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I.G. Farben trial, early release and reestablishment of Bayer (1945–1951)
At the end of the war, the Lower Rhine is among the regions liberated by American troops. The British military government soon assumes complete control over the Lower Rhine sites. When the Allied Forces seize the I.G. in November 1945, it is dissolved, and its assets are made available for war reparations.
The Nuremberg Trials that start in August 1947 include proceedings against senior figures at I.G. Farben. These proceedings break new ground. Together with the parallel trials of Flick and Krupp, they are the first to focus on the ethical and legal responsibility of business leaders for war and crimes against humanity. A total of 23 senior managers from I.G. Farben stand trial during the Nuremberg Military Tribunals.
On July 30, 1948, 13 of the accused receive custodial sentences, while the remaining ten are acquitted based on the available evidence. During the trial, no representatives of I.G. Farben show any willingness to acknowledge their own involvement and take responsibility. All of the accused who receive a custodial sentence go on to be granted an early release. Most are soon back in senior roles at their respective companies, including Fritz ter Meer, who is sentenced to seven years in prison for “plunder and spoliation” and for “mass murder and enslavement”.
Fritz ter Meer and the handling of responsibility
In 1947, Fritz ter Meer – one of the senior managers of I.G. Farben who are being held by the Allies at Kransberg Castle in the Taunus Mountains before the trial – produces a narrative describing the attitude and actions of the people in charge at I.G. Farben. Referred to as the “Kransberg Memorandum”, it survives to this day. This document makes no mention of the suffering of forced laborers, or the strategic role played by I.G. Farben during the Nazi period. Instead, the memorandum paints a picture of peaceful, patriotic businessmen and scientists who were themselves victims of the National Socialist regime.
A chemist and entrepreneur, Fritz ter Meer is Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Farbenfabriken Bayer AG and a member of the supervisory board at several other companies in the period between 1956 and 1964.
The British leave Ulrich Haberland (1900–1961), who has been in charge of the Lower Rhine operating consortium since 1943, in his post. Very soon, they also allow production to resume, as the chemical industry’s products are deemed essential to supply the population.
In the years that follow, Ulrich Haberland works to build up a competitive company. The Allied military governments initially plan to break up the I.G. into as many small companies as possible, but these would have struggled to survive on the global market or even in Germany itself. The Allies ultimately realize this, too, and 12 competitive new companies are therefore created in the Federal Republic of Germany based on their legislation.
One of these is Farbenfabriken Bayer AG, which is newly founded on December 19, 1951 and allocated the Leverkusen, Dormagen, Elberfeld and Uerdingen sites. Bayer is also assigned a subsidiary – Agfa (Aktiengesellschaft für Fotofabrikation) – which is newly established in 1952.