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Rudolf Wachsmann’s Lawsuit against I.G. Farben i.L.

Simultaneously with Norbert Wollheim’s lawsuit against I.G. Farben i.L., another survivor of the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp was pursuing an action against the chemical concern. Rudolf Wachsmann had been arrested by the Gestapo in 1940, at the age of 14, and deported to a concentration camp. Starting in April 1943, he had to perform forced labor for I.G. Farben in the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp. His father was beaten to death by SS guards. After liberation, Wachsmann emigrated to the United States, where he acquired American citizenship in 1950 and performed his military service. Relieved of field duty because of physical ailments, he was transferred to Mannheim as a military policeman in fall 1952. Here, on July 23, 1953, his two attorneys, M. Philip Lorber and Henry G. Vogel, filed an action against I.G. Farben i.L. in the American court of the Allied High Commission (AHC). The complaint was based on the serious physical abuse to which Wachsmann had been subjected at the I.G. Auschwitz plant, and on wage claims for forced labor. In all, Wachsmann was asking for 550,000 DM plus 4 percent interest since January 19, 1945.


The representatives of I.G. Farben i.L., whose fear of a huge wave of lawsuits had been fueled by the complaint, based their defense strategy on the notation of formal errors. Above all, they alleged that the American court had no jurisdiction in this case. The reactions of Norbert Wollheim and Henry Ormond were also fearful: They were afraid that their own suit would be endangered. Ormond, believing Wachsmann’s suit to be “in every respect dangerous to Wollheim, and thus also with regard to public opinion,”[1] launched a press campaign to depict Wachsmann in the public eye as an isolated case. The first day of the trial on September 17, 1953, ended in adjournment; as Wachsmann was to be transferred back to the United States by November 1, 1953, I.G. Farben i.L. expected a quick end to the proceedings. Nonetheless, on October 16, the court confirmed its jurisdiction and began the trial with the examination of Wachsmann. After several exchanges of letters between the parties, I.G. Farben i.L. decided in December 1953 to assent to a settlement, not least because the Allies had expressed their interest in such an outcome and the German Federal Minister of Justice and Minister of the Interior were interested in avoiding the setting of a precedent. Wachsmann finally pledged to abandon his right to sue in early February 1954, and he received 20,000 DM from I.G. Farben i.L. in return.

(SP; transl. KL)


Rumpf, Joachim R.: “Der Fall Wollheim gegen die I.G. Farbenindustrie AG in Liquidation.” Unpublished dissertation, Leibniz University, Hanover, 2007.

[1] Joachim R. Rumpf: “Der Fall Wollheim gegen die I.G. Farbenindustrie AG in Liquidation” (unpublished dissertation, Leibniz University, Hanover, 2007), p. 172. (Translated by KL)