Troubling History: IG Farben


Today, Wintershall is one of the leading companies pushing Germany closer to Russia and backing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Not long ago, Wintershall’s parent company, basf, was part of the conglomerate IG Farben. And IG Farben, according to German magazine Handelsblatt, was “The Company That Enabled Hitler’s World War.”

“IG Farben played so important a role in Hitler’s war machine and in the Holocaust that it came to be called ‘the devil’s chemist,’” the New York Times noted in 1999. “It manufactured Zyklon B, the gas-chamber poison, among many other products, and its factories exploited more than 35,000 slave laborers, many from Auschwitz. It even built a concentration camp of its own to improve efficiency.”

Executives from IG Farben, along with those from Krupp, played a key role in persuading German businesses to bail out the Nazis in 1933. United States Gen. Telford Taylor said that the directors of IG Farben have “major responsibility for visiting upon mankind the most searing and catastrophic war in human history.”

After defeating Germany in the worst war in human history, Allied forces divided IG Farben into four separate companies: Bayer, basf, Hoechst and Cassella. “Germany is still haunted by many ghosts from the dark years of Nazi rule,” the New York Times wrote, “but few are as enduring or as strange as the specter of IG Farben.”

Today, IG Farben’s successor companies are far more powerful than IG Farben ever was.