I.G. Farben’s Pact With the Devil

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I.G. Farben’s Pact With the Devil

The following citation addresses the issue of the impact financial and economic considerations had on I.G. Farben’s decision to build I.G. Auschwitz…

“The Soviet Union and Asia represented a potential market to challenge even the commercial imagination of I.G.’s directors. For I.G., Hitler’s `Drive to the East’ promised to open a vast new area for profitable exploitation. Indeed, so great did I.G. regard the postwar potential of the Auschwitz project that it decided to make an unusual gamble on its future. Rather than let the German government finance the building of the installations, the I.G. directors voted to put up the funds to make I.G. Auschwitz a privately owned I.G. enterprise and to assume the entire risk. With almost no opposition, they committed more than 900 million Reichsmarks, over $250 million, to the building of the single largest project in the I.G. system. With such an enormous risk, officials of I.G. carefully watched over their huge investment.

There were other factors supporting the risk and indicating the prudence of such an investment. The I.G. Auschwitz projects were so vital to Germany’s military plans that I.G. was able to marshal the aid of the most powerful figures in the Nazi government. Krauch*, in a top secret letter to Ambros**, wrote:

In the new arrangement of priority stages ordered by Field Marshal Keitel, your building project has first priority…. At my request, [Goering] issued special decrees a few days ago to the supreme Reich authorities concerned… In these decrees, the Reich Marshal obligated the offices concerned to meet your requirements in skilled workers and larborers at once, even at the expense of other important building projects or plans which are essential to the war economy.

Krauch was already taking steps to insure an adequate labor supply for the construction of the I.G. Auschwitz plants. He had arranged for Goering to write Himmler on February 18, 1941, asking that `the largest possible number of skilled and unskilled construction workers…be made available from the adjoining concentration camp for the construction of the Buna plant.’ Between 8000 and 12,000 construction and assembly workers were needed. Goering requested Himmler to inform him and Krauch `as soon as possible about the orders which you will issue in this matter.’ Acting on this request, Himmler ordered the S.S. inspector of concentration camps and the S.S. economic and administrative main office `to get in touch immediately with the construction manager of the Buna works and to aid the…project by means of the concentration camp prisoners in every possible way.’ After Himmler issued this decree, Krauch wrote to Ambros, `These orders are so far-reaching that I request you to apply them to the widest extent as soon as possible.’

So that there would be no misunderstanding of the urgent priority of the I.G. Auschwitz project, Himmler delegated S.S. Major General Karl Wolff, chief of his personal staff, to be liaison officer between the S.S. and I.G. On March 20, General Wolff met with Buetefisch*** to discuss `the details of the ways and means in which the concentration camp could assist in the construction of the plant.’ Buetefisch was chosen to deal with General Wolff not only because of his eminence as a synthetic fuel authority but also because of his rank as a lieutenant colonel in the S.S. At the meeting it was agreed that I.G. would pay the S.S. three Reichsmarks a day for each unskilled concentration camp inmate and four Reichsmarks for skilled inmates. Later, the S.S. agreed to furnish children at one and a half Reichsmarks. These payments were for the S.S.; the inmates, of course, received nothing. Wolff guaranteed that the payment would include `everything such as transportation, food, et cetera and [I.G.] will have no other expenses for the inmates, except if a small bonus (cigarettes, etc.) is given as an incentive. Both parties realized, in calculating the rate of payment, that a concentration camp inmate could not be as productive as a free, normal, well-fed German worker; thus, it was estimated at the meeting that a seventy-five percent efficiency was all that could be expected.” (Borkin, 116-117)

Borkin’s end notes:

TWC, Prosecution’s Final Brief, part IV, p. 54

TWC, VIII, pp.358-360, NI-11938, letter from Krauch to Ambros, dated February 25, 1941

TWC, VIII, pp. 354-355, NI-1240, letter from Goering to Himmler, dated February 18, 1941

Ibid., p.355, letter from Goering to Himmler, dated February 18, 1941

TWC, VIII, pp. 356-357, NI-11086, letter from Krauch, signed by Wirth, to Ambros, dated March 4, 1941.

Ibid., p.357, letter from Krauch, signed by Wirth, to Ambros, dated March 4, 1941.


TWC, VIII, pp. 373-376, NI-15148, report on conference of Farben representatives with Auschwitz concentration camp officials, held March 27, 1941, p.374.

Ibid., p.375



Ibid., pp. 374-375

* Krauch – German Plenipotentiary General for “special questions of chemical production”

** Ambrose – I.G.’s resident expert on both Buna and poison gas, placed in charge of the I.G. Auschwitz rubber production project. Ambros had obtained his PhD under a Jewish scholar, with whom he continued to correspond after the man had fled Germany, and was not considered to be an anti-Semite. (I.G., in fact, was once scorned by Nazi officials as a “hotbed of Jewish interests.”)

*** Buetefisch, Heinrich – in charge of the I.G. Auschwitz gasoline plant

Work Cited

Borkin, Joseph. The Crime and Punishment of I.G. Farben. New York: The Free Press, 1978, and London: Macmillan Publishing Company.

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