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The Devil’s Chemists — 24 Conspirators of the International Farben Cartel Who Manufacture Wars

by Josi­ah DuBois
1952, The Bea­con Press, 374 pages
Down­load Pt. 1 | Down­load Pt. 2

Like Ambruster’s Treason’s Peace, Josi­ah DuBois’s The Devil’s Chemists high­lights how the I.G. Far­ben chem­i­cal firm manip­u­lat­ed trade rela­tion­ships to the advan­tage of the Third Reich. In addi­tion, the book illus­trates how cor­po­ra­tions, busi­ness­men and politi­cians behold­en unto the firm’s non-Ger­man car­tel part­ners assist­ed that manip­u­la­tion, as well as the post­war reha­bil­i­ta­tion and exon­er­a­tion of both I.G. and its most impor­tant per­son­nel. Those per­son­nel are the pri­ma­ry focus of Josi­ah Du Bois’s The Devil’s Chemists. In addi­tion, DuBois empha­sizes the dam­age done to America’s inter­na­tion­al cred­i­bil­i­ty by its post­war preser­va­tion of I.G. Far­ben and oth­er Axis/fascist car­tels.

One can­not under­stand the his­to­ry of the 20th cen­tu­ry with­out under­stand­ing the role played in world events of the time by the I.G. Far­ben com­pa­ny, the chem­i­cal car­tel that grew out of the Ger­man dyestuffs indus­try. Com­pris­ing some of the most impor­tant indi­vid­ual com­pa­nies in the his­to­ry of indus­tri­al cap­i­tal­ism, the firm has dom­i­nat­ed the dyestuffs, chem­i­cal and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal indus­tries before and dur­ing World War II. The com­pa­nies that grew out of I.G.’s offi­cial dis­so­lu­tion after the war—Bayer, Hoechst, BASF, and Agfa con­tin­ued to be deci­sive in world mar­kets. Among the many prod­ucts devel­oped by I.G. or its mem­ber com­pa­nies are aspirin, hero­in, Novo­cain, methadone (orig­i­nal­ly named Dolophine in hon­or of Adolph Hitler) and Zyk­lon B (the poi­son gas used in the exter­mi­na­tion cen­ters of World War II.)

Both the Ambruster and DuBois texts set forth the inter­na­tion­al scope and eco­nom­ic impact of the com­pa­ny, its role as the spine of the indus­tri­al war-mak­ing econ­o­my of the Third Reich and the firm’s ele­va­tion of Hitler to his posi­tion of pow­er. As one observ­er not­ed, “Hitler was Far­ben and Far­ben was Hitler.” Much of the impact that the com­pa­ny wield­ed derived from its inter­na­tion­al dom­i­nance of the chem­i­cal, rub­ber, petro­chem­i­cal and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal indus­tries through its car­tel arrange­ments with part­ner firms in oth­er coun­tries. Farben’s for­eign coun­ter­parts had much to do with let­ting the com­pa­ny and its executives—many of them war crim­i­nals of the first order—off the hook after World War II.

Farben’s car­tel part­ners abroad con­sti­tut­ed an inven­to­ry of the wealth­i­est and most pow­er­ful cor­po­ra­tions in the world. In the Unit­ed States, the major firms with which Far­ben did busi­ness includ­ed: Du Pont, the Stan­dard Oil com­pa­nies, Gen­er­al Motors, Ford Motor Com­pa­ny, Union Car­bide, Dow Chem­i­cal and Tex­a­co. In turn, these cor­po­rate giants wield­ed con­trol­ling polit­i­cal influ­ence in the Unit­ed States through the elect­ed and appoint­ed offi­cials in their sway. Attempts at reduc­ing Farben’s influ­ence in the Unit­ed States before and dur­ing World War II, as well as efforts at hold­ing the com­pa­ny and its top exec­u­tives to account for their crimes after the war were neu­tral­ized by the cartel’s cor­po­rate hirelings. Many of names of the com­bat­ants on both sides are impor­tant and, to old­er and bet­ter-edu­cat­ed read­ers, famil­iar. Far­ben exert­ed a pro­found influ­ence in oth­er coun­tries as well.

Behind the actions of many world fig­ures promi­nent in the mid-20th cen­tu­ry, we can observe the effects of their rela­tion­ship to I.G. As dis­cussed in The Nazis Go Under­ground, Neville Cham­ber­lain was a major stock­hold­er in Impe­r­i­al Chem­i­cals, I.G.’s major car­tel part­ner in the Unit­ed King­dom. Chamberlain’s “weak­ness” in the Munich sum­mit with Hitler assumes a dif­fer­ent light when eval­u­at­ed against his hold­ings in Impe­r­i­al. In Falange, Alan Chase describes Wil­helm von Fau­pel, the prime mover behind the estab­lish­ment of the Span­ish Falange and its inter­na­tion­al com­po­nent, the Falange Exte­ri­or. Fau­pel derived much of his con­sid­er­able influ­ence with­in the Third Reich from his sta­tus as an “I.G. Gen­er­al.”

In The Devil’s Chemists, DuBois details the war crimes tri­als of key I.G. per­son­nel and, in so doing, illus­trates the per­ni­cious nature of the car­tel sys­tem Far­ben embod­ied and suc­cess­ful­ly, ruth­less­ly exploit­ed. On page “x” of the pref­ace, DuBois explains:

“ . . . In con­dens­ing 150 large vol­umes of tes­ti­mo­ny with­in one aver­age-size book, a great deal of mate­r­i­al has nec­es­sar­i­ly been elim­i­nat­ed. Nev­er­the­less, I believe that every sig­nif­i­cant aspect of this his­toric crim­i­nal tri­al has been brought to the atten­tion of the read­er. . . .”

DuBois relates how “anti-Com­mu­nism” was used to mask and exon­er­ate the I.G. defen­dants who are the focal point of the book. On page 355, DuBois writes:

“ . . . Yet the two judges accept­ed the fic­tion that Far­ben was the sim­ple pro­to­type of ‘West­ern Cap­i­tal­ism.’ By impli­ca­tion, this placed the Ter Meers and Schmitzes along­side the stock­hold­ers and direc­tors of many inter­na­tion­al firms whose poli­cies some­times stood out clear­ly against war. . . . This com­mer­cial stereo­type reached its great­est exag­ger­a­tion in the case of Max Ilgn­er. The Tri­bunal rewrote into inno­cence even the aggres­sive deeds he admit­ted, rais­ing the clear impli­ca­tion that any soci­ety could be filled with such men with no dan­ger what­ev­er to the peace of the world. Hav­ing been sen­tenced to three years for plun­der­ing Ilgn­er was giv­en cred­it for the time he had spent in jail and was released imme­di­ate­ly after the judg­ment was read. . . .”

Pub­lished in 1952, the DuBois text reflects the anx­i­ety pro­voked in the West by the Ger­man “Ost­poli­tik” that is the pri­ma­ry focus of T.H. Tetens’ Ger­many Plots with the Krem­lin. Not­ing blos­som­ing Ger­man trade with the for­mer Sovi­et Union in the ear­ly 1950’s, as well as the pro­pos­als by some Ger­man polit­i­cal fig­ures to assume a posi­tion of neu­tral­i­ty, many observers pushed to appease the resid­ual Reich ele­ments at every oppor­tu­ni­ty. Many in posi­tions of influ­ence in the Unit­ed States felt that the pos­si­bil­i­ty that Ger­many might align itself with the USSR man­dat­ed a Carte Blanche atti­tude on the part of the US diplo­ma­cy.

DuBois dis­cuss­es one of the most seri­ous out­growths of the preser­va­tion of the car­tels in Japan and Ger­many and the Cold War pol­i­cy of estab­lish­ing right-wing “bul­wark” states to guard against the spread of com­mu­nism. Pre­serv­ing the dom­i­nance of fas­cist eco­nom­ic inter­ests alien­at­ed those who had suf­fered under the yoke of Axis occu­pa­tion.

“ . . . In the Far East, as well as in Europe, the Unit­ed States has backed oth­er total­i­tar­i­an-mind­ed groups [in addi­tion to the I.G.] as a ‘bul­wark’ against com­mu­nism. By the end of World War II, the peo­ples of Chi­na, Korea, Indo-Chi­na, and the Philip­pines had suf­fered for years under the ‘New Order for Asia’ spon­sored by the Japan­ese equiv­a­lent of Far­ben, the Zaibat­su car­tels. These car­tels by force of arms won a stran­gle­hold on the economies of these coun­tries. Instead of rebuild­ing the Far East gen­er­al­ly as fast as we could, we have ped­dled the fear that Rus­sia would rob and plun­der the peo­ple, while at the same time we backed the very forces which had already robbed and plun­dered them. The Zaibat­su car­tels are as strong as ever. In Indo-Chi­na, we have backed the col­lab­o­ra­tors of the ‘Japan­ese New Order.’ In South Korea, faced with a vari­ety of tru­ly demo­c­ra­t­ic choic­es, we backed Syn­g­man Rhee and the few landown­ers and cot­ton millers who had cast their lot with the ‘New Order’ gang. . . . Can we expect mil­lions of for­mer vas­sals in Asia to ral­ly around their erst­while total­i­tar­i­an oppres­sors? Can we ral­ly Europe sole­ly around the fear of Sovi­et enslave­ment while we delib­er­ate­ly sus­tain the forces which twice in recent his­to­ry have enslaved that con­ti­nent? On the answer to these ques­tions depends our sur­vival.”

Indeed. (For more about the resti­tu­tion of the Zaibat­sus, see FTRs 290, 426.)

Like the Ambruster, Mar­tin Man­ning, and Borkin & Welsh texts, The Devil’s Chemists pro­vides a win­dow into a realm of cor­po­rate polit­i­cal eco­nom­ics that con­tin­ues to wield a deci­sive role in world affairs.


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