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The Development of I.G. Farben’s Product Range

I.G. Farben and its companies manufactured a wide range of products. Beyond dyestuffs, the developing line of nitrate fertilizers and munitions, these included diverse pharmaceuticals, artificial fibers, and products for filmmaking and photography.


A project to produce synthetic rubber had stirred much interest during the raw materials shortages of the First World War. Bayer had begun research and development, but without much success. Despite high investment costs, artificial rubber at first was simply not comparable in quality to natural rubber. I.G. Farben filed its first patent for Buna, a synthetic rubber, in 1929. Production on an industrial scale was finally taken up in 1937, when the Buna-plant commenced operations at Schkopau. This was a result of I.G. Farben’s cooperation with the National Socialist government, which was pursuing a policy of economic autarky. In the hope of achieving independence from natural rubber imports, the government provided price subsidies and guaranteed purchases for Buna.


A second cost-intensive project under the purview of Carl Bosch aimed at the production of synthetic fuels. With this idea in mind, Bosch had already acquired (through Hermann Schmitz in 1925) the “Bergius Patent” for a process to convert coal to oil by liquefaction under high pressure. I.G. Farben and Standard Oil of New Jersey agreed to jointly develop high-pressure liquefaction in a September 1927 contract that also delineated a formula for the allocation of potential licensing revenues. Two years later, I.G. Farben sold all liquefaction rights outside Germany to Standard Oil for 35 million US dollars (at the time more than 149 million RM) and took a 20 percent share in a joint holding company with Standard Oil, as the two corporations defined various spheres of interest. A common corporate framework for these agreements was established in 1930 with the Joint American Study Company (JASCO) headquartered in Baton Rouge, LA. The production of synthetic oil had begun at the I.G. plant in Leuna in 1927, but new crude oil discoveries caused the world price to fall sharply. Whether the project should continue became a controversial question within I.G. Farben, as the very high costs up to that time had produced few signs of success.


With the global economic crisis after 1929, I.G. Farben’s nitrates and fuel refinement operations suffered major losses. Sales in dyestuffs, pharmaceuticals, plastics, and photographic materials remained relatively stable, however.

(DOP; transl. NL; based on: Karl Heinz Roth: Die Geschichte der I.G. Farbenindustrie AG von der Gründung bis zum Ende der Weimarer Republik)


[pdf] Karl Heinz Roth_The History of IG Farbenindustrie AG from Its Founding to the End of the Weimar Republic



Borkin, Joseph: The Crime and Punishment of I.G. Farben. New York: Free Press, 1978.

Hayes, Peter: Industry and Ideology: IG Farben in the Nazi Era. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge UP, 1987.

Köhler, Otto: …und heute die ganze Welt. Die Geschichte der IG Farben BAYER, BASF und HOECHST. Cologne: PapyRossa, 1990.

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

Tammen, Helmuth: “Die I.G. Farbenindustrie Aktiengesellschaft (1925–1933). Ein Chemiekonzern in der Weimarer Republik.” Ph.D. dissertation, Freie Universität Berlin, 1978.