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The I.G. Farben Successor Firms

I.G. Farbenindustrie AG was subjected to “dispersal” by the Allied occupation government in 1952. Four successor companies were created: Bayer, BASF, Hoechst und Cassella. The influence of former business elites under the Nazi regime, including leading I.G. managers, proved decisive in the process of “dispersal.” Starting in October 1953, I.G. shareholders could trade their stock for shares in the successor firms. On January 21, 1955, the Allied High Commission with the agreement of the West German government issued the I.G. Liquidation Conclusion Law,[1] which set up the legal basis for I.G. Farben i.L. and also annulled Article 10 of the earlier Allied occupation Law No. 35 of 1950 (Dispersal of Assets of I.G. Farbenindustrie AG). Article 10 had prohibited mergers among the successor firms and the rehiring of I.G. managers convicted in the Nuremberg trial against I.G. Farben.


Before 1955 was out, former I.G. Farben board member Friedrich Jähne, who had been convicted of war crimes at Nuremberg, was hired as the chairman of the Hoechst AG directors’ board. In 1956, former I.G. board member Fritz ter Meer, also convicted of war crimes at Nuremberg, took over the same function with the Bayer AG. Former I.G. Farben board member Carl Wurster, who had been a “military economy leader” (Wehrwirtschaftsführer) and recipient of the “Knight’s Cross for War Service” but was exonerated at Nuremberg, had already been serving as the chief executive of BASF AG since 1952. Alongside these three, the successor firms employed scores of other executives who had filled functions at I.G. Farben under National Socialism.


Bayer, BASF and Hoechst paid out dividends of 10 percent each in 1956. Cassella was taken over by Hoechst in 1970, so that just 20 years after the “dispersal,” only the “Big Three” of the German chemicals industry remained. These were the same three companies that had taken part in the “Interessen-Gemeinschaft” agreement of 1916 and initiated the creation of the I.G. Farbenindustrie combine in the year 1925. Just 20 years after the recreation of Bayer, BASF and Hoechst, “each company was […] bigger than I.G. at its zenith.”[2]


These companies considered themselves to be free of any legal obligations arising from I.G.’s history. Bayer, BASF and Hoechst rejected all compensation demands by former forced laborers until the late 1990s. They argued that the decartelization of I.G. Farben had created “three organizationally and completely new and independent companies” that bore “no responsibility for the atrocities of the Nazi terror against forced laborers,”[3] as the chief executive of Hoechst, Jürgen Dormann, claimed at an annual conference in response to a speech by the anti-fascist resistance campaigner Peter Gingold, who had spoken to demand compensation for former I.G. forced laborers from the successor companies.[4] Critical shareholders who demanded such debates on the issue at annual conferences were as a rule thrown out of the meetings by company security personnel, often in brutal fashion. Bayer, BASF and Hoechst conceded nothing until the late 1990s, when surviving forced laborers filed class action suits against their former “employers” in US courts. The accompanying protests captured the attention of the international media. Seeing a threat to their sales abroad, the three companies joined other affected German corporations in the German Economy Foundation Initiative.


Hoechst AG merged in 1999 with Rhône-Poulenc to form the pharmaceuticals giant Aventis S.A., spinning off its remaining chemicals activities to the new Celanese AG. Aventis merged in 2004 with Sanofi-Synthélabo to form Sanofi-Aventis. In 2005, Hoechst was converted into a limited company acting as an intermediary within the Sanofi-Aventis group without its own operating business. But the industrial park at the town Höchst remains the company headquarters and largest plant of the Sanofi-Aventis group. Bayer AG remains headquartered in Leverkusen and today, in 2008, owns about 350 companies around the world. In 2007 Bayer achieved sales revenues of 32.385 billion euros. BASF is still headquartered in Ludwigshafen and today operates about 150 production plants around the world. With 57.951 billion euros in revenues, these yielded a net profit of 4.065 billion euros in 2007.

(MN/PEH; transl. NL)


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

[pdf] Peer Heinelt_Financial Compensation for Nazi Forced Laborers



Abelshauser, Werner: “Die BASF seit der Neugründung von 1952.” In: Id., ed.: Die BASF. Eine Unternehmensgeschichte. Munich: Beck, 2002, S. 359–637.
Borkin, Joseph: The Crime and Punishment of I.G. Farben. New York: Free Press, 1978.

Coordination gegen Bayer-Gefahren, ed.: IG Farben. Von Anilin bis Zwangsarbeit. Zur Geschichte von BASF, Bayer, Hoechst und anderen deutschen Chemie-Konzernen. Stuttgart: Schmetterling, 1995.

Heine, Jens Ulrich: Verstand & Schicksal. Die Männer der I.G. Farbenindustrie A.G. Weinheim: VCH Verlagsgesellschaft, 1990.

I.G. Farbenindustrie Aktiengesellschaft in Liquidation: Bericht über die Entflechtung und Liquidation. Vorgelegt aus Anlass der ordentlichen Hauptversammlung am 27. Mai 1955. Frankfurt am Main, 1955.

Lindner, Stephan H.: Inside IG Farben: Hoechst during the Third Reich. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge UP, 2008.

[1] The title in German was “Gesetz Nr. 84 der Alliierten Hohen Kommission – Beendigung der Entflechtung und der Liquidation der I.G. Farbenindustrie AG i.L. auf Grund des Gesetzes Nr. 35.” (“Law No. 84 of the Allied High Commission – Conclusion of the Decartelization and Liquidation of I.G. Farbenindustrie AG i.L. on the basis of Law No. 35.”) It is reproduced in I.G. Farbenindustrie Aktiengesellschaft in Liquidation: Bericht über die Entflechtung und Liquidation. Vorgelegt aus Anlass der ordentlichen Hauptversammlung am 27. Mai 1955 (Frankfurt am Main, 1955), Appendix 5.

[2] Joseph Borkin: The Crime and Punishment of I.G. Farben (New York: The Free Press, 1990), p. 163.

[3] Quoted in Coordination gegen Bayer-Gefahren, ed.: IG Farben. Von Anilin bis Zwangsarbeit. Zur Geschichte von BASF, Bayer, Hoechst und anderen deutschen Chemie-Konzernen (Stuttgart: Schmetterling, 1995), p. 211. (Translated by NL)

[4] Jürgen Strube, chair of the BASF management board, in 1995 also expressed his regrets about the “use of forced laborers” while insisting however that his company was “not the legal successor of I.G. Farben” (as quoted in Coordination gegen Bayer-Gefahren, ed.: IG Farben, p. 215).