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Employees of I.G. Farben at I.G. Auschwitz

In 1944, there were as many as 30,000 people working at the construction site of I.G. Farben (I.G. Auschwitz). Besides the concentration camp prisoners, who numbered as many as 10,000, and the so-called foreign workers (Fremdarbeiter), the workforce included employees of I.G. Farben and of German and foreign subcontractors hired by the firm.


At the beginning of the construction work, after April 1941, it was primarily I.G. Farben engineers and outside building contractors who were on the job there, assigned to bulldoze the grounds and erect office and factory buildings. Even at that time, prisoners from Auschwitz I, the so-called Buna external work detachment, were being used for forced labor. The construction supervisor, Max Faust, came in June 1941 and was in charge of the civil engineering work. In addition, he conducted the negotiations with the commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp, Rudolf Höss, concerning the deployment of concentration camp inmates at the construction site. In October of that year, a total of 2,700 men and women were working there, and half of them—that is, 1,350 laborers—were prisoners of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Only 10 percent of the workers were Germans; the other men and women were “volunteers” from southern, eastern, and western Europe.


By summer 1942, the workforce had grown to 13,359. Of these personnel, around 8,000 were engaged in construction work, and 500 were engineers, employees, and foremen or master workmen from the subcontracted firms. Along with the earthworks and the building of power plants and chemical facilities, the construction of civil facilities such as housing, offices, and warehouse areas was being expedited. By then, I.G. Farben itself had dispatched precisely 594 engineers and employees, as well as 72 master craftsmen, to I.G. Auschwitz. For this transfer, they all received salary increases, some in the form of “separation allowances.” Moreover, the plant management tried to provide special employee benefits for the personnel—green spaces, embellishments for the apartments, and exemplary medical care, as well as concerts, movies, and theater performances—as a counterbalance to the work and to offset the “sacrifice of the familiar civilization and lifestyle of their homeland.”[1]


In the town of Auschwitz, the homes of Jews arrested and deported to the ghettos of Bendsburg (Bedzin) and Sosnowitz (Sosnowiec) were appropriated and made available to executives of I.G. Auschwitz in April 1941. The plant management had barracks erected to create housing areas for the remaining employees. The workforce of I.G. Auschwitz was categorized in accordance with the Nazi racial hierarchy and housed in a total of 12 barracks camps, separated by origin and status. Along with a camp for the German laborers, there were others for apprentices and office workers, for laborers enlisted from France and Poland, female workers from the East, male workers from the East, English prisoners of war, and the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp.

The construction force had already surpassed the previous number of inhabitants of the town of Auschwitz: The small town of Auschwitz, before the war and expulsion or deportation of all the Jewish and some of the Polish residents, had a population of around 14,000, while there were already 26,000 people working at the I.G. Auschwitz construction site in September 1943. Only 10 percent of that number, however, were German blue- and white-collar workers. In the context of the “beautification plans” for the town of Auschwitz, intended to make an allegedly ugly town classified as “eastern” (ostisch) into a German “model of Eastern settlement [Ostsiedlung],”[2] I.G. Farben participated by investing in modernization of the infrastructure and exerted influence on design issues: As early as June 1941, the plant management had emphasized to the district president of Upper Silesia that expansion of the town of Auschwitz was considered a fundamental condition for settling workers there.


Starting in late October 1944, German women and children were evacuated from Auschwitz as the airstrikes began to increase. Plant manager Walther Dürrfeld, however, wanted to sit tight and forbade the abandonment of the construction site. The workforce did not receive permission to leave I.G. Auschwitz until January 21, 1945. Special trains for laborers and office workers were provided, and anyone who failed to find room aboard them joined the numbers of those making a slow journey westward on foot. On January 23, Dürrfeld and Faust were the last I.G. Farben employees to leave the plant grounds.

(SP; transl. KL)


Walther Dürrfeld, Report about the evacuation of Auschwitz from January 13 to January 24, 1945, Pirna, February 7, 1945, NI-11956. Archive of the Fritz Bauer Institute, Subsequent Nuremberg Trials, Case VI, reel 045, PDB 79 (e), pp. 57–65.

Max Faust, hearing of witness, December 4, 1952. HHStAW, Sec. 460, No. 1424 (Wollheim v. I.G. Farben), Vol. I, pp. 164R–172R.



Steinbacher, Sybille: Auschwitz: A History. New York: Ecco, 2005.

Wagner, Bernd C.: IG Auschwitz. Zwangsarbeit und Vernichtung von Häftlingen des Lagers Monowitz 1941–1945. Munich: Saur, 2000.

[1] Bernd C. Wagner: IG Auschwitz. Zwangsarbeit und Vernichtung von Häftlingen des Lagers Monowitz 1941–1945 (Munich: Saur, 2000), p. 86. (Translated by KL)

[2] Sybille Steinbacher: Auschwitz: A History (New York: Ecco, 2005), p. 62.