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The I.G. Farben Corporation’s Confiscation of Firms in the Conquered Territories

The leading organs of I.G. Farben welcomed the territorial expansion of the German Reich. Austria was annexed in March 1938, German forces marched into the Czech Sudetenland that October, and Bohemia and Moravia were occupied in March 1939. The I.G. combine lost no time in pursuing a “new order” for the chemicals industry in the annexed territories, starting in Austria with a rapid takeover of the Skoda Wetzler AG nitrates plant and its subsidiaries. I.G. Farben had first bought into Skoda Wetzler in January 1938, before the occupation of Austria; it acquired the rest of the shares from Kreditanstalt-Bankverein in June, a few months after it. The Jewish executives Isidor Pollak and Franz Rottenberg (both of whom the Nazis had already arrested) and all other “non-Aryan” personnel were immediately fired. Hans Kühne, the director of I.G.’s Lower Rhine region, was named as the new head manager of the Skoda Wetzler plants. Four months later, I.G. Farben took over the Austrian holdings of the Slovakian munitions maker, Dynamit Nobel Bratislava. These were merged with Skoda Wetzler to form a new subsidiary of I.G. Farben, Donau Chemie AG. I.G. Farben’s prior Austrian sales organization (Anilin-Chemie Vienna) was dissolved. All I.G. Farben and Donau Chemie sales were thereafter conducted through the new Donau-Chemikalien Verkaufsgesellschaft mbH.


All of these transactions were coupled with a merciless expulsion of Jews from the expropriated enterprises. Unlike the methods used in Germany prior to 1938, all personnel identified as Jewish were simply fired summarily and thrown out into the street without severance pay. I.G. managers did not lift a finger to prevent the anti-Semitic violence that often followed on what they termed “purchase negotiations,” such as the brutal murder of Isidor Pollak by an SA commando. Within the central I.G. sales committee, the subcommittee for Southeast Europe under Max Ilgner hoped to take ownership as quickly as possible of the Austrian fertilizer and explosives industries, the capacities of which had been immediately integrated into the ongoing programs of the Reich Agency for Economic Expansion. I.G. Farben was able to raise 192 million RM for a slate of investments to take control, with the finance coming largely from the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe. Before the formal launching of Donau Chemie AG was even complete, I.G. started building new production complexes for airplane fuel, lubricants, magnesium, and the militarily vital inorganic chemicals of nitric acid and chlorine. 


The German Reich’s annexation of the Sudetenland in October 1938 gave I.G. a crack at the chemicals and metallurgical plants of the Verein für Chemische und Metallurgische Produktion (“Aussiger Verein”) in Falkenau and Aussig/Ústí nad Labem. The I.G. central sales committee had set its sights on this target already in April 1938. As conflicts arose with other parties interested in the plants, the Reich Economics Ministry stepped in to mediate a contract that was signed on December 7, 1938. I.G. Farben and the Chemische Werke of Heyden jointly bought Aussiger Verein for 32.4 million RM, although it had been valued at 120 million RM. Aussiger Verein was reorganized as the Chemische Werke Aussig-Falkenau GmbH, with each of the two partners providing half of the 10 million RM in equity capital. I.G. Farben thus achieved the predominant position in the chemicals industry of the Sudetenland.


Soon after the German Reich’s invasion of Poland in September 1939, I.G. Farben began to draft and develop a “Europe Plan” that was largely complete by the fall of 1940. This was not some set of projections for a long-term future. Instead, the I.G. central sales committee planned around the campaigns of the “Blitzkrieg,” targeting the new assets and chemicals markets that the conquests would bring within I.G.’s reach in the near term. It appointed specialist staffs to draw up situational evaluations and action scenarios for each case, consisting of representatives from the relevant I.G. divisions, sales networks and plant managements alongside experts on the various national and specialty groups within the Technical Committee. Staff from the I.G. political economy department passed the scenarios down to central and local decision-makers, in the expectation that all obstacles to rapid implementation would be swept away. The leading bodies of I.G. generally would not wait long for negotiations to show results. Instead, using their experiences with Austria and Aussig-Falkenau as the templates, I.G. would dispatch sales and technical personnel immediately to newly-occupied territories, where they would work with the military’s economics command in locating the plunder, advising in the resumption of production and preparing to take over ownership. These preparations served to greatly increase I.G. Farben’s chances of taking over targeted properties.


Soon after the invasion of Poland, I.G. staff were on the scene to inspect the most important enterprises and plants. The Reich Economics Ministry agreed to appoint commissars from I.G. Farben to oversee the chemicals company Boruta S.A. in Zgierz and the dyestuffs factories at Winnica and Wola. In one swoop, I.G. Farben had taken control of almost the entire Polish coal-tar dye industry. Polish shareholders in Boruta were expropriated. I.G. Farben leased Boruta from the Reich’s property trust for the Eastern occupied territories, before purchasing the firm outright in 1942 with support from the “Reich Commission for the Securing of German National Property.” As for the dyestuff factory in Wola, which had been operated by Jewish owners, I.G. Farben shut it down and took part in its liquidation. A different strategy was followed with the plants at Winnica, which had been built in 1931 by the French chemicals company Kuhlmann. I.G. Farben held that it was already absentee owner of 50 percent of this enterprise through I.G. Chemie Basel, and received ownership of the rest after Germany conquered France.


With assistance from the Reich Economics Ministry, I.G. Farben was also able to put through its plans for occupied France. Despite attempts by the French chemicals firms to stall the inevitable, I.G. Farben was granted a 51 percent share in the French dyestuffs industries in November 1940, after conceding to French firms a one percent share in I.G. Farben itself. This was the basis for the launching of a joint venture, Francolor S.A., with a startup capital of 800 million francs. In addition, I.G. representatives applied massive pressure to achieve the liquidation of companies they did not take over, even as the pharmaceuticals Rhône-Poulenc declared itself prepared to take part in joint sales companies. Conceding to objections that the “defense economy” must take priority, I.G. Farben withdrew the liquidation proposals and guided the integration of the French chemicals industry into the German war economy. However, the turning tides of war and the French Résistance soon raised doubts about the stability of any of these constructs.

(GK; transl. NL; based on: Karl Heinz Roth: Die I.G. Farbenindustrie AG im Zweiten Weltkrieg)


[pdf] Karl Heinz Roth_IG Farbenindustrie AG in World War II



Archive of the Fritz Bauer Institute, Subsequent Nuremberg Trials, Case VI, PDB 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56.

Franz Rottenberg, affidavit, September 13, 1947, NI-10997. Archive of the Fritz Bauer Institute, Subsequent Nuremberg Trials, Case VI, PDB 52.



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

Osterloh, Jörg: Nationalsozialistische Judenverfolgung im Reichsgau Sudetenland 1938–1945. Munich: Oldenbourg, 2006.

Puchert, Berthold: “Fragen der Wirtschaftspolitik des deutschen Faschismus im okkupierten Polen 1939 bis 1945, mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der IG Farbenindustrie AG.” Unpublished habilitation dissertation, Humboldt-Universität Berlin, 1968.