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Reception of the I.G. Farben Trial in Nuremberg (Case VI)

Prior to and on the sidelines of the trial, members of defense counsel in particular expressed doubts as to the fairness of the proceedings and introduced the catchword Siegerjustiz, “victor’s justice,” into the conversation to support the theory of “collective guilt.”[1] Although this must be considered a misjudgment (all the accused had defense attorneys of their own choosing, and individual responsibility had to be proven for each defendant regarding the elements that constituted the offenses in the counts of the indictment), it certainly anticipates a tendency in the way the entire trial was received.


While prosecuting attorney Josiah DuBois, disillusioned, stated after the sentencing that “the sentences were light enough to please a chicken thief,”[2] the defendants (whether they now were acquitted or convicted) and their defense counsel were outraged: Fritz ter Meer, in the preface to his history of the plant, published in 1953, points to the “acerbic criticism—all the way to biased distortion of the facts”[3] directed at I.G. Farben. Carl Wurster’s assistant counsel Wolfgang Heintzeler published his assessment of the trial in 1987, terming it a “victors’ judgment of the vanquished,”[4] in which I.G. Farben had gotten “into the public spotlight and into a completely twisted situation.”[5] The accused not only saw the future of their careers threatened and themselves unjustly pilloried while all the other employees of the concern were left alone, but also had to explain their actions to friends and family members.


Immediately after the verdict in the I.G. Farben Trial, the industry, fearing that the American plans for decartelization would indeed be implemented, reacted promptly with a campaign initiated by Theo Goldschmidt, president of the Essen Chamber of Industry and Commerce, against the “unjust justice system.” That theme was also taken up in the West German press: Die Zeit, for example, in an article headlined “Rehabilitation and Revenge,” described the last two trials of industrialists in Nuremberg as events at which “on the eve of a third world war, capitalists [had sat in judgment] of capitalists, and anticommunists of anticommunists.”[6] Military Governor Lucius D. Clay received numerous petitions requesting review of the verdicts that had been pronounced.


I.G. Farben apologist Jens Ulrich Heine bewailed not only the individual blamelessness of the Farben executives, but also their failure to find understanding in their own country: “The tragedy of the former I.G. Farben bigwigs, however, was and is not their having been maligned by hostile foreign countries, humiliated, and convicted by a victor’s tribunal, but their having been forced—especially by the postwar generation—to undergo such things in their own country.”[7]


Contrariwise, left-wing and left-liberal media not only found the verdict too light but also argued that it furthermore annulled the preambles of several Allied laws and regulations regarding the decartelization of I.G. Farben, because it had acquitted the accused of coresponsibility for the Nazi dictatorship’s course leading toward warfare. For the most part, the I.G. Farben managers released from Allied prisons, all of whom were free by 1951 at the latest, were rapidly reintegrated into the supervisory and managing bodies of the chemical industries in the postwar period.

(SP; transl. KL)


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Dubois, Josiah E.: The Devil’s Chemists. Boston: Beacon Press, 1952.

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

Heintzeler, Wolfgang: Was war mit IG Farben? Der Nürnberger Prozess und der Fernsehfilm ‚Väter und Söhne‘. Herford: BusseSeewald, 1987.

Rehabilitierung und Rache. In: Die Zeit, August 12, 1948, (accessed on October 18, 2008).

Ter Meer, Fritz: Die IG Farben Industrie Aktiengesellschaft. Ihre Entstehung, Entwicklung, Bedeutung. Düsseldorf: Econ, 1953.

[1] This attitude was still represented just under 40 years later by Carl Wurster’s attorney, see Wolfgang Heintzeler: Was war mit IG Farben? Der Nürnberger Prozess und der Fernsehfilm ‚Väter und Söhne‘ (Herford: BusseSeewald, 1987), p. 16.

[2] Josiah E. DuBois: The Devil’s Chemists (Boston: Beacon Press, 1952), p. 339.

[3] Fritz ter Meer: Die IG Farbenindustrie Aktiengesellschaft. Ihre Entstehung, Entwicklung, und Bedeutung (Düsseldorf: Econ, 1953), p. 7. (Translated by KL)

[4] Heintzeler: Was war, p. 31. (Translated by KL)

[5] Heintzeler: Was war, p. 35.

[6] “Rehabilitierung und Rache.” In: Die Zeit, August 12, 1948, (accessed on October 18, 2008). (Translated by KL)

[7] Jens Ulrich Heine: Verstand & Schicksal. Die Männer der I.G. Farbenindustrie A.G. (Weinheim: VCH Verlagsgesellschaft, 1990), p. 295. (Translated by KL)