Date: Wed, 18 Nov 1998 20:45:16 -0600 (CST)
From: (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: Bayer, nazis and forced labour
Article: 48009
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <>

/** media.issues: 33.0 **/
** Topic: Bayer and forced labour **
** Written 7:53 AM Nov 16, 1998 by in cdp:media.issues **

Bayer and forced labour

Letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by Philipp Mimkes, 16 November 1998

Letter to the editor

Dear Sirs,

Here in Germany we found it very interesting to hear about the discussion in Pittsburgh regarding the Nazi past of the Bayer company. Since Bayer's American division is located in your city this topic should be looked at very closely.

IG Farben was the only German company in the Third Reich that ran its own concentration camp. At least 30.000 slave workers died in this camp; a lot more were deported to the gas chambers. It was no coincidence that IG Farben built their giant new plant in Auschwitz, since the workforce they used (altogether about 300.000 people) was practically for free. The Zyklon B gas, which killed millions of Jews, Gypsies and other people was produced by IG Farben's subsidiary company Degesch.

In Germany a growing number of people do not understand that IG Farben's successors Bayer, BASF and Hoechst still refuse to apologize for their misdeeds. It is hard to accept that after the war the companies were allowed to keep IG Farben's entire property, whereas the surviving slave workers received nothing. Until today Bayer, BASF and Hoechst did not pay any wages to their former workers, let alone any compensation.

In 1995 the coalition Never again! was created by the German Auschwitz Committee, Critical Shareholders and several organizations of former slave workers. In a joint appeal the coalition demands that there has to be an appropriate compensation by the companies for slave-workers and their descendants. Also the maintenance of the memorial at Auschwitz, which reminds the public of IG Farben's victims, should be paid by the corporations. Never again! states that without verification of the past we always have to be present so that these crimes might never happen again. More than 1,500 individuals and about 100 German groups have signed this platform, among them former slave workers, many students and members of the Green party and the churches. The activities were organized by the Coordination against Bayer-dangers, a group that monitors Bayer worldwide for already 20 years.

In 1995 representatives of Never again! spoke at Bayer's Annual Stockholder Meeting in Cologne/Germany. Bayer chairman Mr. Manfred Schneider refused to discuss the issue since Bayer is not IG Farben's successor. Two members of Never again! were dragged out of the hall. In 1997 Hans Frankenthal, who survived two years in IG Farben's plant in Auschwitz, spoke to the stockholders. He demanded an apology and financial compensation—not only for himself, but for all of the surviving slave workers in Eastern Europe. Again, Bayer's board did not react.

It is very interesting for us to learn that Mr. Helge Wehmeier, director of Bayer's American divisions, offered Mr Elie Wiesel his deepest apology for what my country and IG Farben did in 1995. It was the same year when the company refused to discuss the issue in Germany. Wehmeier admits Bayer's succession of IG Farben, but nothing comparable was ever said here in Germany. Still this was only Mr. Wehmeier's personal apology, which was not followed by an official apology from the company.

This year we commemorate the Fiftieth anniversary of the Nuremberg trial sentence against IG Farben. A lot of Germans feel that we finally have to come to terms with this part of our history. We are glad to know that groups like the Committee for Appropriate Acknowledgment help us to urge the powerful Bayer group to accept their responsibility.

Also the new German government admits that we need a sincere and just solution. In a few years, the last surviving victims of the Nazi period will have perished. Before that, the company Bayer has to accept its responsibility—in Germany and in the US.