. administration for suitable punishment. The S.S. complied, recording on its own forms the details of the I.G. charge and the S.S. disposition.


Typical offenses charged by I.G. included “lazy,” “shirking,” “refusal to obey,” “slow to obey,” “working too slowly,” “eating bones from a garbage pail,” “begging bread from prisoners of war,” “smoking a cigarette,” “leaving work for ten minutes,” “sitting during working hours,” “stealing wood for a fire,” “stealing a kettle of soup,” “possession of money,” “talking to a female inmate,” and “warming hands.”


Frequently reports included the I.G. foreman’s recommendations of “severe punishment.” 58 The response of the S.S. could be forfeiture of meals, lashes by cane or whip, hanging, or “selection.” 59


To meet the construction schedule, the I.G. management worked the inmates at an almost murderous pace. It adopted, for example, the “S.S. trot” as a work tempo so that even cement and other heavy construction materials were carried to the job at “double time.” 60


I.G. plant police and foremen, as well as Capos, continuously threatened and thrashed the prisoners who did not work up to S.S. standards.


At times, the inmates were literally worked to death:

“It was no rare occurrence that detachments of 400 to 500 men brought back with them in the evening 5 to 20 corpses. The dead were brought to the place of roll call and were counted as being present.” 61

Two or three times a week those who died on the site and those from whom all useful life had been extracted were piled on open platforms for all to see and trucked to Birkenau. For the inmate laborer, it was a useful reminder employed effectively by I.G. foremen and S.S. guards.

The construction of I.G. Auschwitz has assured I.G. a unique place in business history. By adopting the theory and practice of Nazi morality, it was able to depart from the conventional economics of slavery in which slaves are traditionally treated as capital equipment to be maintained and serviced for optimum use and depreciated over a normal life span.


Instead, I.G. reduced slave labor to a consumable raw material, a human ore from which the mineral of life was systematically extracted.


When no usable energy remained, the living dross was shipped to the gassing chambers and cremation furnaces of the extermination center at Birkenau, where the S.S. recycled it into the German war economy - gold teeth for the Reichsbank, hair for mattresses, and fat for soap. Even the moans of the doomed became a work incentive, exhorting the remaining inmates to greater effort.

Krauch was satisfied with the system of labor employed at Auschwitz. He wrote to Himmler in July 1943:

I was particularly pleased to hear... that you may possibly aid the expansion of another synthetic factory, which I consider absolutely essential for securing rubber supplies in a similar way as was done at Auschwitz by making available inmates of your camps if necessary. I... would be grateful if you would continue sponsoring and aiding us in this matter. 62

Half a year later, in February 1944, Krauch was still actively sponsoring the Auschwitz approach to the labor problem.


In advising how to deal with a labor shortage at an I.G. plant at Heydebreck, he wrote its officials: “In order to overcome the continuous lack of labor, Heydebreck must establish a large concentration camp as quickly as possible following the example of Auschwitz [emphasis added]” 63


One can only wonder about the reason for Krauch’s enthusiasm. From the bare records available, 300,000 concentration camp workers passed through I.G. Auschwitz of whom at least 25,000 were worked to death. 64 The plants when completed were so enormous that they used more electricity than the entire city of Berlin.


But in the final tally, I.G. Auschwitz was a miserable failure.


Despite the investment of almost 900 million Reichsmarks and thousands of lives, only a modest stream of fuel and not a single pound of Buna rubber was ever produced. 65


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