My first encounter with I.G. Farbenindustrie Aktiengesellschaft took place in the early summer of 1934. I had just been hired by the United States Senate Special Committee to Investigate the Munitions Industry as an investigator-researcher. By luck, my immediate supervisor was H. C. Engelbrecht, whose book Merchants of Death had been an important factor influencing Senator Gerald P. Nye to press for the investigation.

To ease me into the job, Engelbrecht handed me an agreement between the Standard Oil Company (NJ.) and I.G. Farben. My assignment was to summarize this involved contract so that it would be intelligible to the senators on the Committee. I had never heard of I.G. Farben before. But for the next forty-four years, it was my Moby Dick. After the Senate Committee, I took I.G. Farben along with me to the Committee on Patents of the House of Representatives, where I served as a technical counsel on patent pooling and cross-licensing agreements.


In 1938, I carted my industrial white whale to the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice. There as head of the Patent and Cartel Section, under the great Thurman Arnold, I instituted the cartel program in which the attack against I.G. Farben continued throughout the course of World War II. In 1943, I co-authored Germany’s Master Plan, a book outlining the details of this program. After the war, when I read the transcript of the trial of the I.G. war criminals at Nuremberg, I knew that someday I would write the present book.

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Many persons provided valuable help in the making of this work. I should like to acknowledge my gratitude to Meg Leary and to Anne Greigg, whom I owe more than I can ever repay; to Terri Alien, Morris Amchan, Karen Daggle, Ellen Finkelstein, Newton Frohlich, Paul Gannt, Irene Gordon, Paul Green, Iris Linson, John Mendelsohn, Alice Mostoff, Anita Navon, John Pehle, Hyman B. Ritchin, John E. Taylor, Robert Wolfe, and the late Richard Bauer for their special contributions; to Charles E. Smith, Editor-in-Chief at The Free Press; to Madeleine Sann, who edited the manuscript; and to my wife Pauline, whose faith and encouragement go all the way back to the Nye Committee, where we both came across I.G. for the first time.

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“Without I.G.’s immense productive facilities, its far-reaching research, varied technical experience and overall concentration of economic power, Germany would not have been in a position to start its aggressive war in September 1939.” 1

Such was the judgment rendered by a team of civilian and military experts assigned by General Eisenhower at the close of World War II to make an exhaustive investigation of I.G.’s contribution to the Nazi war effort. Extravagant as this conclusion may have sounded, the record sustains its accuracy.

I.G. truly was a mighty industrial colossus. So huge were its assets admitted and concealed, so superior its technological know-how, and so formidable its array of patents that it dominated the chemical business of the world. I.G. fortified this commercial leadership by constructing a maze of cartels whose members included such industrial giants as

  • Kuhlmann of France

  • Imperial Chemical Industries of Great Britain

  • Montecatini of Italy

  • Aussiger Verein of Czechoslovakia

  • Boruta of Poland,

  • Mitsui of Japan

  • Standard Oil (New Jersey) of the United States

  • Du Pont of the United States

  • Dow Chemical of the United States

But I.G. was more than a corporate empire. Through the uncanny talents of its scientists and engineers, it secured the vital self-sufficiency that enabled Germany to maneuver in the world of power politics. From its laboratories and factories flowed the strategic raw materials that Germany’s own territory could not supply, the synthetics of oil, rubber, nitrates, and fibers. So, too, I.G. produced vaccines, sera, and drugs such as Salvarsan, aspirin, Atabrine, and Novocain, along with sulfa drugs, as well as poison gases and rocket fuels.


Few universities could match the profusion of Nobel Prizes earned by its scientists:

  • Paul Ehrlich for Salvarsan

  • Fritz Haber for the fixation of nitrogen

  • Carl Bosch for synthesizing saltpeter and gasoline

  • Gerhard Domagk for the sulfa drugs

Gustav Stresemann, chancellor and foreign minister during the Weimar Republic, once said, “Without I.G. and coal, I can have no foreign policy.” But it was for the Nazis that I.G. performed the greatest service. With I.G. and coal Adolf Hitler almost conquered the world.

Hitler was an apt student of the weaknesses that brought Germany to its knees during World War I. Defeat had drilled into him the doleful fact that Germany’s impoverished land, devoid of the strategic raw materials with which modern wars are fought, had made the British blockade a decisive weapon. In planning for World War II he vowed to correct nature’s imbalance with science and technology.

The result was a strange alliance between Hitler and I.G. Hitler despised I.G. for its international complexion and for its unusually large number of Jewish directors and scientists. Carl Bosch, the head of I.G. when Hitler came to power, was the most vocal anti-Nazi in the industrial community. In the light of succeeding events, it is ironic that the Nazis legally stigmatized I.G. as non-Aryan in the early years of the Third Reich.

But Hitler needed I.G.’s genius and I.G. needed Hitler’s support. I.G.’s first and major task for Hitler was to free German diplomacy from the bonds that shackled it to the oil wells and rubber groves of its enemies. How well it succeeded is written in the history of the world’s most violent and mechanized war. For five and a half years, Hitler’s tanks, trucks, and planes were propelled by I.G.’s gasoline, their wheels made of I.G.’s rubber. Success had rendered I.G. indispensable.

Mere indispensability, however, was not enough. As the war progressed, I.G.’s embrace of Hitler became more passionate. With the help of the Wehrmacht and the Nazi bureaucracy, I.G. looted the chemical properties of the defeated nations (Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Norway, and France). Moreover, it had similar plans to bring England, the United States, and the Soviet Union into its orbit. I.G.’s moral descent did not end there.


Before long it joined the Nazis in a vast forced labor program in which millions of victims from the conquered countries were enslaved in the service of German war production. But slavery was only a step in the dehumanization of victor and vanquished. I.G. found itself in the role of an industrial Faust, unable and unwilling to extricate itself from the compact it had made with Hitler to help prepare the Nazis for war.


The depth of the partnership was reached at Auschwitz, the extermination center, where four million human beings were destroyed in accordance with the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question,” Hitler’s plan to destroy an entire people. Drawn by the almost limitless reservoir of death camp labor, I.G. chose to build a great industrial complex at Auschwitz for the production of synthetic rubber and oil. So enormous was this installation that it used as much electricity as did the entire city of Berlin. More than 25,000 camp inmates paid with their lives to construct it.

After the defeat of Germany, the horror of I.G. Auschwitz made it certain that those involved would have to face the consequences of their acts. An indictment charging twenty-four of I.G.’s highest officials with war crimes was filed with the United States Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. In the opening paragraph of his statement to the court, General Telford Taylor, the chief prosecutor at Nuremberg, summarized the spirit of the prosecution’s case.

The grave charges in this case have not been laid before the Tribunal casually or unreflectingly. The indictment accuses these men of major responsibility for visiting upon mankind the most searing and catastrophic war in human history. It accuses them of wholesale enslavement, plunder, and murder. These are terrible charges; no man should underwrite them frivolously or vengefully, or without deep and humble awareness of the responsibility which he thereby shoulders. There is no laughter in this case; neither is there any hate.

Yet, despite the terrible gravity of the charges, the setting was more like that for an antitrust suit than that for a trial for slavery and mass murder as the defendants took their places in the dock at the Palace of Justice at Nuremberg. The twenty-three defendants (the twenty-fourth defendant, Max Brueggemann, was excused for illness) were among the industrial elite of Germany, not Hitler’s black- and brown-shirted hooligans. They represented a combination of scientific genius and commercial acumen unique in a private industrial enterprise.


They were the executives who made I.G. preeminent in the world of technology and commerce. They served on the boards of directors of the most prestigious corporations in their own country and abroad, where they were treated with awe and admiration. When their government called, they accepted official posts in the spirit of public service. Like their counterparts everywhere, they were among the leading supporters of culture, charity, and religion, donating their names, time, and money.

How this group finally arrived at the courtroom at Nuremberg, branded as the “Devil’s Chemists,” charged with unparalleled atrocities, is a profound lesson for the world. Until 1856 all the dyes by which man colored clothing, homes, and art came from natural sources such as insects, barks, flowers, berries, animal organs, and eggs.


In 1856 an eighteen-year-old chemistry student at the Royal College in London, William Henry Perkin, while experimenting with coal tar in the search for synthetic quinine, found something a great deal more valuable. Instead of quinine, a bright purple solution filled Perkin’s test tube. And with the first of the aniline dyes, a new industry was born. Although Perkin’s remarkable discovery may have been an accident, he had the genius to perceive its immense potential.


After he applied for a patent, he opened a factory for commercial exploitation. But Perkin was destined to suffer the fate of prophets. His own countrymen did not fully appreciate either the seminal nature or the industrial potential of the discovery. The Germans, however, did recognize the great future of synthetic dyes. Scientist-businessmen from Germany settled in England long enough to learn the new technology and then carted it off bodily to their homeland.


What they did with their booty was nothing less than an industrial miracle. With the German knack for turning garbage into wealth, these talented borrowers transformed the mountains of coal tar, the costly waste of the steel production of the Ruhr, into an immensely valuable product, the raw material for a new and exciting dyestuff industry. By the turn of the twentieth century, six German companies had emerged to dominate the world’s production and distribution of synthetic dyestuffs. Both in Germany and abroad, these firms were recognized as the “Big Six.”


There were three very large enterprises:

  • BASF (Badische Anilin und Soda-Fabrik of Ludwigshafen)

  • Bayer (Farbenfabriken vorm. Friedrich Bayer & Co. of Leverkusen)

  • Hoechst (Farbwerke vorm. Meister Lucius und Bruening of Hoechst am Main)

Not far behind were three lesser concerns:

  • Agfa C Aktiengesellschaft fuer Anilinfabrikaten of Berlin)

  • Cassella (Leopold Cassella & Co. of Frankfurt)

  • Kalle (Kalle & Co. of Biebrick)

But the very success in gaining a worldwide monopoly led the German producers into a bitter and costly competition for a larger share of the lucrative foreign and domestic markets. Price cutting, protracted patent litigation, kickbacks to customers, and bribery to gain technical secrets—in fact, every known form of cutthroat competition—afflicted the industry. With the consequent loss of profits and reduction of growth, the leaders of the industry began casting about for a solution. It remained for Carl Duisberg, the general manager of Bayer and a dominant figure in the industry, to take the first step in bringing order out of chaos.

Duisberg, by training and ability, was well suited to this role. He was a respected, even brilliant, dyestuff scientist—a fact attested to by an array of valuable patents. His business acumen was reflected in the financial success of his company and the worldwide network of agencies he organized for distributing Bayer’s products. Duisberg’s personality was both domineering and flexible. He was an imperious Prussian who would not tolerate dissent in either his personal or his business life.


Politically, Duisberg was an ardent Pan-German who believed passionately in Germany’s mission in world affairs. Devoted to the “Fuehrer principle” in the organization of political and industrial life, he specifically used the term long before Hitler was ever heard of. At the same time, Duisberg was a superb opportunist, never permitting devotion to principle to interfere with expediency. Whether under the Kaiser, the Weimar Republic, or the Nazis, he always made the required adjustments, and he never failed to prosper.

In 1903, Duisberg made a trip to the United States to lay the cornerstone for a new Bayer factory at Rensselaer, New York, designed to produce a limited number of dyestuffs and pharmaceuticals. He was not happy about the project, mainly because it ran counter to the industry’s policy of protecting its monopoly by not building plants outside Germany. This policy protected German technical secrets and trained personnel from being pirated by foreign interests. Unfortunately, the only way to get around the provisions of a new American tariff law that Duisberg believed was directed at Bayer was to construct the Rensselaer plant. Even so, its production was limited to a few dyestuffs and aspirin.

The trip, however, had an unexpected benefit. Duisberg was snapped out of his dismal mood by a sudden awareness of the trust movement in the United States, which despite passage of the Sherman Antitrust Act some thirteen years earlier was booming. John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil trust particularly caught Duisberg’s attention. He went back to Germany to persuade his colleagues and competitors that the Standard Oil formula represented their salvation.

The other members of the Big Six were all receptive to Duisberg’s major goal of ending costly competition. They had reservations, however, about surrendering as much control over their own corporate affairs as contemplated in the Standard Oil trust type of organization. But the thrust of Duisberg’s proposal was not wasted. Bayer, BASF, and Agfa adopted a loose-knit joint organization of the type used by a number of industries in Germany, that is, an interessen gemeinschaft (roughly a “community of interest”).

Not long after, Hoechst, Cassella, and Kalle organized a similar interessen gemeinschaft. In both cases the function of the community of interest was to reduce competition among the parties, mainly by setting up a formula for sharing profits. Each enterprise kept its identity intact and retained control over its own policies and activities. And of vital importance, dyestuffs alone were subject to the community of interest’s regulations. The parties were free to exploit and develop other products without reference to the cartel’s rules or restrictions.

Historically and industrially, the omission was a matter of some moment. Although dyestuffs remained the “cash crop” of the industry, the more dominant companies developed other significant and highly profitable lines of business activity. These outside activities eventually rivaled dyestuff production. Agfa became the largest European manufacturer and supplier of photographic materials. Its trademark, the Agfa signature, was a feature in photographic shops the world over.


Bayer and Hoechst developed highly profitable pharmaceutical divisions that were giants in the field, with worldwide systems of distribution. Hoechst, for example, supported the research of Paul Ehrlich that led to his discovery of Salvarsan, the cure for syphilis. The result was everlasting fame and a Nobel Prize for Ehrlich and a patent monopoly of an enormously profitable pharmaceutical product for Hoechst. Hoechst also developed Novocain, a painkiller that physicians and dentists came to rely on universally. These products gave the Hoechst trademark acceptance everywhere.

Bayer’s pharmaceutical venture was even larger. Out of its laboratories emerged aspirin, the world’s most famous home remedy for pain and fever. Bayer was also responsible for the introduction of heroin, which it sold as a cure for morphine addiction and as a cough suppressant, especially effective in children. Later the Bayer laboratories developed methadone, in preparation for World War II, as a synthetic substitute for morphine.


It was originally named Dolophine, in honor of Adolf Hitler. Today methadone is used principally in the treatment of heroin addiction. The sulfa drugs also had their inspiration in the test tubes of Bayer’s laboratories, as did Atabrine, the most effective malarial suppressant. Indeed, no hospital and no pharmacy can be found without some Bayer product.

To BASF, however, must go the credit as the most venturesome of all the I.G. companies. Unlike Bayer, Hoechst, and Agfa, however, BASF did not gear its non-dyestuff products for the consuming public; hence, for a long time BASF was not a household name. But in corporate hoard rooms and in scientific organizations worldwide, its name and power evoked respect and admiration. BASF’s corporate personality began taking shape during the developing stages of the new dyestuff technology.


The first colors to come out of this industry were reds and yellows, which were mastered quite early. But unlocking the secret of synthetic blues proved more troublesome. As a result, the world for a time was forced to rely on China, the age-old source for natural indigo dyes. Great rewards awaited the discoverer of an acceptable synthetic. And BASF’s part in this race has become a legend in the industry.


Heinrich von Brunck, the chairman of the managing board of BASF and a dyestuff chemist of extraordinary talent and imagination, convinced the BASF board of directors to make the search for synthetic indigo a major effort. Long before the project had run its course, Brunck had committed the greater part of BASF’s capital to this undertaking.

Some of the directors demanded the abandonment of the search, charging that the enormous investment was threatening the corporate structure of the company itself. Fortunately, before this internal dispute came to a head, the technicians and scientists at BASF reached their goal. The vats of BASF began pouring out gorgeous synthetic indigos.


Brunck was vindicated as the company’s profits began to soar. The project rang the death knell for the natural dyestuff industry, and BASF’s discovery and consequent success catapulted this company into leadership of the industry. Commercial boldness and technological excellence became the decisive elements in its corporate character. BASF’s willingness to make big corporate gambles further crystallized in another audacious project that followed the indigo success.


This time it was the search for a synthetic nitrate to free Germany from dependence on Chile, which monopolized the natural nitrate supply. For BASF this undertaking involved a scientific and business risk far exceeding that in the indigo gamble. Brunck, his confidence bolstered by the indigo breakthrough, made the decision to go all out.

During the latter part of the nineteenth century, a number of prominent scientists expressed the belief, supported by facts and figures, that an exploding world population clearly threatened to outrun the food supply. The ghost of Malthus had returned to haunt the world. The most promising solution was the increased use of fertilizers. But, as some of those who sounded the tocsin warned, this approach was complicated by the uneven distribution of the earth’s resources.


Chile had a monopoly of the world’s supply of natural nitrates, the most effective of all fertilizers, and as is the custom of monopolists Chile charged what the traffic would bear. But many concerned scientists, such as the renowned Sir William Crookes, expressed the fear that Chile’s natural reserves of nitrates would soon be depleted. The grimness of the prospect of a starving world underscored the opportunity for realizing great financial profits should a synthetic nitrate be produced.

There was another opportunity that also should have spurred the effort to break Chile’s monopoly. Nitrates were an essential ingredient of all explosives, including gunpowder. But for reasons not altogether clear—unless one is willing to accept the conventional wisdom that the military mind is incapable of seeing beyond the last war—the German General Staff did not appear to be concerned that Chile controlled the supply of a raw material so essential for waging war. And the military implications of Chile’s monopoly did not excite the interest of the private manufacturers of explosives in finding alternatives.


From a commercial point of view, it was cheaper for explosive manufacturers to import nitrates from Chile than to undertake the uncertain and expensive venture of inventing a synthetic substitute. In times of peace, gunpowder was no great source of profits.

The impending food crisis was another matter. The farmers of the world represented an enormous market for fertilizers. Attracted by prospects of fame and profit, a number of scientific institutions and private concerns entered the race to synthesize nitrates. Not the least active of these was BASF. Not only did its talented scientists and engineers conduct experiments on a variety of systems to make synthetic nitrates but also the concern made available sizable subsidies to independent university researchers.

In 1909 BASF’s “Project Nitrogen” struck the jackpot. Fritz Haber, a technical school instructor supported by a BASF grant, scored a major scientific breakthrough. Using enormous pressure and extremely high temperature he succeeded in combining the nitrogen of the atmosphere with the hydrogen of water to form ammonia. The fixation of nitrogen became a landmark in creative chemistry, earning for Haber the acclaim of the international scientific community.

Before Haber’s great discovery could be made profitable, one more step had to be completed: BASF had to turn Haber’s laboratory feat into a large-scale industrial operation. Brunck, nearing the end of his active life, delegated the task to his protege, Carl Bosch, a promising, thirty-four-year-old metallurgical engineer who was among the first to grasp the colossal implications of Haber’s work. Technically Brunck had little doubt that Bosch was equal to the task.


But the BASF board of directors questioned the proposed financial investment in a technologically unknown terrain. To place this responsibility in the hands of an untested thirty-four-year-old was not exactly a prudent business decision. But Brunck was not to be denied.


He compared the venture with the earlier indigo gamble. The directors capitulated and the decision was made to go ahead.

The challenge Bosch faced was to design and to build an industrial-size installation that could contain the great pressures and high temperatures required in Haber’s process. Taming these wild forces called for the discovery of catalysts to speed up the reactions and for the invention of alloys to keep the outsize equipment intact. Bosch chose Oppau near BASF’s headquarters at Ludwigshafen as the site for the new plant.


Recognizing that Brunck’s health was failing and that support among board members was paper-thin, Bosch worked like a man with a mission. As the technological difficulties and the costs mounted, the board became more restive. Brunck’s death at the end of 1912 complicated Bosch’s problems. But in the fall of 1913 he reached his goal ahead of schedule. The Oppau plant, completed and operating, began mass-producing synthetic ammonia.


Bosch’s feat of technical macro-dynamics was recognized throughout the world as an engineering achievement of the first rank. Before long the scientific community elevated him to near equality with Haber by referring to the “Haber-Bosch process.” For an engineer this was an extraordinary accolade from the world of pure science. And twenty years later this achievement earned for Bosch a Nobel Prize, the first engineer so honored.

For BASF, immense financial returns seemed assured and Bosch emerged as one of the stars in the company’s hierarchy. He was elected to the board of directors, clearly destined for future leadership of the company.

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World War I
By July 1914, with war barely a month away, the Oppau plant was producing forty tons of synthetic ammonia a day, mainly as the raw material for nitrate fertilizer. The military possibilities of the plant’s operation, however, had not escaped Bosch. For some time in his laboratory he had been producing experimentally a limited amount of saltpeter (NaNO3), the essential raw material for gunpowder, by oxidizing Oppau’s ammonia. Lacking any expression of interest from governmental authorities, Bosch saw no reason to expend the money or the time to go beyond his laboratory effort. He stored the experience for future reference.

So little did the saltpeter problem concern the German General Staff or the Ministry of War that when war erupted on August 1, 1914, so many of Oppau’s key technicians and workers were drafted for military service that the plant was forced to shut down. The day of reckoning was barely six weeks away.


The closing of the Oppau plant, however, was by no means the result of blunder or the mindlessness of the German military establishment. Rather, it was the logical outcome of the basic war philosophy successfully followed by the General Staff in the 1871 victory over France and, ever since then, reworked and refined for the war that was now being waged with France, Britain, and Russia. Perfected by the late general Count Alfried von Schlieffen, chief of the General Staff from 1895 to 1906, this policy had become the bible of the German General Staff.

The goal of the Schlieffen plan was not mere victory but swift victory. This was to be achieved by an overwhelming assault on France with the bulk of the German army, while a minimal force held Russia in check. Once France was defeated, Russia would be easily crushed by the full fury of German arms. An isolated England would have no recourse but I to sue for peace.

According to the Schlieffen plan, a long war for Germany could not even be considered in the formulation of military plans. He held that the political-industrial structure of modern states was so delicately balanced that they could not survive for long the disruptive power and violence of twentieth-century military technology.


The consequent social unrest in the rear would disastrously affect the fighting at the front. Schlieffen had no interest in the manufacturing capacity of the industrial community. All he wanted from the civilian population was civil order and no interference with military operations. The problem of raw materials was a long-term industrial concern and hence an irrelevant distraction from achieving a quick victory.


In a short war, industry could play no vital part; in a long war, it would be an impediment. Such was the inflexible blueprint Schlieffen bequeathed to the General Staff. What both he and they failed to understand was that industrial mobilization was the very element that made wars of exhaustion possible and that industrial supremacy was the key to victory. This oversight had fatal consequences.

It remained for an industrialist to challenge the General Staff’s war plan. When the war was barely a week old, Walther von Rathenau, head of the A.E.G. (Allgemeine Elektrizitaetsgesellschaft), the German electric power and equipment combine, called on General Erich von Falkenhayn, the minister of war, with a grim message. The military establishment, Rathenau charged, had made a blunder of such dimensions that unless corrected promptly could lead Germany to defeat. 1


Rathenau was no ordinary industrialist. He was the director of more than 100 large corporations in Germany and elsewhere in Europe and a recognized intellectual whose books were seriously received in university and diplomatic circles. No less important, Rathenau was also a political figure: seven years later he became Germany’s foreign minister. It is probable that the war minister was already suspicious of the euphoria exhibited by his military colleagues in charge of Germany’s war effort for despite the enormous press of other duties he took time to hear Rathenau out.

According to Rathenau, the German General Staff was so deeply committed to a short war that it had formulated no contingency plan for a long one and it had ignored the role of industry in all of its meticulous preparations for waging war. Rathenau cited the lack of preparations for insuring a continuous supply of raw materials for industrial production, even for those factories engaged in the manufacture of gunpowder and other military goods.


Aggravating the plight of a Germany at war was the dismal fact that nature had made it poor in raw materials. A broad range of strategic raw materials such as nitrates, oil, rubber, and many metals were available only from overseas sources. Without these basic imports, Germany’s war production would be precarious. Denied these raw materials for a prolonged period, a number of vital industries would grind to a halt.

To Rathenau it was incredible that the General Staff should have ignored this obvious German weakness. The enemy was certainly aware of it. The Allies’ main strategy focused on this visible Achilles’ heel. The mission of the British fleet was to strangle Germany into ultimate submission. If the German General Staff did not appreciate the full meaning of the blockade, German industry did. Already it could feel the effects of the tourniquet of enemy warships as they progressively shut off the arteries of supply. Shortages of raw materials would soon occur. By keeping industrialists out of war planning and ignoring the problem of raw materials, the General Staff had played into the hands of the enemy, Rathenau argued.

But it was not Rathenau’s purpose to be a harbinger of doom. Instead, he came prepared with specific proposals to correct the military myopia at which he had directed his barbs. He recommended the establishment of a system of controls, including rationing, and a system of priorities to husband the limited stockpiles of strategic raw materials, the import of which was now prevented by the British fleet. Of no less urgency was Rathenau’s proposed program to develop, wherever possible, synthetics and other substitutes to replace scarce raw materials.

General Falkenhayn, an officer of superior intelligence, was convinced by Rathenau’s dissertation. He also had sufficient rank to act on Rathenau’s advice. In a frontal attack on the problems raised by Rathenau, General Falkenhayn ordered the creation of a War Raw Materials Office within the Ministry of War and he immediately appointed Rathenau to be its head. Rathenau lost no time in staffing the agency with a selected group of scientists and industrialists. The first task of the new agency was to evaluate accurately the raw materials supply.


Pressed by Rathenau the agency promptly undertook a survey of 900 concerns engaged in war production. The survey confirmed Rathenau’s worst fears. It disclosed that German industry had no more than a six months’ supply of imported raw materials. 2 The limited stockpile of nitrates made gunpowder production particularly vulnerable. As long as the British fleet controlled the seas, the prospect of replenishing the nitrate supply by shipments from Chile was slim.

A munitions crisis of major dimensions loomed if the war continued for another half year. An army running out of gunpowder was a military disaster beyond contemplation. To come to grips with the problem Rathenau appointed Fritz Haber, then at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry, to head up the chemical division of the new agency. The creator of synthetic ammonia brought with him an assortment of Nobel Prize winners and other scientific luminaries, and soon this division became known as the “Bureau Haber.”

The rapid expansion of the Bureau Haber indicated the priority that Rathenau assigned to the nitrate problem. He warned the military officers in the War Ministry that the British blockade had completely shut off shipments from Chile. The stockpile of nitrates was dangerously low and any major military offensive by either side would make the gunpowder situation critical. The War Ministry bureaucracy—still under the influence of Schlieffen’s philosophy and confident of the success of his so-called plan—remained indifferent to Rathenau’s plea for affirmative action.


Despite the fact that Rathenau was an eminent industrialist appointed by Falkenhayn himself, the traditional Prussian officers in the War Ministry resented him as a Jew and a civilian. In a direct answer to his warning that the nitrate shortage would soon adversely affect the German War strategy, they responded with a curt note instructing Rathenau not to interfere in purely military affairs. 3 But arrogance precedes disaster and the day of reckoning was not far off. In the historic Battle of the Marne during the second week of September 1914, with Paris almost in sight, the German army’s headlong rush to victory was stopped cold by an unexpected French counterattack, shattering the Wehrmacht’s design for a quick victory.


The Schlieffen plan lay in ruins, buried in the trenches the opposing sides were forced to dig. Confronted by the dreaded long war of exhaustion, the military bureaucracy could no longer ignore Rathenau. The violence of the battle had used up more of the gunpowder than anticipated. Suddenly the dullest officers in the War Ministry understood the terrible meaning of the British blockade.

The munitions crisis expanded Rathenau’s influence dramatically. Nitrates became the War Ministry’s number one priority. The “Chemists’ War” was about to begin. Rathenau, supported by Haber, persuaded the War Ministry to summon Bosch to Berlin as quickly as possible. 4 Time was now Germany’s immediate and most pressing enemy.

The moment Bosch arrived he was hustled into a meeting with the military officials concerned with the gunpowder shortage. Bosch was appalled by their ignorance. Some were not even aware of Germany’s utter dependence on Chile for saltpeter. Bosch explained that the production of synthetic ammonia by the Haber-Bosch process solved only part of the problem. Before ammonia could be used in the manufacture of gunpowder, it first had to be converted into nitric acid.


Though conversion in the laboratory was a well-known process, adapting it to large-scale factory production called for a monumental effort. Among other things, such an undertaking meant the immediate return of the skilled Oppau personnel who had been drafted and a guarantee that building materials, technical equipment, and heavy machinery already in short supply would be readily available. Not unmindful of the interests of BASF’s stockholders, Bosch demanded a substantial subsidy. Prodded by Rathenau and Haber, the War Ministry agreed to all of Bosch’s demands.

A determined Bosch returned to Oppau and a massive effort to get the project under way began. This represented a prototype of the Manhattan Project—an all-out effort by government, industry, and science sparing neither money, materiel, nor manpower to solve a specific military-industrial problem upon which the outcome of a war may depend.

Although adequate gunpowder reserves could not insure victory, everyone involved recognized that defeat could very well hinge upon Bosch’s success or failure. Rarely has the military future of a great power rested so heavily on the shoulders of a single civilian. Should Bosch fail, it was generally agreed that Germany would have to abandon the war in six months.
As Bosch set about to convert ammonia into nitric acid, the munitions crisis intensified.


Confronted with the specter of an army without gunpowder, the War Ministry frantically scoured Germany and the conquered territories for nitrates. Even tiny amounts of fertilizer were commandeered from peasants. 5 The shortage was temporarily eased in early October when a cache of 100,000 tons of Chilean saltpeter was discovered in cargo ships in the harbor of occupied Antwerp. 6


However, as Fritz Haber later reminisced,

“The Belgian saltpeter supply had so little effect on the matter that in the fall of 1914 every expert recognized the necessity of ending the war in the spring of 1915.” 7

The nitrate shortage began to affect seriously the strategy of fighting the war itself. Unfortunately, having relied so completely on Schlieffen, Germany’s military leaders were now in no mood to gamble everything on Bosch’s success. Prudence dictated that alternatives be explored without delay. Being military men, Germany’s military leaders sought a military solution. Accordingly, they called for a plan to blast a hole in the British blockade and reopen the supply line from Chile to the German gunpowder plants.

Charged with this mission, the German Admiralty devised a bold and imaginative plan worthy of the stakes involved. Its goal was the capture of the British-owned Falkland Islands, an unfortified coaling and supply base for British naval vessels at the tip of South America. These bleak and windswept islands were the southernmost hinge of the British blockade, standing guard over the trade routes from the west coast of South America to Europe.

The mission to capture the Falklands was assigned to Admiral Graf von Spee, who was in command of a powerful naval squadron on duty in the Indian Ocean. At about the time that Bosch returned to Oppau to embark on his own “Battle of Nitrogen,” Spee’s squadron was ordered to the South American theater.

The German General Staff had no monopoly on shortsightedness. When the British Admiralty learned of Spee’s presence off the coast of Chile, it concluded that the German commander’s main objective was to disrupt the trade between East Asia and Europe. The Admiralty even suspected that Spee’s target was the Panama Canal. The British did not have the slightest idea that Spee’s mission was related to the German nitrate crisis—or at least this possibility escaped the British entirely. In any event, a woefully inadequate naval force stationed at the Falkland Islands was dispatched to intercept Spee.


So little did the Admiralty appreciate the critical nature of Spee’s mission that it refused the British commander’s urgent appeal for reinforcements. This failure was soon to be regretted. On November 1, the enemy squadrons met at Coronel, off the coast of Chile. Outgunned and outmaneuvered, the British were swiftly defeated. Those ships not sunk fled through the Straits of Magellan to their base in the Falkland Islands.

Now aware of Spee’s goal of capturing the Falklands although still unable to divine the reason, the British Admiralty set out to repel the anticipated invasion. It ordered the sinking of an old battleship in the mud flats of Port Stanley, the main Falkland harbor, to act as an artillery platform. The British then dispatched a powerfully reinforced squadron to intercept Spee’s ships.


As the German flotilla approached, observers on the cliffs of the Falklands observed heavily armed landing parties preparing to invade. Before the invasion could begin, however, the reinforced British flotilla reached the battle scene. This time the superiority of the British naval forces was overwhelming. With one exception every German warship, as well as Spee himself, was sent to the bottom. Not a single British ship was lost.

After the defeat at the Falkland Islands, Germany’s nitrate position became more desperate. Surprisingly, however, the British never fully understood the strategy behind Spee’s action. No less a figure than Winston Churchill, who had been first lord of the Admiralty during the Battle of the Falkland Islands, was still in the dark ten years later when he wrote The World Crisis, his monumental history of the first world war.


Apparently unaware of Germany’s crucial nitrate shortage, Churchill was able to say of Spee’s mission only that,

“We do not know what were the reasons which led him to raid the Falkland Islands, nor what his further plans would have been in the event of success. Presumably he hoped to destroy this unfortified British coaling base and so make his own position in South American waters less precarious.” 8

In any event, for Germany the life and death Battle of Nitrogen extended beyond the naval engagement off the southern tip of South America. The next phase was centered in the Oppau laboratories, where work continued around the clock. Bosch was Germany’s last hope.

Falkenhayn, who had succeeded Field Marshal von Moltke as chief of the Supreme Command after the disaster of the Marne, was acutely aware that time was running out for the Wehrmacht. Until a steady supply of gunpowder could be assured, no offensive could be mounted and the western front would be frozen in place. In the meantime, some other method would have to be found to break the stalemate. Falkenhayn assigned the search for a solution to Major Max Bauer, an aggressive and imaginative officer who was the Supreme Command’s liaison to heavy industry. 9

Bauer discussed his assignment with a number of the War Ministry’s scientific consultants, members of the Bureau Haber. This impressive group included, in addition to Haber, Nobel Prize winners Walther Nernst, Emil Fischer, and Richard Willstaetter. Bauer learned from them that the German dyestuff industry was the source of poisonous chemicals such as bromine, chlorine, and phosgene, which could easily be converted into terrible instruments of mass asphyxiation. 10


Though all poisonous weapons had been outlawed by the 1907 Hague convention, to which Germany was a signatory, the attractions of poison gas warfare were too great for the Germans to be constrained by the treaty. To the contrary, the very fact that poison gas was barred by the convention assured Germany of the advantage of surprise. Bauer and Nernst paid a visit to the acknowledged spokesman of the German dyestuff industry, Carl Duisberg, who saw immediately that poison gas warfare could revive the moribund dyestuff industry, which was almost at a standstill since the beginning of the war. As a German patriot Duisberg also recognized the possible decisiveness of the new weapon.


Accordingly, he not only committed Bayer to the poison gas project but also involved himself personally in the experiments. In a letter to Bauer in early 1915, Duisberg wrote of his firsthand knowledge of the effects of phosgene:

“How uncomfortably it works you may best gather from the fact that for eight days I have been confined to bed, although I inhaled this horrible stuff only a few times... if one treats the enemy for hours at a time with this poisonous gas-forming product, then, according to my view, he will not immediately leave the country.” 11

The first gas to be used by the German army, a bromide, came out of the Bayer laboratory. Its secret code name was “T-Stoff.” The army decided to use it against Russian troops at the end of January. But the new weapon was a dismal failure. The Russian winter was so cold that the gas froze and sank into the snow. 12


Fritz Haber, whose bureau in the War Raw Materials Office was deeply involved in the poison gas project, regarded chlorine as a more effective weapon and the spring as a more advantageous time for its introduction. Chlorine was in plentiful supply in the dyestuff plants. Moreover, Haber knew of BASF’s successful attempt to store chlorine in metal cylinders rather than the traditional glass containers, an obvious advantage on the battlefield. Haber’s staff at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, in cooperation with the I.G. companies, began preparing chlorine for the coming test on the field of battle.


This project was one of the most closely held military secrets in all Germany. An explosion in the laboratories of the Institute, which killed Haber’s assistant, who was experimenting with phosgene, almost gave the secret venture away. Quick and successful suppression of news of the event prevented any serious leakage. Chlorine gas was scheduled to be tested on the western front in April 1915. Haber, who was certain that the attack would devastate the enemy, advised his superiors to assign large reserves of troops to exploit the opportunity. However, the military refused to regard the projected attack as anything more than a test and allocated only one company of soldiers to support it.

In the third week of April 1915, Haber and his small team of soldiers and technicians from the dyestuff companies, the Bureau Haber, and the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute arrived at a sector of the western front near Ypres in Belgium. Five thousand metal cylinders of liquid chlorine were placed in position along the front-line trenches. After several delays caused by unfavorable wind conditions, Haber finally ordered the cylinders to be opened late in the afternoon of April 22. 13


The report of British Field Marshal Sir J. D. P. French tells what happened.


Following a heavy bombardment, the enemy attacked the French Division at about 5 p.m., using asphyxiating gases for the first time. Aircraft reported that at about 5 p.m., thick yellow smoke had been seen issuing from the German trenches between Langemarck and Bixschoote. What follows almost defies description.


The effect of these poisonous gases was so virulent as to render the whole of the line held by the French Division mentioned above practically incapable of any action at all. It was at first impossible for anyone to realize what had actually happened. The smoke and fumes hid everything from sight, and hundreds of men were thrown into a comatose or dying condition, and within an hour the whole position had to be abandoned, together with about fifty guns. 14


The effect of the chlorine gas at Ypres was truly devastating. Before the day was over, 15,000 soldiers lay on the battlefield, one-third of them dead. 15


An enormous gap, over four miles wide, had been torn in the Allied lines. Nothing stood between the Germans and the vulnerable French ports, just across the channel from England. But the failure of the German army to anticipate the overwhelming effect of its new weapon saved the Allies from annihilation. Haber was extremely bitter about this. As he wrote later, the military officials involved,

“admitted afterward that if they had followed my advice and made a large-scale attack, instead of the experiment at Ypres, the Germans would have won.” 16

After the attack at Ypres, Haber began to prepare for a gas attack on the eastern front. Haber’s wife, Clara, pleaded with him to abandon the project and stay at home. He refused, insisting that it was his duty as a patriot to do what he could to help Germany.

The night that Haber left for the eastern front, Clara Haber committed suicide. 17

With Haber’s gas attack at Ypres, chemical warfare became an essential element of the German military machine, and the dyestuff companies, together with the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, became, in effect, the German chemical warfare service. As an English chemical warfare expert noted, Germany required no cumbersome government mechanism for the preparation of new war chemicals, for the semi-industrial work in developing processes for approved substances, nor for their production. By relying on... the German dyestuff companies and the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute... Germany escaped the necessity for comprehensive government organization, the development of which was such a handicap to Allied countries.... 18


There was no need to create a clumsy and complicated organization with an efficient one existing in [the German dyestuff companies] ready to meet Government demands. 19

The dyestuff companies cooperated closely in their work in order to fulfill the army’s requirements. When the German authorities wanted a new poison gas, according to an Allied report,

“a conference with the various firms was held in Berlin to determine how manufacture should be subdivided in order to use the existing plants to best advantage.” 20

Since producing a poison gas involves several stages of production, each stage was assigned to the company most suited to carry it out. The direct involvement of the military was very apparent. Masses of uniformed soldiers were constantly arriving at the various plants, where schools were established to train them in gas warfare. The total result was the emergence of a highly successful industrial, scientific, and military cooperative.

Unfortunately for Germany, poison gas was not the decisive weapon it was seeking. The attack at Ypres had dissipated the crucial element of surprise; the development of new and deadlier gases could not take the enemy completely off guard. With the war of exhaustion approaching reality, Bosch’s success became more urgent. As the reserves of gunpowder dwindled, the General Staff waited anxiously for word from him. In May, Bosch made his momentous announcement.


He had succeeded. Oppau was ready to mass produce synthetic nitrate. Never again would the Wehrmacht’s cannon be hostage to the nitrate beds of Chile. Throughout Germany Bosch was hailed as a hero. For Germany Bosch’s success meant salvation; for BASF it was a technological and financial bonanza. Bosch immediately began to press the Government to support an enormous expansion of BASF’s synthetic nitrate capacity.


He had the unexpected but welcome assistance of a young lieutenant in the War Raw Materials Office with the imposing title of Plenipotentiary for Chemical Production, Hermann Schmitz. With Schmitz’s help, Bosch persuaded the German government to build a huge Haber-Bosch high-pressure plant in Leuna, in Central Germany.

Schmitz’s performance in marshaling the facts and figures to overcome all bureaucratic opposition made a profound impression on Bosch. It marked the first step in a relationship that would lead Schmitz to succeed Bosch as the head of I.G. Farben some twenty years later. The new plant at Leuna, together with the one at Oppau, in time outstripped Chile in supplying nitrates. Never again was Germany to be troubled by a shortage of this raw material.


The financial rewards for BASF were enough to justify a twenty-five percent return on invested capital to its stockholders during the rest of the war.

The other dyestuff companies also prospered in the Chemists’ War. In the summer of 1915 Duisberg wrote Bauer about the surge of business that war production had brought his company.

“You should see what things look like here in Leverkusen, how the whole factory is turned upside down and reorganized so that it produces almost nothing but military contracts.... As the father and creator of this work, you would derive great pleasure.” 21

Germany’s introduction of poison gas shook the military foundations of the Allied powers. The German monopoly of dyestuff production had given it an incalculable military advantage. In the new technology of chemical warfare, any country without a dyestuff industry was vulnerable to its enemies. It was an intolerable situation and each of the Allied countries frantically undertook programs to close the gap.

Though the United States was still neutral, Army Ordnance strongly encouraged private companies to enter the production of dyestuffs. The most positive response came from the Du Pont Company, the largest supplier of gunpowder and explosives to the armed forces and the country’s major chemical firm. Du Pont entered into a contract with a dye-stuff manufacturer in Great Britain, to exchange technical information, know-how, and patent rights, as well as to cooperate commercially. It also enticed Morris Poucher, an executive of BASF’s American agency, to leave his German principal and join Du Pont.


Poucher’s defection brought an angry response from Carl Bosch, enraged by what he regarded as a breach of business ethics by Du Pont and a treasonable act by Poucher—that Poucher was an American-born citizen made no difference to Bosch. As further encouragement to American producers like Du Pont to enter the new field, a protective tariff was enacted in the summer of 1916. Carl Duisberg observed the growing competition from abroad brought on by military necessity with mounting concern for the commercial future.


He suggested that the German dyestuff companies pool their resources into a single interessen gemeinschaft in order to strengthen their position in the postwar world against the new competition. 22 Such an arrangement would provide for the pooling of profits and patents. It would also lead to close cooperation among the various concerns without surrender of the independence or identity by individual members. In effect such a community of interests would formalize the cooperation brought about by the gas warfare effort. At first Duisberg’s proposal met with a lack of interest by some of the companies. Very soon, however, the opposition evaporated in the wake of an unexpected event on the battlefield not unlike the surprise at the Marne.

At the Battle of the Somme in July 1916, the Germans were shocked by the strength, even superiority, of the British in men and materiel. They were amazed by the British capacity to sustain enormous losses and yet continue to fight. It now dawned on the members of the dyestuff industry that a German victory was no longer certain.


The postwar implications of this unthinkable thought were obvious. In mid-August the major German dyestuff companies led by the so-called Big Three, BASF, Bayer, and Hoescht, and joined by five others, Kalle, Cassella, Agfa, Ter Meer, and Greisham, accepted Duisberg’s proposal and formed the Interessen Gemeinschaft der Deutschen Teerfarbenindustrie (the “Community of Interest of the German Dyestuff Industry”). This structure came to be known simply as I.G. and the individual members as the I.G. companies. (Years later the name I.G. was actually reserved in a court decision for the exclusive use of I.G. Farben.)

The Battle of the Somme was also a personal disaster for Falkenhayn. On August 28 he was removed as chief of the German Supreme Command, and Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg was appointed in his place, with General Erich von Ludendorff second in command as first quartermaster general. This move was welcomed by the big German industrialists, who had become extremely dissatisfied with Falkenhayn’s failure to push the stepping up of war production. Ludendorff, like Bauer, was an old and trusted friend of German big business.

Three days after Hindenburg took over the Supreme Command he announced a new munitions program that called for a big increase in war production—doubling the munitions supply and tripling the supply of machine guns and artillery by spring 1917. 23 Also included was a substantial increase in the production of poison gas and chemical products. All financial considerations were to be abandoned in this crash program. From the point of view of industrialists like Gustav Krupp and Duisberg the Hindenburg program could hardly have been more attractive if they had prepared it themselves.


On September 9 Bauer conferred a great honor on Duisberg and Krupp. He arranged for them to meet with Hindenburg and Ludendorff on the train of the Supreme Command to talk over the new munitions program. The two industrialists grasped the opportunity to complain about the critical shortage of labor. The goals of the Hindenburg program could not be fulfilled, they said, unless this problem were solved. Apparently, Duisberg was reassured by Hindenburg’s response. The next day he wrote a rhapsodic note of thanks to Bauer.

The ninth day of the ninth month 1916 was an eventful day in my life and one which I will not soon forget. It was similar to that time after the Battle of the Marne in late autumn of 1914.... At that time there was also a munitions shortage, and a much more threatening one than today’s, which... permitted us to seize, in a practical sense, upon the spokes of the wheels of war. 24 A week later, under pressure from the Supreme Command, the war minister held a secret meeting with thirty-nine of Germany’s most important industrial leaders, including Carl Duisberg, so that they could air their grievances about labor.


Max Bauer, who represented the Supreme Command at the meeting, made it clear in his opening address that the industrialists’ demands would be heeded:

“What industry must accomplish is just as important as what the army has to do. Only with your help can we march on to victory.” 25

Duisberg again complained about the labor shortage afflicting German industry. Wages were escalating and war production was dropping to dangerously low levels. He proposed that the Supreme Command “open up the Belgian labor basin.” He was aware that an earlier attempt to recruit Belgians to work in German factories had failed because the Belgians refused to help their conquerors. Bauer nevertheless assured Duisberg that his proposal would be put into effect. 26 And less than two months later, in November 1916, the German army began the forced deportation of Belgian workers to German factories. This decision and , its consequent brutality was a shock to the Belgian nation.

Cardinal Mercier, the Catholic prelate in Belgium, in a moving protest, described to the world what the Germans were doing.
Parties of soldiers begin to enter by force these peaceful homes, tearing youth from parent, husband from wife, father from children. They bar with the bayonet the door through which wives and mothers wish to pass to say farewell to those departing. They herd their captives in groups of tens and twenties and push them into cars. As soon as the train is filled, the officer in charge brusquely waves the signal for departure. Thus thousands of Belgians are being reduced to slavery. 27

Neutral journalists dispatched similar reports—of men loaded into cattle cars at bayonet point, of hysterical women who threw themselves on the tracks to prevent the trains from leaving and who had to be removed by German soldiers. The Belgians appealed to the United States government to stop the German action. After checking on the details of Germany’s slave labor program, the United States dispatched a formal note to the German chancellor.

The government of the United States has learned with the greatest concern and regret of the policy of the German government to deport from Belgium a portion of the civilian population for the purpose of forcing them to labor in Germany, and is constrained to protest in a friendly spirit, but most solemnly, against this action, which is in contravention of all precedents, and of those humane principles of international practice which have long been accepted and followed by civilized nations in their treatment of non-combatants. 28


The Germans dismissed the American complaint. The German governor general of Belgium argued that the evacuation of Belgian laborers was not a hardship but a blessing. The German press pursued this theme: the Koelner Volkszeitung insisted that the deportation of Belgian workers was prompted by “true humanitarianism, protecting thousands of able-bodied workmen from going to ruin by remaining unemployed.” 29


By the middle of November 1916, German authorities had “captured” 40,000 men and sent them to German factories and mines; 2000 more were being added each day. Raiding parties searched homes, theaters, and markets. Ultimately, over 66,000 Belgians were transported to Germany.

The slave labor program, however, proved counterproductive. The deported Belgians refused to work despite threats and promises. The vehemence of the worldwide protest barred sterner measures, ultimately forcing the abandonment of the project; the enslaved Belgians were returned to their homes. 30


During the fall of 1916, Duisberg continued his activities on behalf of the I.G. companies on other “battlefronts” at home. Inflation, the economic disease that feasts on war, reached so high a level that it began to threaten war production.


By early 1917 inflation was rapidly approaching crisis proportions. Labor unrest mounted, accompanied by “exorbitant” wage demands and followed by a series of strikes. To halt the inflation Duisberg, as spokesman for the industrialists, demanded a ceiling on wages and a prohibition on labor’s right to strike. At the same time he took the lead in the industrialists’ resistance to any attempt by the government to control profits or prices. The inflation rolled on.

A new agency, the War Office, decided to exert its influence toward halting the inflationary excesses. It had been set up several months earlier at the suggestion of Bauer and with the support of Ludendorff; its purpose was to divert all matters relating to the economy from the relatively independent War Ministry. Into this strategic position was placed General Wilhelm Groener, who had served with Bauer and Ludendorff before the war on the General Staff and whose personal devotion they were sure of. But they misjudged their man.

Groener initially chose to keep the War Office neutral with regard to the pressures of labor and industry. The approaching fiscal disaster changed his mind. He hinted at this new posture in his response to a request from the steel industry to restrain wage demands. Groener’s reply was not the kind industrialists had come to expect from a German general. He observed that “industry has gone chasing after war profits in an unheard of manner.”


He then went on to cite some invidious examples of the conduct of some businessmen:

“I wonder ... whether you know that the War Office has had to stop a company from making a profit of thirty-five million; whether you know that a German employer permits four women who work for him to sleep in a barrack in one bed that is also full of lice.” 31

It was suspected that Groener had adopted this viewpoint because of the influence of one of his aides, Captain Richard Merton, a Jew and a political moderate. However, Merton was no reckless radical or academic reformer. In private life he headed the Metallgesellschaft empire, the leading enterprise in the nonferrous metals industry of Germany and the largest metals trader in the world with branches and subsidiaries in every major country.

Captain Merton’s views on the wage-profit-price spiral made a deep impression on Groener and the general requested his aide to commit these thoughts to paper. The result was a document entitled “Memorandum on the Necessity of State Intervention to Regulate Profits and Wages.” 32


In this memorandum Merton pointed out that the growing power of the workers and the shortsightedness of the industrialists engaged in war production interacted to inflate prices. Cost-plus contracts with the price determined after delivery encouraged producers to pile on expenses rather than resist higher prices for raw materials and higher wages. The state, which was the final purchaser, “can do nothing else under the present circumstances than agree to the price which is demanded of it.”


Certain to offend the industrial community was Merton’s assertion that profits were already so great that wages could be raised without a corresponding increase in prices. Merton compounded his heresy by three recommendations. Prices should be fixed at the time war contracts were made, not after the goods were delivered. War profits should be taxed at a much higher rate. And finally, the chancellor should be empowered to take over the factories of recalcitrant owners or to intervene in the event that a labor dispute reached an impasse.

Groener approved the memorandum and dispatched it to the head of the government, Chancellor Georg Michaelis. 33 When Duisberg learned of the contents of the memorandum and that Merton’s recommendations were being seriously considered in the highest levels of government, he was stirred to action. As spokesman for the I.G. companies he invited a small but influential group of industrialists to a meeting on August 19 at the Düsseldorf Industry Club.


The opening lines of the invitation sounded the alarm:

“Measures designed to assault the employers by limiting profits are... being considered. Speed is... necessary to counter this.”

Duisberg guaranteed the support and presence of the industrialists’ ally Max Bauer, who would appear as a representative of the Supreme Command. 34

In the meantime, pressures within industry and the Supreme Command were mounting for Groener’s removal. By the end of July, Ludendorff had made up his mind to gel rid of the controversial general. Within days of the decision, but two weeks before Groener himself learned of it, Duisberg assured his colleagues in the steel industry that Groener would soon be relieved of his position in the War Office and sent to a command division at the front.


Groener later charged that Duisberg and Bauer had conspired to secure his removal. Duisberg insistently denied any part in it. However, historian Gerald Feldman, who studied the available documents, came to the conclusion that “In the light of the evidence... it is virtually impossible not to conclude that Duisberg was a liar.” 35


Groener formally requested that Merton continue on his staff, but Ludendorff vetoed the application with the remark, “This marriage must be ended.” 36


Instead, Merton was scheduled for transfer to a dangerous battle area on the western front. Unlike Groener, the young industrialist was wise to the ways of Duisberg and Bauer. He had established his own avenues of intelligence and influence. Major Kurt von Schleicher, a friend (who fifteen years later would precede Hitler as Chancellor of Germany) had earlier warned Merton of Greener’s impending removal. Schleicher also arranged a safer post than the one planned for Merton. As a result of Schleicher’s intervention, Merton was issued orders “to investigate industrial bribery in the occupied areas.”

Inflation was not the only problem confronting Germany, and labor was not the only shortage afflicting the German war effort at this time. The mechanization of the war exceeded any of the projections by either side. The vast armadas of ships, trucks, and planes almost drank Germany dry of liquid fuel. In August 1916, the fuel problem was further complicated by the defection of Rumania, Germany’s principal source of oil, to the Allied side.


As a consequence Germany was forced to divert troops from the western front to mount an attack on Rumania in an attempt to gain control of the oil fields. Although the Germans quickly defeated the Rumanians, by the time they reached the oil, the Allied forces had succeeded in blowing up the wells and refineries. Without Rumanian oil, Germany’s fuel supply fell to a dangerously low level. A number of attempts were undertaken to find a substitute for natural oil.


One of the most promising was synthetic gasoline, produced from coal and hydrogen under high pressure by a process known as hydrogenation, not unlike the Haber-Bosch process. In fact, it had been invented in 1909 by Friedrich Bergius, who had his first experience in high-pressure chemistry as Fritz Haber’s assistant during the search for synthetic ammonia. In the laboratory the Bergius process showed great promise, and in 1916 Bergius set about to adapt his hydrogenation process to large-scale production. However, he had still not succeeded by the end of the war. What he lacked was an engineering genius, someone like Bosch to adapt his laboratory process to large-scale factory production.

A serious rubber shortage was also developing. The British navy had placed rubber at the top of its list of contraband products, and Germany was compelled to adopt extraordinary measures to elude the blockade. Twice in 1916 the famous submarine Deutschland was able to spirit a load of rubber and tin from United States ports in exchange for a delivery of I.G. dyestuffs and drugs like Salvarsan and Novocain. 37

Germany was scoured for every scrap of used rubber that could be reclaimed. The shortage became so acute that even wood and rope were tried as tires. Bayer and BASF stepped up their laboratory efforts to find synthetic substitutes for rubber. They finally succeeded in developing a substance that, although too hard and inelastic for tires, could be adapted for use in submarine batteries, magnetos, and other electrical equipment. During the course of the war, Bayer alone turned out 2,500 tons of this hard synthetic rubber. But no way could be found to make synthetic rubber suitable for the desperately needed tires.

In April 1917 the United States entered the war against Germany. Walther Nernst, who had been in the United States at the time and was briefly interned until he could be repatriated, upon his return called on Bosch. He described the great raw material resources and enormous productive capacity the new enemy would be able to draw upon in the war. Of specific interest to an embattled Germany, the United States was the largest producer of oil and gasoline in the world.


Bosch, who since the nitrate crisis had concerned himself with synthetic solutions to Germany’s raw material weaknesses, was troubled by Nernst’s visit. He was now convinced that the entrance of the United States into the war would end any major oil problem for the Allies. For Germany no solution appeared to be in sight. Bosch lapsed into a deep depression, an affliction that periodically returned to him in the wake of disappointments and crises. The British blockade ultimately proved the decisive element in ending the war.


A raw materials famine, complicated by actual hunger, finally cracked the German will to resist. By the middle of August 1918, the German commanders knew that continuation of the war was futile and defeat only weeks off. Ludendorff asked Carl Duisberg and other industrialists to carry this message to the Kaiser, but they all refused. Duisberg was in fact preparing to adjust to the coming shape of things. 38 The German surrender was signaled by the signing of an armistice on November 11, 1918.


With barely any delay, the German authorities began preparations for the conference that would ultimately lead to the conclusion of a formal treaty of peace. Johann von Bernstorff, who as ambassador to the United States had developed a friendship with President Wilson, was chosen to direct this project. Not long afterward, Duisberg was asked to join these preliminary efforts as the representative of the chemical industry.


But Duisberg, unsure that his conversion to democracy would be accepted by the Allied conquerors or by the revolutionary German workers, decided that he would be unavailable and recommended the appointment of Bosch instead. 39 Bosch accepted. His mission was to save the I.G. companies. Germany may have lost the war, but the I.G. companies did not intend to lose the peace.

Within a few weeks caution dictated that Duisberg leave the country. A New York Times dispatch of December 24, 1918, took note of his departure:

“Dr. Carl Duisberg of Leverkusen, head of the German aniline dye industry, is reported to have fled to Switzerland. He was generally looked upon as the link between business and General Ludendorff and was one of the most active Pan Germans.” 40

At the same time, Fritz Haber, who took the brunt of the scientific world’s condemnation of gas warfare, disguised himself with a beard and, like Duisberg, took off for Switzerland. The fears of men like Duisberg and Haber were not entirely groundless. Within weeks after the armistice, Allied troops poured into the Rhineland. No sooner had the occupying forces settled down than the infant chemical warfare services of the Allied armies began to press for the disclosure of the secret processes and production methods in use at the various I.G. plants turning out poison gases, explosives, dyestuffs, and nitrates.


The I.G. companies resisted on the ground that such disclosure would adversely affect their commercial position in the postwar world. Unlike the French, the Americans and the British were careful not unduly to upset the I.G. officials. Assurances were given that the investigators would not “pry into secrets of commercial value in times of peace.” No technology would have to be revealed nor questions answered unless they concerned weapons or military applications.

“This reassurance,” reported a U.S. Chemical Warfare Service officer, “established a more or less cordial relation between us.” 41

In keeping with this decision, the Allied peace commission directed the investigators to limit their inquiries to war products only. The Allied investigators promptly sent out an order to the I.G. companies requiring them to provide complete details on the manufacture of poison gases, gas masks, gunpowder, and other clearly military items. Failure to comply could result in the shutting down and even the dismantling of the noncompliant plants.

The investigators, bound by the Allied peace commission guidelines, did not press to, examine the dyestuff technology. But the inquiry into poison gas proved to be a disappointment. The scientists on the U.S. team reported that they learned nothing about poison gases that was not known generally to the scientific community. They noted that the Germans simply selected with great skill and imagination chemicals already available from commercial dyestuff processes.


Whatever advantages the Germans had came from their domination of the peacetime dyestuff industry and not from the invention of new poisons.

The Haber-Bosch nitrate plant at Oppau was another matter. The investigators soon became aware that this facility represented a fundamental scientific breakthrough as well as a triumph of ingenuity and skill without which Germany could not have continued to fight as long as it did. They learned, for example, that in the last year of the war the Oppau plant had produced 90,000 tons of synthetic nitrates (equal to one-fifth of the natural, Chilean saltpeter consumed by the rest of the world). However, when the French members of the investigating team demanded that the plant be started up so that it could be observed in operation, Bosch stubbornly refused.

All attempts to move him, including threats of severe consequences, proved futile. The outraged French petitioned the Allied commission to force Bosch to operate the equipment and reveal the know-how and basic elements of the process of nitrate
synthesis. To the disgust of the French, the commission ruled in support of Bosch, holding that the process was a commercial, not a military, affair. 42

The leading British authority on chemical warfare, Major Victor Lefebure, vigorously opposed this decision as well as the earlier directive not to inquire into the know-how and technology of the “commercial” dyestuff plants. Later he amplified his views in a book entitled The Riddle of the Rhine: “Only the French,” he concluded, “recognized the full war significance of these factories.” 43 In April 1919 the German delegation arrived at Versailles.


Its members, including Bosch, were placed in protective custody behind barbed wire fencing surrounding the Hôtel des Réservoirs. Bosch, present as an expert in his field, was sent to the peace conference to protect the interests of the I.G. companies. The most stringent Allied demand as far as the I.G. companies were concerned was voiced by the French, who advocated the destruction of all of Germany’s armament facilities, which, they insisted, included the dyestuff and nitrate plants.


Marshal Foch had already made it clear that this issue was not negotiable. The only argument with any force that Bosch was able to muster against this demand was that the Allies needed a strong Germany as a bulwark against Russian communism.

The American delegation also was pushing a demand of its own. It was no secret that Du Pont, with the support of U.S. Army Ordnance and the congressionally chartered Chemical Foundation, wanted to keep the vested German properties and patents from being returned. The most valuable of these belonged to the I.G. companies.


To counter the American demand, Bosch marshaled the arguments against it in a position paper for the use of the German delegation:

“The German Chemical Industry and Its Desires during the Peace Negotiations.” 44

Bosch argued that morality and international law required that all confiscated properties and patents be returned to their German owners. But Bosch was not content with mere repatriation. He insisted that the life of each patent seized should be extended to make up for the period of the confiscation. In another position paper Bosch took issue with the possible Allied demand for separation of the east and west banks of the Rhine. 45


This would have played havoc with the I.G. companies, especially BASF, whose plants were situated on the west bank. The French were particularly active in pushing for a takeover of the left bank or at least the establishment of an “independent” Rhineland republic. The annexation of Alsace-Lorraine by the Germans in 1871 was a precedent that led the Germans to fear the worst.

As the representative of the defeated side, the German delegation had to await the proposed terms of the victorious Allies. It was an anxious time for Bosch. On May 7, the Allies delivered the proposed terms of the peace treaty to the German delegates. Carl Bosch promptly proclaimed, “The peace conditions are unacceptable in every respect.” 46


He was speaking for himself, for the dyestuff industry, and for Germany.

The clauses dealing with the so-called points of honor were especially obnoxious. The German delegation was appalled by the demand for a public trial of the Kaiser before an international tribunal “for a supreme offence against international morality and the sanctity of treaties.” Other “persons accused of having committed acts in violation of the laws and customs of war” would be brought to trial before military tribunals. 47


Those I.G. executives and scientists involved with poison gas could not have read these clauses without a sinking feeling. To the Allies, I.G. and poison gas were synonymous. Even so, a war crimes trial with such eminent scientists and industrialists in the dock seemed unthinkable.

Bosch was also bitterly disappointed by the Allied terms concerning the German patents and plants seized by Allied custodians. To BASF and the other I.G. companies their loss was a serious blow. These were not to be returnee to their prewar German owners. 48


Whatever remedy remained, it was unlikely that it could be achieved at Versailles. Also a matter of some concern to the I.G. companies was the inclusion of dye-stuffs in the reparations payments to the Allies for war damages. 49


It was a requirement that could have unfortunate political consequences—and it did. The anxieties about the Rhineland were not realized. The essential clause involving this sensitive issue required only demilitarization not annexation. 50


The west bank would remain German.

But all of these concerns were minor in the face of the greater danger. The provisions that struck terror in the hearts and minds of the I.G. companies related to the disarmament of Germany. The Allies demanded that except for certain approved factories such as those required for internal security,

“All other establishments for the manufacture, preparation, storage or design of arms, munitions or any war materials whatever shall be closed down.” 51

The military leaders of France and England, including Field Marshal Foch and Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson, left no doubt that this provision meant the smashing of the I.G. plants that made poison gas and nitrates. Unless modified these terms spelled doom for the German chemical industry. On May 29, 1919, the German delegation submitted its formal memorandum of counterproposals to the president of the peace conference. In it the delegates complained that “the time limit given us for the drawing up of this memorandum was so short that it was impossible to exhaust all questions.”


They repeated their request for a personal confrontation and oral negotiations:

“This peace is to be the greatest treaty of history. It is without precedent to carry on such vast negotiations by means of written notes only.” 52

The German plea for some kind of personal negotiation was ignored. On June 16 the final terms of the Allies were presented to the German delegation. So few alterations had been made in the proposed terms already submitted that the same document was used and the changes were added by hand in red ink.

Frantically the German government explored a variety of suggestions to soften the harsher provisions of the treaty. At one point the futility of their effort drove the Germans to consider resuming the war. The thought was short-lived. On June 28, 1919, the treaty of peace was signed.

Although the disarmament clauses that threatened the end of the I.G. companies remained intact, there was one more diplomatic round left to eliminate their lethal impact. Before I.G.’s fate was sealed, experts from both sides were to reconvene at Versailles to clarify and interpret those terms of the treaty that were considered ambiguous.

In the interim, Bosch left for Ludwigshafen to attend a meeting of the BASF hierarchy, where, as anticipated, he was elected chairman of the managing board. Together with Duisberg, Bosch was now one of the two most powerful figures in the German chemical industry. Immediately after his election, he returned to Versailles to resume his efforts at softening the French position. But the French refused to be reasonable.


After one difficult session, Bosch told his friend Baron von Lersner, the new chief of the German delegation:

“The dictate of Versailles demands the complete surrender of the German chemical industry.”

But with the confidence of a man in possession of a powerful secret, he added, “Trust me—the German chemical industry will never be destroyed.” The unusual display of confidence, Bosch indicated, without being specific, stemmed from a “special trump card” that he had been planning to play at the right moment. 53 That time had now arrived.

The trump card turned out to be Joseph Frossard, a French official who had just been put in charge of all I.G.’s confiscated dyestuff plants in France, now consolidated in a French government-owned corporation (Compagnie Nationale des Matières Colorantes et des Produits Chémiques—the “National Dyestuffs and Chemical Products Company”). If such a strategically placed French official was truly Bosch’s trump card, he was obviously in a position to help Bosch rescue the I.G. companies from their threatened annihilation.

Frossard was a shadowy figure about whom there is still not an abundance of solid information. For some years before the war he had worked for the Russian textile industry, then dominated by the German dyestuff cartel. During the war, as an official in the French chemical warfare service, he had helped in the acceleration of mustard gas production. After the war, the French had assigned Frossard to watch over the occupied BASF plants at Ludwigshafen. Now at Versailles he had turned up as an adviser on dyestuffs and chemicals to the French delegation. 54


In some mysterious way never disclosed, Bosch made arrangements for a clandestine meeting with Frossard. At their secret rendezvous Bosch revealed his plan to temper the French demand for the demolition of the I.G. plants. In its essence, the plan provided for the French government and the I.G. companies to become partners in exploiting the French dyestuff market.


The German companies would surrender their jealously guarded secret know-how, without which the French, as Frossard knew, were already having trouble operating the confiscated dyestuff plants. It was an offer only desperation could force Bosch to make. In return, the I.G. companies would regain a half interest in their prewar dyestuff plants—and of overriding importance, the I.G. plants in Germany would be spared. As Bosch fully expected, Frossard agreed to his plan.

His next step was to convince the French military to abandon their intransigent insistence on the destruction of the I.G. plants. Frossard promised to arrange a meeting with the appropriate French official, a General Patard. He therefore asked Frossard to arrange a meeting with the French general in charge of such matters, and Frossard promised to do so promptly. Their meeting concluded, Bosch sneaked back to the German compound, undetected, he hoped.

The next morning, however, Baron von Lersner received a formal note from the French commandante:

“Last night in violation of law, Professor Bosch left the German quarters surrounded by barbed wire and scaled the wall of the Versailles Park. After two hours and five minutes he returned the same way.” 55

Such was the extent of the French objection. They did not pursue the affair any further.

Bosch’s faith in Frossard was not misplaced. In a few days he was invited to Paris by General Patard to discuss the future of the nitrogen plants at Oppau and Leuna. As a result, Bosch was one of the first Germans permitted to move freely in Paris after the war. 56 Although Patard had been briefed on the plants and on Bosch’s scientific reputation and engineering accomplishments, the negotiations at first did not go well.


The two men exchanged bitter words. Patard insisted that the Oppau and Leuna plants had to be destroyed because of their military value. Bosch countered that with famine facing many of the war devastated areas, these plants were desperately needed to produce fertilizer. Bosch finally began to impress Patard with the depth of his intellect. The general relaxed his hard position. If the synthetic nitrogen plants were so vital to agriculture, Patard said, France should have them as well as Germany.


Therefore, if Bosch would support a French nitrogen project, Patard would permit Oppau and Leuna to continue to operate. Patard was specific in his terms. BASF should help the French government build the nitrate plants, deliver the necessary equipment, make available all secrets, know-how, and technology, send experienced personnel to train French technicians, and expend their best efforts to create a successful French nitrogen industry. In return, the French would drop their demand that the German dyestuff and nitrate plants he destroyed. 57 Bosch was aware of the criticism he would face in Germany for giving up the Haber-Bosch monopoly, but he readily agreed to Patard’s terms.


A more important consideration was involved: it was the only way to save his beloved Oppau and Leuna and possibly I.G. itself. At the conclusion of this meeting it was agreed to start negotiations in November on a formal agreement. Before Bosch left Versailles, he had one more mission to accomplish. Hermann Schmitz, the bright young man in the War Raw Materials Office who had helped him secure the approval of the German Government for the building of the Leuna high-pressure chemical plant in the spring of 1915, was present at Versailles as a nitrate and fertilizer expert representing the Ministry of Economics. 58


Bosch arranged for Schmitz to join BASF as its chief of finance and foreign operations. In the flush of the excitement of this important step upward in the industrial world, Schmitz could not possibly imagine what the future held.

In the fall of 1919, at just about the time Bosch was concluding his deal with General Patard, the issue of war criminals became front-page news for the first time since the Versailles treaty was signed. It was raised accidentally by the Nobel Prize committee in Stockholm, which announced that Fritz Haber had won the Nobel Prize for chemistry for his synthesis of ammonia. 59 The scientific community of the world reacted with outrage.


The comment of the foremost British scientific journal, Nature, was typical:

“It will not be forgotten that it was at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for the Promotion of Science that Geheimrat Haber made his experiments on poison gas, prior to the Battle of Ypres, which initiated a mode of warfare which is to the everlasting discredit of the Germans.” 60

French scientists were especially resentful of the Nobel committee selection, and two French winners announced publicly that they would refuse to accept their prizes as long as Haber was to be honored with them. 61 Supporting the French scientists, the New York Times editorialized on January 27, 1920:

So, though Dr. Haber undoubtedly has many scientific achievements to his credit besides his work in poison gas, and though the Swedes who made the award had probably no invidious intention, general sympathy will be felt with the Frenchmen who did not care to be honored in such company. One may wonder, indeed, why the Nobel prize for idealistic and imaginative literature was not given to the man who wrote General Ludendorff’s daily communiqués. 62

The Swedish government, troubled by the extent of the protest, sought to correct the impression that Haber was being honored for contributions to the horrors of war. Upon orders from Sweden, Dag Hammarskjöld, first secretary of the Swedish legation in Washington, wrote a letter to the New York Times pointing out that the report on which the award was made stated that the Haber method of producing ammonia is cheaper than any other so far known, that the production of cheap nitric fertilizers is of a universal importance to the increase of food production, and that consequently the Haber invention was of the greatest value to the world at large.... Ammonia, the product of the Haber method, must be converted into nitric acid in order to give rise to explosives or corrosive gases.


As a matter of fact, the Haber plants in Germany were erected with a view of producing agricultural fertilizers. 63 A few days later Haber’s role in Germany’s poison gas warfare became an official matter. The Versailles treaty, in one of its most bitterly contested provisions, had called for a war crimes trial before a special tribunal of “persons accused of having committed acts in violation of the laws and customs of war.” 64


On February 3, 1920, a list of over 900 alleged war criminals was submitted by the Allies to Baron von Lersner as head of the German peace delegation. On the list were military and political figures, including the Kaiser, Hindenburg, Ludendorff, Bernstorff, and princes of the Royal House of Hohenzollern. Fritz Haber was also on the list—the only person remotely within the I.G. orbit to be charged as a war criminal.

The collection of names presented by the Allied powers proved to be entirely unmanageable. Many individuals were unidentifiable and a large number could not be located. Misspellings added to the confusion. The Kaiser was in Holland, which refused to surrender him. Recognizing that a reduction in the number was required, the Allies on May 7, 1920, submitted a drastically smaller list, omitting practically all the well-known names.


The number of those accused of war crimes had been reduced from 900 to 45; the list was now composed mostly of obscure figures like submarine commanders and prison guards. Haber’s name was no longer on the list. The German government agreed to commence proceedings against the accused in a German court at Leipzig. The trials took place late in May 1921. Of the six defendants accused by the British, five were convicted and given short sentences; of the six on the Belgian and French lists, only one, accused of shooting a prisoner of war, was convicted and sentenced to two years.

The pointlessness of these trials became apparent, and a commission of Allied legal experts found, without a dissent, that many of the accused who should have been condemned had been acquitted and that the punishments generally were inadequate. They recommended that those not yet tried should be delivered to the Allies for trial instead. Their report was received by the Allies, pigeonholed, and forgotten. Almost half a century later a war criminal convicted at Nuremberg, Albert Speer, lamented that the failure of the war crimes trials in World War I may have had an effect on the commission of war crimes in World War II.

There was at least one more strong reverberation in the Allied countries because of poison gas warfare. In September 1921 a tremendous explosion shattered the Haber-Bosch synthetic nitrate plant at Oppau in one of the world’s worst industrial catastrophes. Over 600 workers were killed, more than 2000 were injured, and the plant was demolished. Rumors spread that BASF was experimenting with some terrible new kind of chemical weapon.


A New York Times editorial speculated:

Nearly three years after the armistice, the Oppau plant of odious memory is blown to pieces by some mysterious explosive and 3,000 persons are killed, injured, or missing, and the scientists, including Professor Haber, do not know how it happened, can’t understand it at all. It may never be explained to the satisfaction of honest scientific men; but when the fact is well known that there is an unrepentant and revengeful military party in Germany that looks to another war to restore her baleful power, and when the world believes that these dangerous reactionaries would welcome the discovery by their chemists of annihilating gases of enormous power, it is not inconceivable that the disaster at Oppau may have been due to covert experimenting by those chemists. 65

An American reporter asked Haber for a possible explanation of the explosion. He replied that the Oppau explosion could not possibly have been caused in the production of synthetic nitrates by the Haber-Bosch process; neither the nitrates nor the enormous pressures involved could lead to an explosion of such force. Haber added intriguingly that “an investigation may reveal new and terrible forces.” 66


Whatever the cause, it was certain that BASF faced an enormous financial loss if the Oppau plant were not reconstructed quickly. However, BASF engineers estimated that the rebuilding would require at least a year. Bosch put Carl Krauch, whom he regarded as his most gifted protégé, in charge of Oppau’s reconstruction, with orders to spare no expense. 67 The most urgent problem was the recruitment of a huge labor force. At least 10,000 construction workers, mainly skilled craftsmen, were needed, as well as supervisory personnel. It seemed an impossible requirement.


However, Krauch attacked the problem with imagination and boldness. He contracted with corporations all over Germany to suspend their own production and send complete units of workers and their supervisors to work at Oppau. Though expensive, the method proved a spectacular success. 68 Krauch was able to assemble the required work force in an incredibly short time, and Oppau was restored in only three months.


The day after Oppau resumed operation, Bosch rewarded Krauch by appointing him to the BASF managing board of directors. 69 The triumvirate who were to guide I.G. during the crucial years to come—Bosch, Schmitz, and Krauch—were now at the top of BASF, ready to play out their roles.

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