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I.G. Farben at the End of the Second World War

 a  “Thus the I.G. theoretically could have produced more for the war effort in the summer of 1945 than in September 1939—and measured by the war year 1943, that meant 100 percent of the poison gas, nickel, and magnesium supplied at that time, 95 percent of the explosives, 90 percent of the organic intermediate products, 84 percent of the synthetc rubber, up to 80 percent of the plasticizers, 75 percent of the methanol, 60 percent of the lubricants, 53 percent of the synthetic gasoline, an almost endless list.”

(Bernd Greiner: IG-Joe. IG Farben-Prozess und Morgenthau-Plan (Frankfurt am Main: Fritz Bauer Institute, 1996), p. 9. (Transl. KL))

As the Second World War came to an end, I.G. Farbenindustrie, one of the biggest chemicals companies in the world, could look back at a long series of successful business years. Not only had the war economy brought enormous profits, but thanks to the autarky policy and the Nazi government’s consequent investments in the production of basic war resources like synthetic motor fuel (Leuna), synthetic rubber (Buna), explosives and so on, I.G. had added large expansions to many of its plants and built a sprawling new facility at I.G. Auschwitz. The latter was lost after the Red Army took Auschwitz on January 27, 1945. After the war, part of the facility was demolished and the rest became a Polish chemicals enterprise.


The military build-up by the Nazi government starting in 1933 brought rapid growth in I.G. Farben profits. Net earnings of 66.8 million RM in 1935 grew into 311.5 million RM by 1941, only to fall again to 145.4 million RM toward the end of the war. Total revenues reached a historic record high of 3.1 billion RM in 1943. The years 1941–1943 saw profits at 366 percent the levels of 1935. From 1936–1944, 2 billion RM were accumulated for dividend payments and cash reserves. High sums were invested in plant expansions and new plants, like those at I.G. Auschwitz, in part planning for the postwar period. Just in the years after the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, I.G. invested 2.1 billion RM in new plant. In 1945, investigators with the Finance Division of the U.S. military government in Germany assessed I.G. Farben’s domestic assets at 6 billion RM, its foreign assets at 1 billion RM. Of the machine parks that I.G. had operated in 1943, 87 percent were still operational at the end of the war.  a 


The profits of I.G. Farben and the endurance of its economic power based on production plant and machine parks did not result only from the combine’s production of resources vital to the war, but were also largely thanks to the exploitation of forced laborers, up to and including their murder, the “Aryanization” of Jewish property, and the takeover and plunder of the chemicals industries in the countries occupied by the German Reich. Given its criminal business activities, the I.G. managers had to wonder how the victorious Allies would treat the company and its leading managers. They managed to avoid the worst. Twenty-four I.G. managers were indicted by the US military tribunal in Nuremberg in May 1947, but at the end of the Nuremberg I.G. Farben trials in July 1948 only thirteen of them were given prison sentences, none of them more than eight years. Already in 1951, however, the last of those still in prison were granted clemency by Allied High Commissioner John McCloy, and they were able to directly resume their careers within the new West German economy.


As far back as 1940, the US Department of Justice had initiated numerous antitrust proceedings against cartel agreements between German and American companies, including those reached by I.G. Farben and Standard Oil. Since 1942 the US Treasury Department under Henry Morgenthau Jr. and the Economic Warfare Section of the Justice Department under James Stewart Martin had put forth demands that the economic backbone of German militarism be broken after the war. They called for the dismantlement of the arms industry, above all of I.G. Farben. In the end, however, these positions failed even to persuade the US military government in Germany. The four Allied occupation powers could not agree on a single strategy for handling the I.G. Farben plants in the different zones of occupation. In the Western zones, which became the Federal Republic of Germany, I.G. Farbenindustrie was broken up into three major successor firmsBayer, BASF und Hoechst—as well as the settlements entity, I.G. Farbenindustrie in Liquidation.

(MN/PEH; transl. NL)


[pdf] Peer Heinelt_The Decartelization and Postwar History of IG Farbenindustrie AG



Greiner, Bernd: Die Morgenthau-Legende. Zur Geschichte eines umstrittenen Plans. Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 1995.

Greiner, Bernd: ‚IG-Joe‘. IG Farben-Prozess und Morgenthau-Plan. Frankfurt am Main: Fritz Bauer Institute, 1996.

OMGUS: Ermittlungen gegen die I.G. Farbenindustrie AG. Nördlingen: Greno, 1986.

Reichelt, W[erner]-O[tto]: Das Erbe der IG Farben. With the collaboration of Manfred Zapp and a preface by Dr. Franz Reuter. Düsseldorf: Econ, 1956.

Stokes, Raymond George: Recovery and resurgence in the West German chemical industry. Allied policy and the I.G. Farben successor companies 1945–1951. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms International, 1986.