The Significance of IG Farben
Chemistry, Literature and Jews
J. I. Nelson, Ph.D., 2009
bottom & links
I.G. Farben Bldg from the air, 1954. Frankfurt, Germany
click photo to enlarge (1400 pix & no green labels)

The IG Farben Hochhaus (HQ Building)
and the American District in Frankfurt, 1954

Aerial photo ca 1954 courtesy of Allen Monasmith, Frankfurt American High Class of 1961
with thanks also to Jim Selander '59

The  IG Farben Hochhaus in Frankfurt, Germany, seemed so big because I was so small.  We drove Dad to work there in the early 50s. I wondered why the building was so symbolically important to him.  When another alumnus of the Army American high school in Frankfurt produced the wonderful IG Farben photo above, it was time to find out what made the building so important to so many people.       


I graduated from the American Army elementary school in 1956 (8th grade), and did my Freshman year at the Frankfurt American High School (9th grade).    

From Frankfurt American High School it was a straight run down Miguelallee / Adickesallee to the PX at WAC Circle (WAC: Women's Army Corps).  For an easy look today, go to and switch to maps.  Do a map search on Adickesallee near Eckenheimer Landstrasse, Frankfurt, Germany  Turn on SATELLITE imagery with the SATELLITE button at the top of the map, and zoom in!   If you ran around there as a kid 50+ years ago, believe me, it has changed.  

"Miguelallee" changes to "Adickesallee" at Eschersheimer Landstraße.  The PX was the next major intersection, Eckenheimer Landstraße.  

Somehow the U-bahn got built under the Eschenheimer Tor during the 60s.  

Eschenheimer Turm, Ruth Schwarz 2001
Eschenheimer Turm 1965, during U-Bahn construction.
from Der Eschenheimer Turm - Ein Wahrzeichen Frankfurts“ von Ruth Schwarz, 2001

Spelling:  it's "Eschenheimer" if you come from inside the old city walls, and "Eschersheimer" outside. (I fumbled for years;  now they tell me.)  The Eschenheimer Turm was only built around 1813, but the road goes back to the 1300s.  In the early 1300s,  Frankfurt created its commercial district to the north  (remember the Hauptwache?).     Eschersheimer and the tower had been the north gate to the medieval city with its medieval city walls, now torn down to form a band of parkland around the Altstadt.  

In the USA (and Australia, and ??), Google Maps offers street views.  Cars with roof-top-mounted panoramic cameras have driven down the streets of most American towns and cities and, unbeknownst to residents, photographed their yards, homes, parked cars.   But the little street view "pedestrian man"  icon isn't "live" in Frankfurt yet (2009).   

Everyone loved the Frankfurt PX and pictures of it are all over the Web.

The Frankfurt PX 1956 - Photo: Kent Hoffman 
click to enlarge                         
The Frankfurt PX, July 1956.  Photo by Kent Hoffman.

A better virtual visit requires downloading Google Earth to your PC.  Google Maps can only parachute you in (zooming).  Google Earth can tilt the satellite imagery and fly you by plane across the  landscape.  In a major city like Frankfurt, major buildings have 3-D images inserted (obtained from low-level, non-satellite sources).  Here's a Google approximation to the 1954 aerial recon photo above, looking NW to the Taurus Mountains.

I.G. Farben Bldg & American district of Frankfurt from Google Earth, lookng NW to Taunus Mts

Go to VIEW / SHOW NAVIGATION / ALWAYS to get the little blue and white hubcaps turned on in the upper right corner -- otherwise you can't tilt the map and cruise.  Lots is there, but the PX is gone.  

To put our high school on the map (literally), we need a good street-level view of the building.  If you've got it, or a photo of the Idlehour Theater that we can submit to Google's Panoramio service, then send it to Jim Selander '59          azselander with the numerals"four""two"  at qwest dot net  or to me, jerry-va at removethistextspeakeasy dot net.  


Cheers to all my Frankfurt American Elementary School and High School classmates.  When I came over to play, your parents asked what my Dad did.  As soon as I said, "I don't know" everyone laughed (at me, it seemed) because now they knew.    He was a "gum shoe" they said.  As a little fourth-grader, that explained nothing to me. (Go to the closet.  Which shoe is gummy?)   The intelligence services couldn't invent even a  4th-grade cover story back then, but I'm sure secrecy is  perfect today.  

The Central Intelligence Agency's Frankfurt Station where Dad worked was in the IG Farben Building.  He and the other guys always said the Allies didn't bomb it so they could use it as an office building after Germany was defeated.  Completed in 1931, it was the biggest office building in all of Europe at the time.  

The CIA in postwar Germany rebuilt German civic society.  Jews who had fled Hitler  were now working with American citizenship in American intelligence.  They worked to prevent the rise of prominent Nazis in post-War Germany (understandable), they ran covert projects to turn German pacifist sentiment around in favor of German re-armament and in favor of a new German standing army (amazing).  


The IG Farben industrial chemical cartel powered the Nazi war machine and the people who ran it got medals for their efforts.  At the Buna Chemical Plant  attached to the Auschwitz death camp ("Buna Werke", administered from Auschwitz III/Monowitz), the IG Farben cartel used slave labor to produce synthetic gasoline and oil, and synthetic rubber.  Other camps made munitions, stuffing explosive powder into artillery shell casings bare-handed.  You could work until you dropped dead, or you could just weaken gradually and be culled for the gas chambers.  As it said on the main camp's entrance gate,  "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work Sets You Free), in the sense that death is the ultimate freedom.

At least by then there was an effective gas for the chambers, the famous Zyklon B, a  chemical provided by a joint  IG Farben and Degussa AG venture. The joint venture was the German Company for Pesticides, or Degesch for short, specializing in insect and vermin control; e.g., chemicals for fumigating grain storage elevators.   With an ambulance that had the exhaust piped into the van, people you picked up because they were too sick to work anymore weren't already dead when you reached the crematorium.  Better technology to the rescue.

Dad's office was in the IG Farben HQ building.  Dad  more than once wondered out loud whether he was walking the same corridors where a white-coated IG Farben chemist first shouted Eureka, I've found it, Zyklon B!

Zyklon B was used to kill over a million people.  Zyklon B's active ingredient is simple, it is just HCN, hydrogen cyanide, plus packaging.  Like trinitroglycerin, HCN is an oily liquid.  If you jar a bottle of trinitroglycerin, it detonates (explodes) and kills you.  Alfred Nobel discovered that trinitroglycerin could be stabilized  by absorbing the oily liquid in diatomaceous earth or sawdust. He sold the stuff wrapped in waxed paper rolls 8" long.   He never got a Nobel prize for his discovery, but he made enough money selling his 8" sticks of dynamite to endow all the other prizes.  

Dad was wrong about Zyklon B.  True, IG Farben had the Zyklon B patents and made money by  licensing  them to the American Cyanamid Company for use, for example, in de-lousing incoming Mexican immigrants in the 1930s.  Besides patents, IG Farben arranged the manufacturing and enjoyed the profits from  Zyklon B, but it wasn't invented in the IG Farben building where Dad worked.  Zyklon was developed years before (early 1920s) by chemists working under Fritz Haber in perhaps the most prestigious research institute in all of Germany, the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Elektrochemistry at Berlin-Dahlem.  

HCN (hydrogen cyanide)  is a liquid which evaporates readily and boils completely at room temperature (78 deg F), turning into a colorless, almost odorless gas that kills you. As with Alfred Nobel and trinitroglycerin, Fritz Haber's group absorbed the oily HCN onto several carriers including the same diatomaceous earth that Nobel had used. They invented and added an additional stabilizer and an artificial odorant  strong and irritating enough to alert people and drive them away if the gas leaked (boiled) out.  For  exterminating humans, the Nazis ordered the strong, irritating odorant to be omitted (in violation of German law).  By that time, the carrier for the oily HCN had changed from diatomaceous earth to anhydrous calcium sulfate in a crystalline form (e.g, heat gypsum to 650 deg C), whose many interstices could absorb a lot of HCN.  The stuff looked like chalky white pellets, the size of beans or large peas.  The gas was released by heating the pellets.  It is absorbed through the skin (or by breathing).  

In sum, IG Farben owned the property and made the money, but Fritz Haber's group invented Zyklon A & B.  Personally, I would have chosen an organophosphate nerve gas to paralyze the victims, since IG Farben had the patents and production facilities for that  too (Tabun).  With a cellular respiratory poison like HCN, people screamed and thrashed about so terribly that the guards waiting with tractors for the bodies had to rev their engines to drown out the unpleasantness.


Fritz Haber (1868 - 1934, heart attack) received the 1918 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for inventing a way to convert the atmosphere's inert nitrogen gas to ammonia.  His invention has driven the world population up by billions of people, fed with fertilizer made with air and energy.  Let us praise Fritz Haber for feeding billions, which is thousands of times more people than the million or so he  killed as "The Father of Chemical Warfare" and the perfecter of Zyklon B.  

Haber defended gas warfare against accusations that it was inhumane, saying that death was death, by whatever means it was inflicted. His first poison gas was chlorine.  He personally supervised its release at Ypres, in 1915.  

German troops hauled 5730 cylinders of chlorine gas, weighing ninety pounds each, to the front by hand.  Manually turning on the valves, they released 168 tons of chlorine gas over a 6.5 km (4 mile) front.  Approximately 6,000 French and allied troops died within ten minutes, and many others were blinded.  Denser than air, the chlorine gas sank into the trenches, forcing the troops to climb out, whereupon they were mowed down by heavy enemy fire.  The Germans were surprised at their own success -- they did not have  reserves lined up to rush into the 4 mile gap they had just erased from the front lines of World War I.      

No one was more surprised than Fritz Haber himself.  When he got home and told his wife, she got his service revolver and committed suicide in the garden of their home.  As a Ph.D. chemist herself, she appreciated fully what he was doing, and had long objected to his work on poison gas, however patriotic.

Shot in the heart, she was dead by morning.  Haber left for the next gas release, on the Eastern Front against Russians.

Not only does the Haber-Bosch process make the fertilizers that support the world's population today, it also "fixed" (captured for further chemical reaction)  the nitrogen needed for Germany's military explosives in both World Wars I and II.  Nitrogen is important in both fertilizer and explosives.  Remember all the nitrogen in trinitroglycerin, or trinitrotoluene ("TNT") or for that matter, think of Timothy McVeigh and his truck of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and fuel oil.

Haber was a patriot who did anything he could for national security.  Haber compromised his humanity to follow his country.   He could lie to himself about the moral position his wife had taken, but there was one thing he could not lie about to anyone:  his parents were Jewish.  His country now forced him to flee.  He died a year later in 1934, still unable to secure a position that came close to the one he had enjoyed at the pinnacle of society in the world's most powerful nation.  

It was a blessing for him to be dead when the Zyklon B gas developed in his own laboratory (as a pesticide and fumigant) was used to murder his own Jewish relatives in  Nazi gas chambers.  

To whom might Fritz Haber have appealed for help before the pellets were heated and the gas came out?  To what court?  Citing what broken law, what  violated Constitutional amendment?  Haber watched the slow perversion of his own society -- its courts and customs, police and power.  His choice? The winning side.  If you were at the pinnacle of society in the world's most powerful nation, wouldn't you want to stay there?   But  for a Jew, the die was cast and  there was no winning side.  The relatives of one of the country's greatest patriots were murdered by the state, the state Fritz Haber had always served.  No outside enemy  rode in to crush the people's freedom.  The government turned on its own citizens and killed them.  


Interessen-Gemeinschaft Farbenindustrie, AG  (I.G. Farben for short) was the fourth largest corporation in the world in the 1930s, after General Motors, U.S. Steel, and Standard Oil of New Jersey.  Thus IG Farben was the largest chemical company in the world.  

ORGANIZATION:  The Interessen-Gemeinschaft was modeled after the United State's trusts from the heyday  of laissez-faire capitalism when the Bayer company's Carl Duisberg returned (1904) from an eye-opening visit to Standard Oil  of New Jersey in 1903.  Before WWI, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890 and the Clayton Act of 1914 dampened the German companies' enthusiasm for merging completely into a US-style trust (complete with price-fixing), and only loose alliances were formed.  These were the Dreibund of BASF, Bayer and Agfa,  and the Dreierverband (Hoechst, Cassella, Kalle).  Only later did Carl Duisberg  succeed in creating the all-embracing IG Farben of the 1930s.  Interestingly, Duisberg is implicated in using slave labor in WWI, when Belgians captured in 1914 were deported to Germany.

World War I changed the minds of many German chemical company leaders when they saw foreign countries disregard their patents and enter the market with competing products.  In 1916, the Dreibund and the Dreierverband joined with "Chemische Fabrik vormals Weiler ter Meer"  to form the precursor to IG Farben, the Interessengemeinschaft der deutschen Teerfarbenfabriken  (Common Interest Association of the German Coal Tar Dye Factories).  Chemische Fabrik Griesheim-Elektron joined this  "IG" in 1917.  Carl Duisberg pressured them to give up their independence, and after eight years he succeeded.

On 25 December 1925, all members fully merged to become subsidiaries of a single corporate entity, and IG Farben AG was born.  The merging members were:
  • BASF, The Badischen Anilin- und Sodafabrik (Ludwigshafen)
  • Bayer ( Leverkusen near Cologne)
  • Agfa, or Aktiengesellschaft für Anilinfabrikation (Mortsel near Antwerp and Leverkusen) 
  • Hoechst (including Casella and Chemische Fabrik Kalle) 
  • Chemische Fabrik vormals Weiler ter Meer (Uerdingen) 
  • Chemische Fabrik Griesheim-Elektron (Griesheim)  
 The new company employed 80,000 workers.  Counting the R&D labs and management, the total was 100,000.  By the time IG Farben was ready to build an industrial park worth of new factories and to contract with the Nazi SS to buy prisoners to work in them, the total had risen to 218,000 employees (1938).  
Sitting administratively above the Board of Directors  (Vorstand; also translated as Managing Board) with Carl Bosch as Chairman (or General Director) was the Supervisory Board (Aufsichtsrat), which ran everything.  Carl Duisberg was Chairman of this "Council of the Gods", and Fritz Haber was a member -- a God in German society.  Humans order themselves socially as a matter of expediency.  No rung on a social ladder could ever be high enough to protect the person sitting on it from being tramped as a matter of expediency for others. 

CHEMISTRY:   The name "Farben" (colors) refers to the colorful dyes that were among the first compounds to come out of the German chemical revolution, to come out of the birth and explosive growth of organic chemistry and polymer science (plastics).

Steel-making led to German  prominence in organic chemistry and pharmaceuticals.  Organic chemistry means carbon chemistry, and the carbon was in the coal used to make steel. 

LOTS OF COAL TAR:  Germany processed and burned its ample resources of coal as it became a major steel producer.  Coal processing for steel production involves driving off the volatile compounds in coal by heating it (without air) to make coke, which burns hotter and imparts no further impurities to steel save carbon.  Carbon ("carbon steel") makes it possible to heat-treat (harden) and temper (soften) the steel.  True, carbon is itself a contaminant that must be controlled, but a useful one. 

The volatile compounds resulting from coke production were the coal tars,  the soup from which new life emerged; namely,  the German chemical and pharmaceutical industries.  Many of the 10,000 different molecules in the coal tar "soup" are cyclic carbon rings -- benzine and its variants -- such as phenols, aniline, and heterocyclics.  These kinds of ring structures are highly reactive and easily opened the door to organic -- carbon-based -- chemistry.  The first products to come from the rings were dyestuffs (aniline dyes), phenol soaps and disinfectants, and later, pharmaceuticals.  Organic chemistry was coal-driven before it was oil-driven (the "petrochemical" industry of today). 

The easiest carbon ring to form and modify has been the 6-carbon ring, "benzene".   It accounts today for nearly 10% of the 24 million known (disclosed) compounds in the Chemical Abstracts Service Registry database.  German coal tar soup was so nourishing to industrial discovery and expansion because so many benzene variants were already in it.   The job was only to separate the ingredients and see what each could do.

POLYMERIZING FOR PLASTICS:  Building blocks of a similar size -- rings or not --  when polymerized (strung together in repeating units), formed plastics.  If the strung-together chains zig-zagged repeatedly instead of being straight and taught, then the polymer was potentially elastic and might be a synthetic rubber.  If the factory does  the polymerization for you, it is a plastic or synthetic rubber.  If you do the polymerization yourself, the product is a varnish (paint) or glue.  You polymerize  with oxygen (a breeze) and UV bombardment (sunlight) by putting the varnished, painted or glued item outside in the sun to "dry" (harden).  For varnish or pigmented varnish ("paint"), solvents are added to retard  polymerization, so in a sense the varnish or paint really is "drying", but the real issue (goal) here is polymerization not solvent loss.  If the air's oxygen isn't enough, a chemical oxidizer is used.  "MEKP" is popular (methyl ethyl ketone peroxide).

6-carbon rings of benzene are easily added to because half the carbon-to-carbon bonds are double and can be "opened", making an added attachment point.  One of the original chemical bonds continues to hold the ring together, while the chemist attaches something new to the other.   Plastics (whether based on  rings or not) can use opened double bonds to link the long (polymerized) chains to one another.  This hardens the plastic, changing it  from bendable to hard (wine glass, plastic knife).  Hardening synthetic rubber by cross-linking it this way is called "vulcanization".  Hardened oils are called margarine, but no one wants to buy it if you use up all the double bonds ("saturated fats").  It's better if each building block has more than one double bond left ("polyunsaturated") because your own body (so the thinking goes) can more easily attach something itself (metabolize it), rather than leaving the fat to pile up as arterial deposits.  

As one of the planet's life forms, I've always thought it pretentious to call all this industrial-style, smoke-stack carbon chemistry "organic chemistry".  

PROTEINS FROM AMINO ACIDS:  The carbon-based, organic chemistry we use to build living things depends on proteins.  Like polymers (plastics, synthetic rubber, drying varnish, paint or glue), proteins are long strings of building blocks.  But the building blocks are chosen, one at a time, from a list of 21 different candidates, most of which humans can manufacture themselves, except for 9 that must come from the foods we eat.  The building blocks are "amino acids", and we're talking polymer chains (proteins) that are typically 400 to 1200 amino acids long -- a protein's length is specific, not just the sequence of amino acids chosen to reach that length.  These long amino acid chains (proteins) are in turn the building block for one or another of the body's many types of tissues.
All of us are born able to specify all the sequences for all the polymers we will ever need.  The sequences are inherited in our DNA.  To put a particular protein into production, the correct bit of DNA must be selected from the entire genome, transcribed to RNA that can be exported from the nucleus to more peripheral cellular factories, and translated, amino acid by amino acid, into one strand of "polymer" (actually a  "heteromer").  

The final difference between even the worst lunkhead you know and a block of plastic is that the amino acid chain folds to make a geometrical structure of a completely determined form and geometry, perhaps a tube for strength, a pore for passing dissolved ions of a particular salt into or out of a cell, a flat sheet, or a lock-and-key shape central to life and  a target for drug delivery.  Specific amino acid sequencing (DNA, heredity) makes specific folding possible, but how the folding is controlled is still not understood.  Folding failure --unfold, refold -- leads to tangled protein mats and the brain "plaques" seen in Alzheimer-related degeneration.  Specific amino acid sequence, specific length, specific folded shape.

A protein building block can be used in relative isolation (a messenger dispatched into the blood stream), or "polymerized" to make -- ultimately --  a tendon or other tissue.  Genetics no longer guides that polymerization, but, in life, building blocks  tend to get put  together in orderly, dense, anisotropic ways compared to industrial polymers.  


By the eve of World War II, we were well beyond only "farben" at IG Farben.    28 of the firm's major products were considered of strategic importance for national security by  the Hitler regime.  IG Farben supplied explosives with the (Fritz) Haber-Bosch process.  It supplied synthetic gasoline and synthetic rubber, Perlon (a Nylon variant) for parachutes and tires, and Zyklon B for gassing enemies of the state.

CHEMISTRY IS CROSS-LICENSED:  As a global multinational corporation, IG. Farben cross-licensed other global companies, and they divided up the world's markets among themselves.  American Cyanamid licensed Zyklon B for North America.  DuPont and another IG Farben unit eventually settled their dueling patents, and cross-licensed Nylon/Perlon.   Farben and Standard Oil had extensive patent and marketing arrangements to divide up the technology and the markets for synthetic rubber.

The main ingredient of Buna rubber is butadiene, polymerized with sodium metal, which gives the product its name:  Bu for butadiene and Na for natrium, the periodic table/Latin name for sodium.  Neoprene starts out differently.  Monovinyl acetylene, treated with HCl, forms chloroprene, which, polymerized, is neoprene.  

For commercial and strategic purposes, however, the "N" version of Buna rubber (Buna-N, the "N" for some added acrylonitrile) and neoprene are equivalent.  Both work, both offer oil resistance, and both were licensed in the USA.  

The United States government accepted several synthetic rubbers for military use. During WWII, buna-N rubber was known as Government Rubber "A" (GR-A for the added acrylonitrile) and neoprene was GR-M, "M" for the monovinyl acetylene.

NEW FACTORIES, FORCED LABOR: German industrial production made systematic use of forced labor.  IG Farben built many factories in a green-field industrial park many square kilometers in size,  to manufacture synthetic high-performance fuels (including aviation gasoline and bunker oil for ships),  plastics, synthetic fibers, stabilizers, resins, methanol,  pharmaceuticals, and synthetic rubber.  The industrial park took its name from the synthetic rubber, and was called the Buna Chemical Plant, or, from its location, Buna/Monowitz.  IG Farben cooperated with the SS to build the associated concentration camps.  The delivered prisoners were tabulated (IBM punch cards) and paid for.

There were 40 slave labor camps arrayed around Auschwitz.   The ones further away (Aussenlager) were run more like factories than the closer ones (Nebenlager, Arbeitslager), and you were more likely to survive if you could get placed there.  Two of the most famous people who survived this way are  Eli Wiesel (1928 -2016: New York Times; Guardian UK )  and Primo Levi (1919-1987).  

I've given links to these authors' books on Amazon, but you can have some fun without necessarily rushing out to buy them.   Comments to  world-famous literature by people like you or me (not world famous) are numerous (hundreds and hundreds), and, under Amazon's rating system, really great ones bubble to the top.  


Levi's many books ("Survival in Auschwitz," originally entitled "If This is a Man", often published together with "The Truce", "The Periodic Table" (amazon);  "If Not Now, When" (at amazon) )  are colored by the sadness of a good friend's death.  Somehow Levi had to get what he needed to survive at Auschwitz without either violating his own self-respect (killing for clothing) or attracting the attention of the privileged (and often brutal)  inmates.  At great personal risk, Lorenzo Perrone, a bricklayer and now forced laborer, smuggled Levi an extra soup ration every day.  Levi survived because of Lorenzo; and Lorenzo survived by his own wits and strength.  Post-traumatic depression hit both men after the war, but all that he had seen and done hit Lorenzo harder and he killed himself with neglect and alcoholism.  Levi rushed more than once to the side of the most important man in his life, but -- literally -- he could not pull him out of the gutter.  

Why some survive and others perish in concentration camps drove Levi to write "The Drowned and the Saved" (at amazon; again, great comments).   Typically, Levi does not pass judgment on the road taken or the fate met, he only asks us to look for ourselves at the choices.  Sure, we laugh at politicians who lie to us about what they've done, but why is it so essential that they lie to themselves?  This may be the self-help book your own favorite politician needs.  


“Where Anne Frank’s book ends, mine begins.”
--Eli Wiesel

Eli Wiesel book cover "Night"Eli Wiesel's most famous book is only 109 pages long, so, in that sense, it is easy to read.  Then again, there are hundreds of comments on for this book including an ominous one:

 "This is the longest short book I've ever read."  
FrKurt Messick "FrKurt Messick"   (Amazon has the full review here.)

 It's great that Oprah Winfrey selected it for her book club, but I like the old book cover better.  

BEDROCK:  Night  is devastating in its simplicity (amazon), and today  ranks with  Primo Levi's If This Is a Man (at amazon) and Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl as one of the bedrocks of Holocaust literature.  

The  600 amazon comments from school kids assigned Anne's book are as good as the book.   Like Anne, my childhood was in Frankfurt, a very different, post-war Frankfurt from hers.  We knew the actor who played Anne Frank's boyfriend Peter when, following success on Broadway,  a German adaptation of the play opened in the Fall of 1956 in Frankfurt and other major German cities.  It was only too obvious what the final knock on the door meant.  No one applauded.  A sad silence engulfed  the theater.  Eventually everyone stood up and shuffled around, trying to go home.

"Night", "Dawn", and "Day" mark  Wiesel's own climb out  of darkness.   The cycle from darkness to light echoes the Jewish tradition of counting the beginning of a new day from sunset (Genesis (1:5),

 "In Night," Wiesel said,  "Everything came to an end — man, history, literature, religion, God. There was nothing left."  Should Wiesel let his own father die, take the warm clothes off his dead body, eat his food?  A Kapo, an experienced inmate, teaches him, "Everyone lives and dies for himself alone."   Wiesel must emerge from darkness with his sanity whether or not his father survives.  "There was nothing left.  And yet we begin again with night." 

Hello, America.  We have sent too many troops into night.  The ones with post-traumatic stress disorder have not emerged.  The Marine Corps, the Army, the VA and the country will not be able to help them to Dawn and Day until we all face this nation's own Night.  Torture?  Indefinite detention?  For what?  


My next door neighbor, Judge James F. Tierney ( 1918-2009), was a newly-minted lawyer and an Army Lieutenant in Germany  when he caught the attention of superiors preparing for the Nazi trials at Nuremberg.  Jim became the documentation officer for the prosecution of the  Farben cartel, and quickly found out where all the corporate documents had been taken for safekeeping against Allied bombing.  

"The Germans convicted themselves," Jim told me. "They made copies of  everything.  They saved their copies in salt mines.  I went there and told  the employees, 'Don't remove anything'.  Every document ended with 'Heil  Hitler' at the bottom."

Jim recalled there were about 30 war crimes trials not run multinationally, as cooperation with the Russians broke down after 1946 (the actual total of trials for war crimes per se is 12).  Whereas Nuremberg's first  trial  was  run by the 4 Allied powers, the Americans alone  pursued such later cases as the trial of Ilse Koch, the "Bitch of Buchenwald,"  an SS officer's  wife who made lampshades out of the skins of prisoners, among other crafts.

Twenty-three 3rd Reich government and  IG Farben executives came to trial in the Nuremberg Trial of IG Farben, 27 August 1947 - 30 July 1948,  12 or 13 received prison sentences.  No  Farben executives  who set up the Auschwitz factories and prisoner camps for synthetic fuel and buna rubber manufacturing, etc.,  where 20,000 to  25,000 IG Farben workers died at their jobs,  was ever executed.  No  prison sentence was more than 8 years.  
The actual enslavement charges read as follows:
War crimes and crimes against humanity through participation in the enslavement and deportation to slave labor on a gigantic scale of concentration camp inmates and civilians in occupied countries, and of prisoners of war, and the mistreatment, terrorization, torture, and murder of enslaved persons.

Only 5 of the 23 officials were found guilty of enslavement.  They were:

1. Carl Krauch            
Chairman of the  Farben Supervisory Board (Haber's Board, the one above the Management Board).
Coordinated war effort through Hermann Goering's office.
Awarded the Iron Cross by Hitler (1939) for getting Germany ready in time to invade Poland (1939).
Awarded the Knight's Cross for German War Service (Ritterkreuz des Kriegsverdienstkreuzes) in 1943.
Drove the production of synthetic gasoline and synthetic rubber (Buna Chemical Plant), using slave labor.
Sentenced to 6 years, released early.
Returned to the Board of Directors of  Hüls AG, split off from  Farben. Hüls AG returned to Buna rubber production.
Carl's son Carl Heinrich Krauch succeeded him at Hüls AG, which grew into the Chemiepark Marl, an industrial park with 30 corporations employing 10,000 workers.  You can't keep a good man down. 

 2. Fritz ter Meer    (Friedrich "Fritz" Hermann ter Meer)
20 year member of the IG Farben Board of Directors.
Directed the production of the nerve gas Tabun using 100 prisoners of war for slave labor.  
Recipient of Kriegsverdienstkreuzes 1. and 2. Classes
Head of Dept. II, which was in charge of the Buna Chemical Plant  near Auschwitz.
The Bayer division of IG Farben purchased prisoners to use as guinea pigs for testing new drugs.
Prisoners scheduled for medical procedures were withheld from the gas chambers.  

At the Nuremberg trial, ter Meer  was asked if he regarded the "experiments" on concentration camp inmates as justified (gerechtfertigt).  He replied that the entire issue of medical experiments was immaterial.
"No special suffering was dealt to the prisoners by them, since in their absence, one would have killed them."
("Den Häftlingen ist dadurch kein besonderes Leid zugefügt worden, da man sie ohnedies getötet hätte.“)
His current level of neocortical evolution gives Homo sapiens cognitive consistency. 
Sentenced to 7 years, released after 2 in 1950.
Became  Chairman of the Board  of Bayer AG (split off from IG Farben) in 1956, as soon as it became legally possible for convicted war criminals to resume such positions.
Went on to Directorships of many German firms (banks, chemical industry).
His  Fritz ter Meer-Stiftung for chemistry student and science scholarships became Bayer-Studienstiftung and other similarly-named Bayer programs.    

3.  Otto Ambros          
Head of the Chemical Warfare Committee at the Federal War Ministry
Invented the nerve gas Sarin while working at  Farben.
Sentenced to 8 years, released after 3.
Became an adviser to US firm W.R. Grace when they were involved in an asbestos scandal.  

 4. Heinrich Bütefisch    
Production chief at Auschwitz for synthetic gasoline.
Member of the  IG Farben Board of Directors.  
Accorded rank of Obersturmbannführer in the SS (the Schütz Staffel under Heinrich Himmler).  
The rank of Obersturmbannführer is equal to that of Rudolf Höß, the commander of the entire multi-camp Auschwitz complex.  
Sentenced to 6 years, released after three.
Joined the Supervisory Boards of many prominent German firms.
His 1964 award of the Großes Bundesverdienstkreuz (Great Federal Service Cross) of Germany caused such  a national outcry that he was forced to return it.  

Ten years later, those privileged to select recipients of the Großes Bundesverdienstkreuz were able to award society's achievements, rather than to cover up its failures.  The Cross was given to a pilot in the Berlin Airlift (June 1948 - May 1949) who befriended kids who were plane-watching at the end of the Tempelhof Airport runway.  He told them to look for his plane next time, he would drop them some candy.  And with landings every 90 seconds of 225 identical C-54s, how were they to recognize him?  No problem, I'll roll my wings up and down.  Onkel Wackelflügel's squadron buddies were soon out of handkerchiefs (tied on as parachutes) and all their candy rations, but support grew and spread to corporations led by the National Confectioners Association of America.  There were school children in Massachusetts who tied parachutes to candy for transshipment through Rhein-Main Air Base, there were 25 other plane crews bombing candy.  Everything from milk to heating oil was unloaded on the ground, but Berlin was "Candy Bombed" from the air with 23 tons of chocolate and confections.  Gail Halvorsen got his Großes Bundesverdienstkreuz in 1974, and we hope he keeps it.  
5. Walter Dürrfeld        
Head of construction of the new Auschwitz plants; head of construction at Monowitz (Auschwitz III)

Worked for Farben as an engineer and became the Chief Operating Officer for the Buna Chemical Plant.
Accorded rank of  Hauptsturmführer in the SS.  
Visited the gas chambers during the camp's operation.
Selected inmates for the death march/evacuation when the Red Army closed in at war's end.
Sentenced to 8 years, released early.
Resumed his career, accepting many invitations to Board positions in German companies.


The  Farben company contributed DM 500,000 to foundations for reparations to slave laborers by the time it was completely liquidated in November 2003.  At liquidation,  Farben fetched DM 21 million, mostly for its remaining real estate holdings -- money which the company had successfully kept out of the hands of its forced laborers and their estates forever.


If you appreciate the absurdity of corporate executives taking a break to murder a few thousand people, if it amuses you to think of trying to choose which corporate Directorship invitations you should accept after turning in your  resumé of  "Convicted War Criminal", then Gunther Grass's Tin Drum (amazon & reviews)  is probably your next reading assignment.

Gunther Grass "Die Blechtrommel" dust jacket art

 what would you do for revenge?  Run a few "medical experiments" on them so they would understand?  Is that your role as the harbinger of higher civilization?

Germans:  what would you tell us?  To impeach Bush for torture, or prosecute Nancy Pelosi for taking impeachment "off the table"?  Should we have impeached Bush  for breaking his country's laws on surveillance?  Or Congress for granting criminally culpable telecom companies retroactive immunity after the law was broken?   What did Germans do when their  entire country was complicit in its flight from the rule of law?  

Me:   I say Obama's call to look to the future without facing the past  is a call to join him on the slippery slope to Hell.  I cannot  bring anyone to justice in a world where no one is accountable. A colleague disagreed, declaring "I don't care if they tap my phone, I have nothing to hide."   She was safe -- forever, she thought.  She had chosen the winning side.  


The  Farben multi-national corporation was intertwined with all layers of society.  The Nuremberg  trial's outcome pleased no one.  The complexities revealed by the trial of IG Farben at Nuremberg -- the impossibility for any resolution to be  both simple and just -- all this is thought by many to have been Eisenhower's inspiration for his famous pronouncement upon leaving the presidency in 1961:

 In the councils of Government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.


The IG Farben Building now houses the humanities and cultural studies departments of the Goethe-Universität of Frankfurt, but it is not called the IG Farben Building.  The city of Frankfurt/Main cannot find the pride to call the IG Farben building "The IG Farben Building".  

IG Farben leaders and legions drove the twentieth century to is dominant forms of corporate organization, scientific achievements and collective horror.  IG Farben is significant for chemistry, for literature, and for Judaism.  The individual whose name was chosen for the IG Farben Building is not.


Hitler promised a thousand-year empire for a superior people who deserved it.  My religion, Judaism, is over 3,500 years old, older than Christianity, older than the Roman Catholic Church, however insurmountable this simple fact might have been for our Italian maid in Rome.  Our survival of the  Holocaust will become a part of this religion,  celebrated perhaps at Passover, and Hitler will have his Thousand Year Reich, but not  the one he envisioned.  

Our legacy as the Jews who made it through the 20th century gives us a special responsibility to uphold the humanity of light, not darkness, for ourselves as citizens,  for our state of Israel, and for the Palestinians.  For Jews who were here when Israel was born, for every Jew who knows why Israel was created in the first place and must always be there for us, it is painfully clear that our Israel today has lost its way.  

RESOURCES  has cleanly designed pages, peaceful photography, informative & unemotional text.  These pages give you the chance to be an armchair tourist to many historically important (or just beautiful) sights across Europe.  The emphasis is on destinations important to people who lived through WWII or its aftermath.  has well-researched, well-structured information.  But they have two axes to grind: first, they are advocates for slave laborer compensation, and second, they wish to maintain a museum on or near the old  IG Farben building's grounds as a symbolic thorn in the side of the former company. The Foundation is named for Norbert Wollheim, the first former slave laborer to sue a company in Germany for wages (I.G. Farben, 1950).  


J. I. Nelson, Ph.D.
Frankfurt American Elementary School No. 1, 1956
Frankfurt Army High School Freshman in the class of 1960
Philipps University Germany 1985-90

Tom Cheney - New Yorker cartoon, Aug 2003
Tom Cheney, The New Yorker, 2003

top  of this paper, "The Significance of IG Farben for Chemistry, Literature & Jews"
          C O N T E N T S
The Post-WWII American district of Frankfurt, Germany
IG Farben made  Zyklon B
Fritz Haber tragedy
IG Farben and the emergence of chemical industry
New factories, forced labor
author Primo Levi
author Eli Wiesel
Nuremberg trials
Meager reparations, illusive justice
Eisenhower and the Military-Industrial Complex  
Other childhood-in-Frankfurt stuff    --   8th grade photo     9th grade 
Resources for Ffm High alumni of the 50s
my home page (such as it is)

jerry-va at removethistext speakeasy dot net
Orig 29May09 
Rev29Jun-typos,CandyBomber,AlumResources   30Jun09BldgName  
1Jul09 GooglePanoramio link.
12Aug09 AMZN reviews author.
8Jul2016 Eli Wiesel obits, flow, concluding Ffm & Israel criticism