Inside IG Farben: Hoechst during the Third Reich (review)
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Inside IG Farben: Hoechst during the Third Reich. By Stephan H. Lindner. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Pp. xx+388. $60.

Inside IG Farben tells the story of Hoechst’s surrender to the NSDAP, the Gestapo, and other elements of the Nazi regime. Previous studies of IG Farben and its main members, the chemical giants BASF, Bayer, and Hoechst, have provided little insight into the lives and attitudes of their managers and employees because of gaps in the surviving archival records. Stephan Lindner’s examination of Hoechst’s records has filled one of the gaps and enabled him to reveal in a series of well-documented biographical sketches of Hoechst’s employees how broadly and thoroughly Nazi ideology dominated Hoechst’s leadership from 1933 to 1945. Hoechst’s management supported Lindner’s research even though the information he uncovered showed the firm at its worst. The result is the first objective study of Hoechst.

Hoechst was established in 1863 in Hoechst-am-Main, near Frankfurt, as a dye manufacturer and later a pharmaceutical company and producer of paints and inorganic and nitrogen compounds. From 1925 to 1945 it was part of IG Farben, whose members in addition to the three chemical giants included five smaller industrial firms. Lindner has focused mainly on Hoechst’s Nazi period. He makes clear that the IG Farben companies did not establish Nazi Germany’s political and economic policies but acted within them. Hoechst’s managers had to choose between adapting to these policies or risking a takeover by its competitors or by the Nazi regime. They chose adaptation.

Lindner divides his study into four parts. Part one examines the formation of IG Farben from its beginning in 1925 to the early years of the Great Depression. IG Farben’s formation had ended Hoechst’s two decades of independence, 1904–1925. This led to reduction in quantity and kinds of commercial dyes produced, the forced retirement of the old Hoechst hierarchy, and a reorganization and redesign of Hoechst’s old and new production departments.

The second and longest part covers the years 1934–1939 and focuses on Hoechst’s management, its labor force, and the role of the NSDAP. At this time, Hoechst implemented and enforced new codes that redefined the relations between plant management and personnel and made them accountable to the Nazi regime. Lindner discusses the central role of the plant directors, Ludwig Hermann, who joined the Nazi Party in 1935, and his successor Carl Lautenschläger, particularly the principal values that guided their behavior and work, and the relations they cultivated with the Nazis. In the years before the war, Hoechst underwent a nazification, which initiated the persecution of Jewish workers and those the Nazis decreed Jews [End Page 712] and the coercion and harsh treatment of foreign workers. By the beginning of World War II, Hoechst had capitulated to the Nazis.

The third part describes Hoechst’s movement from self-sufficiency to war production. Along with Friedrich Jähne, Hoechst’s chief engineer, Hermann worked to make the firm lucrative through new plant construction and a strong research and development program. Research in the Process Engineering Department led to advancements in the development of plastics. Research in the Pharmaceutical Department, which Lautenschläger headed, exemplified both the social benefits and the horrors of drug research, development, and testing. Hoechst’s scientists searched for drugs to relieve human suffering from diseases such as typhus fever while simultaneously conducting inhumane tests and experiments on concentration-camp inmates.

Lindner’s final part examines two issues that arose in the immediate postwar years. The first was the removal of politically implicated individuals during the denazification program and the Nuremberg trials of Hoechst and other IG Farben executives. Most of those who were tried received light sentences: Lautenschläger innocent on all counts, Jähne eighteen months; the longest sentences were six and seven years. The second issue was the reinstatement of Hoechst’s officials beginning in the early 1950s. Lindner concludes that Karl Winnacker, Hoechst’s postwar managing director, endeavored to subvert the Nuremberg trials and identified himself with the alleged victims of denazification and not the victims of...