The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Industrial Co-operation

But co-operation and support was available to Nazi strategists not only from the Jewish leadership, but from the German judiciary and civil service, as well as from bureaucratic officials in many other countries. Collaboration with the Nazis was also prevalent within German private industry. Industrialists saw in the massive labour resources of the camps the economic benefits of an almost unlimited labour supply.

The I.G. Farben company

It has been documented that there was close co-operation between German industry and the concentration camps throughout Europe. Two camps in particular, Auschwitz and the nearby Manowitz, in Poland, were constructed by I.G. Farben. 30German companies such as Farben, Krupp and Seimens used slave labour for German industrial projects. The co-operation between industry and the camps was so close that a group of industrialists would meet with Himmler on the second Wednesday of every month to discuss co-operative ventures with the SS. This group was known as the "Circle of Friends". Auschwitz itself was financed and owned by I.G. Farben, which also constructed another concentration camp with camp slave labour near Auschwitz, called Auschwitz III (also known as Manowitz).31

I.G. Farben management used Auschwitz consistently for slave labour from 1941 to 1945. By August 1944, Farben was employing 22,000 camp inmates; 10,600 of them were from Auschwitz. 32These labourers were selected not only by the SS but by company representatives who entered the camps on selection tours. Approximately 20 per cent of these labourers died every month and had to be replaced. Still, I.G. Farben's directors claimed at Nuremberg they had little to do with the concentration camp.33

Benjamin Ferencz covers this company's involvement with Auschwitz in great detail, and personally assisted Auschwitz survivors and Jewish organizations in Europe and elsewhere with trial evidence against German industry and I.G. Farben in particular. His testimony reveals that industrialists who were not members of the SS, nor party members or part of the military bureaucracy, the Gestapo, or the SD forces, were just as capable of assisting in the Final Solution.

On a fact finding journey to Auschwitz after the war for evidence against I.G. Farben, Ferencz found evidence in a document provided by a communist in the Buna factory (located at Auschwitz) that almost 10,000 inmates from Auschwitz were working at Farben's Buna works.34Farben officials would later try to deny responsibility at Nuremberg for their wartime slave labour actions. But in the mid 1960s Farben paid a total of DM26,250,000 to Compensation Truehard, which distributed the money to 5,855 claimants around the world.35

Sadly, the real horror of this company's involvement is that justice was never attained against those responsible for the war crimes of I.G. Farben. Dr. Walter Durrfeld, an engineer and chief of construction at the Auschwitz plant between 1941-44, for example, denied knowing personally of any abuse of slave labour. His denials were contradicted by eye witness testimony at Nuremberg.36 Prisoners testified that they were beaten to death and many died from exhaustion while working for Farben. Durrfeld did not receive a death sentence at Nuremberg.

Carl Krauch, the senior manager at Farben in 1943, was actually used by the Farben defense team as a witness, testifying against the payment of compensation to slave labour claimants in the 1950s. This, even though Krauch was convicted at Nuremberg of war crimes. (His sentence, however, was slight compared to his crimes. Although he co-operated with the SS and the Final Solution, he was convicted on July 29, 1948 at Nuremberg but sentenced to only six years in War Criminal Prison Number One at Landsberg, Bavaria.)37

At Nuremberg, I.G. Farben's defense lawyers claimed that the State, or specifically, Goering, had ordered the company to build the Buna plant at Auschwitz. But Farben's lawyers neglected to point out that Krauch had actually requested this order from Goering. The following letter reveals the real relationship Krauch had with Himmler, and with Auschwitz.

" TOP SECRET 27 JULY 1943 To: Reichsfuehrer SS and Chief of German Police [Heinrich Himmler] Berlin SW 11, Prinz Albrechtstrasse Dear Reichsfuehrer, I was particularly pleased to hear that during this discussion you hinted that you may possibly aid the expansion of another synthetic a similar way as was done at Auschwitz, by making available inmates of your camps, if necessary. I have also written to Minister Speer to this effect and would be grateful if you would continue sponsoring and aiding us in this matter... Heil Hitler! Yours faithfully, [signed] Dr.C.Krauch [Chairman of the Supervisory Board of I.G.Farben] "38
At least one judge at Nuremberg, however, felt that there was too much mercy against I.G. Farben in the judgements delivered. Judge Herbert, in a dissenting opinion, stated:
"Farben's planners, led by defendant Krauch, geared Farben's potentialities to actual war needs. It is totally irrevelant that the defendants might have preferred German workers... The important fact is that Farben's Vorstand willingly co-operated in utilizing forced labour. I cannot agree that there was an absence of moral choice..." 39

The Krupp Slave Labour Program

Krupp was one of the largest industrial combines in Germany and a recipient of slave labour from Auschwitz during the war. Nine of its board of directors were convicted at Nuremberg of war crimes. John J. McCloy, the United States Commissioner who took over from General Lucius Clay in 1949, reviewed their sentences. His subsequent judgement is disturbing. In a final decision concerning requests for clemency, McCloy stated:

"I can find no personal guilt in defendant Krupp, based upon the charges in this case, sufficient to distinguish him above all others sentenced by the Nuremberg courts. As one of the compelling motives of this review is to introduce a certain uniformity in the sentences, I have determined to eliminate this feature from the defendant Krupp's sentence..."

This decision by McCloy involved returning to Krupp his property and financial holdings, all of which had been confiscated by the terms of Krupp's original sentence. McCloy also commuted all nine sentences imposed on Krupp officials at Nuremberg and, in the case of Krupp himself, he was released from his original 12-year sentence (it was reduced to time already served). McCloy handed down this judgement on January 31, 1951. 40The most important of the nine Krupp directors, Alfred Felix Alwyn von Bohlen, took complete control of his father's business, the Krupp company, in the spring of 1942.41

A former concentration camp worker for Krupp testified as to the working conditions at the company during the war:

"During the third week of September 1943 a Director of the Krupp installation at Fuenfteichen, Germany, arrived at the Birkenau Quarantine Lager of Auschwitz to select able-bodied inmates of the KZ (concentration camp) to work at his plant..."42
"The German civilian foreman of the Krupp company kept rushing us and we were all so terrified that if we stopped or slowed down we would be put in the crematorium that we worked to the last ounce of our strength..."43

One would think that even a remote relationship to any connection with Auschwitz would demand a severe and critical appraisal of the above facts. Obviously, the sentences that were given (and later commuted) to the company's directors bore no resemblance to justice. On the contrary, the evil of the Nazi bureaucracy merely continued in a different form. Even though Alfred Krupp, as late as October 1944, had made great efforts to transport 500 Hungarian women back to the Buchenwald KZ from his plant in Essen, and even though his actions in this regard were exposed at Nuremberg. (The women were lucky, instead of being gassed they were rescued a few weeks later by British forces).44

During the war, Krupp employed more than 70,000 foreign civilians and 23,000 prisoners in more than 80 different plants, including about 10,000 prisoners from the concentration camps. Yet after the war, he ended up paying only a maximum of $850.00 per person to Compensation Truehand (a reparations organization) for 3,090 claimants worldwide. More than 4,000 legitimate cases were rejected by Krupp because he personally refused to allow them.45

There is something obscene about this whole process, not only because a judgement was reversed against Alfred von Bohlen and his other directors, but because people who had suffered so brutally had to fight for years to get any kind of compensation -- and even then, many claims were rejected. If we attempt to explain how the Holocaust occurred how people could treat their fellow human beings with such cruelty, we should also look at these industrial corporations and the moral decisions made about them even after the war. We should also look at the decisions made by the allies at the Nuremberg court.

We need to examine closely how such individuals, with blood on their hands, could be allowed to go free. How could McCloy explain that Krupp should have been released from a 12-year prison sentence? Especially when the Nuremberg court had documents such as this:

SECRET 7 September 1943 To Lt. Col Dr von Wedel Army High Command... From your letter of 26 ultimo I gathered that you are of the opinion that the firm of Krupp did not do its best to start the production of fuses at Auschwitz as soon as possible. I can only say that a very close cooperation exists between this office and Auschwitz, and it is assured for the future. With kind regards and Heil Hitler, Yours faithfully, A.v.Bohlen [Alfred Krupp von Bohlen] 46

Krupp eventually settled the claim with its slave labourers only under the pressure of being sued. They also delayed payment until the 1960s. Although Alfred Krupp was listed in Time magazine in August 1957 as one of the wealthiest men in Europe, if not the world, his company paid out a total of only DM10,000,000 in compensation.47

Heinkel Industries

At the start of 1959, Dr.Edmund Bartl brought a suit against the German aircraft manufacturer, Heinkel, which produced aircraft during the war using slave labourers from the concentration camp near the company factory in Oranienburg Sachsenhausen. Dr. Bartl, a German, was charged in 1941 while working as a lawyer in Sudeten, Germany, with opposition to the regime. He was jailed for two years and them imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp by the Gestapo.

Bartl's case against Heinkel was upheld by the Appellate court, yet the German Supreme Court later overruled this judgement. The Supreme court also ruled that any future claims against German companies regarding the use of concentration camp labour were forbidden. This meant that Dr. Bartl was unable to proceed with his claim for compensation. Not only was he refused compensation, according to German law he also had to pay court costs, including the legal fees and expenses of his adversary.48

This is just one more example of the way a bureaucratic system makes it easier for individuals to avoid justice. Yet this was at a time when no pressure from the gestapo or the SS could be cited as an excuse. And, as Benjamin Ferencz points out in his book on this subject Himmler reported to Goering that there were 36,000 prisoners working in the aircraft industry in 1944. Yet none of Germany's aircraft companies (according to Ferencz), such as Heinkel or Messerchmidt, ever paid compensation money to their slave labour survivors. 49

© 1999 Martin Rose, No reproduction of this document is allowed without the author's permission

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