Culture of Remembrance

No Future without Remembrance

Original picture from the Bayer archives of Dr Hans Finkelstein conversing with colleagues in a laboratory at the Uerdingen site of I.G. Farben, recorded in 1932.

As a responsible company, Bayer wants to foster resilience against antisemitism and other totalitarian ideologies to prevent history from repeating – today and tomorrow. That is why we are driving extensive initiatives for research and remembrance work around the time of I.G. Farben. By consciously reflecting on our role in history, we are working on our ethical framework as a global societal actor and aim to strengthen a corporate culture that lives up to our values and principles.

In 1925, six German companies took the decision to form a community of interests – Interessengemeinschaft Farbenindustrie AG, or I.G. Farben for short. Farbenfabriken vorm. Friedr. Bayer & Co was one of the founding members. Today’s Bayer AG emerged from I.G. Farben in 1952.

 

The question of how to deal responsibly with one’s own past – in particular the legacy of I.G. Farben during the crimes of the Nazi era and their continuities – is always relevant. Bayer therefore contributes to a new culture of remembrance within the company – and beyond. Several initiatives have started to drive research and remembrance work around the legacy of I.G. Farben during the Second World War.

Remembrance, Research and Resilience

To lead Bayer’s work on remembrance, research and resilience, the company has established the Hans and Berthold Finkelstein Foundation in 2023.

Portrait of Matthias Berninger in Leverkusen.
By honoring the story of the Finkelsteins, we remember the past, reflect on the known and unknown cruelties of I.G. Farben and keep the memory alive to help prevent any of this happening again in the future. It is also a contribution to the fight for freedom and the diversity of thought."
Matthias Berninger
,
Head of Public Affairs, Science, Sustainability & HSE at Bayer

The Hans and Berthold Finkelstein Foundation is based on three inter-related pillars:

The foundation aims to deal with the legacy of I.G. Farben, shape contemporary remembrance and make the stories of victims and perpetrators visible, in particular with regard to Nazi forced labor.

The foundation aims to help close gaps in research into the role of companies during the National Socialist regime and make the findings accessible to the public.

The foundation aims to strengthen resilience to anti-Semitism, racism, all forms of hatred, totalitarianism and (digital) violence - in the present and in the future.

It will drive the work on remembrance and research on the injustices committed during the Nazi regime on behalf of Bayer, in particular forced labor at I.G. Farben. It will fund independent research, foster a Bayer corporate culture guided by remembrance, develop programs for responsible leadership and promote dialogue-oriented projects to strengthen resilience against hate ideologies, totalitarianism, and tyranny.



Annette Schavan, former Federal Minister of Education and Research and long-standing member of the German Bundestag, was appointed Chairwoman of the advisory council. Since 2019, Schavan also serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees of the EVZ Foundation.

Portrait of Annette Schavan
With the Hans and Berthold Finkelstein Foundation, Bayer actively contributes to a culture of remembrance. The story of the family deeply moved me, and I am humbled to take part in this important endeavor and in honoring their legacy."
Annette Schavan
,
former Federal Minister of Education and Research and long-standing member of the German Bundestag, Photo: Laurence Chaperon © Annette Schavan
Original picture from the Bayer archives of Dr Hans Finkelstein conversing with colleagues in a laboratory at the Uerdingen site of I.G. Farben, recorded in 1932. Portrait of Hans Finkelstein’s son Berthold Finkelstein.
Left image: Dr. Hans Finkelstein (left) conversing with colleagues. View of a laboratory at the Uerdingen site, 1932. Photo: Bayer AG, Bayer Archives Leverkusen
Right image: Hans Finkelstein’s son Berthold Finkelstein headed the Gustav Stresemann Institute until 1996. Photo: © Gustav-Stresemann-Institut e.V.

The foundation is named after Hans and Berthold Finkelstein, whose lives exemplify the innumerable dreadful consequences of the crimes of the Nazi era and their continuities. Their story was discovered during research activities in the Bayer archives. Dr. Hans Finkelstein, inventor of the so-called Finkelstein reaction, was head of research at the formerly independent company “Chemische Fabriken vorm. Weiler – ter Meer” in Uerdingen, later absorbed into I.G. Farben. After the National Socialists came to power and the so-called “Nuremberg Race Laws” came into force, he had to leave the company in 1938 and then took his own life. Later, his son Berthold was a forced laborer in the same plant.

 

The Finkelstein story

 

Further information on the Finkelstein Foundation can be found here.

Memorial for the victims of forced labor at the Lower Rhine sites of I.G. Farben 

BAG Memorial
View of the memorial for victims of forced labor at I.G. Farben’s Lower Rhine sites, located next to Bayer Headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany © Marcus Mueller Saran

To promote a company culture guided by remembrance and reflection, Bayer has built a memorial for the victims of forced labor at I.G. Farben during the Second World War next to its Headquarters in Leverkusen. The memorial honors the approximately 16,000 forced laborers from numerous occupied countries in Europe who were deployed at the Lower Rhine sites to expand production from 1940 to 1945. According to available documents, approximately one-third of these forced laborers were women. Most were between 17-23 years old when they arrived, and there were also children among them.

 

The memorial was designed and built by an interdisciplinary group of artists and designers led by Professor Jussi Ängeslevä from ART+COM Studios. The intent was to create a physical and artistic interpretation of an original dataset containing information from the Bayer archives about the approximately 16,000 people. Located at the very heart of the company in Leverkusen, the place is also designed to enable an individual engagement with the past.

 

The computationally designed sculpture of wood, steel and living plants will intentionally transform over time due to the forces of nature, reminding employees and visitors that remembering the past is imperative when thinking of the future. The physical installation is augmented by a site-specific mobile app that helps visitors decipher its unique form and obtain impressions of various data: from spatial references to demographic details and personnel documents of 26 forced laborers of I.G. Farben who are quoted verbatim. The examples reveal the fates of the forced laborers and make the perspective of those responsible explicitly clear.

BAG Memorial
The memorial was inaugurated in May 2023. Among the guests were Werner Baumann, the Mayor of Leverkusen Uwe Richrath, Johannes Finkelstein and members of Bayer’s Works Council. © Marcus Mueller Saran
Heike Hausfeld
“Remembrance of the injustice suffered by the approximately 16,000 individuals at the Lower Rhine sites must inform our moral awareness. It can also serve as an ethical framework for the decisions we make today and in the future.”
Heike Hausfeld
,
Chairwoman of the Central Works Council of Bayer AG, at the inauguration ceremony on May 8, 2023.

Supporting the Pears Jewish Campus in Berlin

To actively promote Jewish life in Germany and further embed the legacy of Hans and Berthold Finkelstein in the company's remembrance culture, Bayer has sponsored three student labs within the Hans-Finkelstein-Wing at the Pears Jewish Campus Berlin.

Oliver Renner, Head of Communications Bayer Pharmaceuticals, Matthias Berninger, Head of Public Affairs, Science, Sustainability & HSE at Bayer, the former Bayer CEO Werner Baumann and rabbi Yehuda Teichtal, Chairman of the Chabad community and initiator of the project during the opening of the "Pears Jewish Campus" on June 25 in Berlin
Oliver Renner, Head of Communications Bayer Pharmaceuticals, Matthias Berninger, Head of Public Affairs, Science, Sustainability & HSE at Bayer, the former Bayer CEO Werner Baumann and rabbi Yehuda Teichtal, Chairman of the Chabad community and initiator of the project during the opening of the "Pears Jewish Campus" on June 25 in Berlin. © Max Mordinson

 

Four years after construction began, the Jewish Campus (PJC) in Berlin was opened in June 2023. The 8000 m2 interfaith campus is based on three pillars: education, culture and sports. The education facilities now also include Bayer science labs, allowing students to study chemistry in a state-of-the-art setting.

A memorial board for Dr. Hans Finkelstein
A memorial board for Dr. Hans Finkelstein in front of one of the laboratories at the Hans Finkelstein Wing. © Max Mordinson

 

Apart from financial support, Bayer and the Campus will engage in a long-term ideational partnership: Bayer scientists will design additional educational formats to promote science among students.

 

The wing was named after Dr. Hans Finkelstein, as was the Hans and Berthold Finkelstein Foundation recently established by Bayer.

Open doors to the company archive

The Heritage Communications department – Bayer's historical archive – has been accessible for interested scientists since the 1960s. The first study on the role of industrial companies during National Socialism and the Second World War, in which files from the archive were used, was published in 1972. Since then, several scientific papers have been created based on documents from the archive, which deal with a wide variety of aspects of the company's history - and in particular with the era of I.G. Farbenindustrie AG.

 

Corporate Archives of Bayer