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Closure and Dismantling of I.G. Auschwitz, Further Use of the Factory

In summer 1944, the plant management of I.G. Auschwitz began planning for the evacuation of the workforce and “the clearing, paralysing and destruction of the plant”[1] in the event of its imminent capture by the Red Army. The preparations were concluded around the turn of that year. In November 1944, the plant management helped put together a battalion of the German Volkssturm by making available 350 men from the I.G. workforce, who were augmented by a second contingent of men from the plant security force and the alert company in January 1945, and armed with 16 machine guns and 600 rifles.


In the meantime, the construction and assembly work on the plant facilities continued. The seizure of the plant by Red Army troops in January 1945 kept the Buna plant of I.G. Auschwitz from going onstream as planned in February 1945. In contrast to production of synthetic rubber, large-scale production of methanol had started in October 1943. Methanol served as a fuel additive and an important primary product of organic chemistry, as well as a solvent, remover, and methylation agent, and it also had various uses for catalytic oxidation in plastics manufacture. In 1944 alone, I.G. Auschwitz made a total of 28,998 tons of methanol, which represented about 15 percent of Germany’s annual production for 1944. Thus the production of methanol by I.G. Auschwitz was of great importance to the German war economy, as the country’s fuel production sector was seriously impaired by the Allies’ strategic air raids in 1943/44.


The airstrikes by Allied bombers on I.G. Auschwitz were intended to shorten the war by destroying production capacities there. The air raids on September 13 and December 18 and 26, 1944, and finally on January 19, 1945, one day after the evacuation of the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp, caused substantial damage and tied up resources to make costly repairs to the damaged production facilities. Until the end, the plant management devoted all its efforts to the goals of getting the damaged parts of the plant repaired quickly and getting new parts of it up and running for the first time. The last week before the Red Army’s capture of the plant, the carbonization and carbide departments were operational once again. Production of acetaldehyde was “ready to be resumed.” As the plants for intermediate products also were “ready to commence work,” factory manager Walther Dürrfeld was expecting that “the production of Buna would be finally resumed” after “only a slight remaining amount of work ... of about 2–3 weeks’ duration.”[2]


On January 16, 1945, there was an air raid on the plant by the Red Army. The following morning, the civilian population “not tied to work” was evacuated. Dürrfeld had the plant grounds cordoned off by units of the police and plant guards, to prevent the assembling and building firms that were not part of I.G. Farben from taking away their equipment. Parts of the foreign workforce and some Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans without German citizenship) took to their heels. On January 18, 1945, the Gestapo issued an order to shoot anyone who was fleeing, as the police and Volkssturm were unable to prevent the mass flight. While the British prisoners of war were required to continue working at the plant construction site, the prisoners of the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp for the first time did not march out to work. Instead, on the evening of January 18, the SS forced them to begin a death march to Gleiwitz. On January 20, the plant management started the process of “paralyzing” the plant by removing key components. The plant managers decided not to destroy the facilities, presumably in the hope of returning the plant to German control after a German counteroffensive. On January 21, the workforce of I.G. Auschwitz was hurriedly evacuated, and the plant was vacated and locked. On the two following days, secret documents and important items were taken away in trucks and by rail. On  January 27, the Red Army took over the plant grounds.


After the evacuation, the German plant management of I.G. Auschwitz set up several processing centers in the west to collect the members of the workforce as they streamed back, and to settle the demands made by numerous creditors from the building industry. In Heidenau, Saxony, for example, a “Task Force S[ynthesis]” first was responsible for winding up the fuel plant for I.G. Auschwitz; after April 1945 the task force was housed in the Königstein Hitler Youth Home in Saxony. In addition, in Pirna there was another collection center, where around 1,000 former employees were taken in. The financial liquidation of I.G. Auschwitz dragged on for a long while and was continued for years, both by BASF in Ludwigshafen, from which the majority of the German civilian workers at I.G. Auschwitz had come, and by I.G. Farben in Liquidation, founded in 1953. In Auschwitz (Oświęcim), parts of the plant were dismantled by the Red Army in 1945 and reassembled in a coal hydrogenation combine in Kemerovo, a Soviet industrial center in Western Siberia. The remaining parts of the plant of I.G. Auschwitz, for the most part with unaltered factory buildings, were used by the largest chemical complex in the People’s Republic of Poland well into the 1980s, to manufacture plastics and other products. 

(FS; transl. KL)


Karl Braus, affidavit, December 10, 1947, Bü-171. Archive of the Fritz Bauer Institute, Subsequent Nuremberg Trials, Case VI, DDB Bütefisch 1 (g), pp. 86–87.

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.

Die Produktionsentwicklung auf den wichtigsten Gebieten der chemischen Erzeugung. Stand 1. März 1945 nach Ausfall der Industrie in O.S. und in Auswirkung der schweren Luftangriffe auf Produktionsstätten und Verkehr. Bundesarchiv Berlin, R 3112/36, p. 5.



Birkenfeld, Wolfgang: Der synthetische Treibstoff 1933–1945. Ein Beitrag zur nationalsozialistischen Wirtschafts- und Rüstungspolitik. Göttingen/Berlin/Frankfurt am Main: Musterschmidt, 1964.

Gilbert, Martin: Auschwitz and the Allies. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1981.

Plumpe, Gottfried:Die I.G. Farbenindustrie AG. Wirtschaft, Technik und Politik 1904–1945. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1990.

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

[1] 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, here p. 57.

[2] Dürrfeld, Report, p. 58.