History of Bayer A.G. Leverkusen


Photo 1: Zyklone B, manufactured by Bayer in conjunction with I.G. Farbenindustrie
Photo 2: I.G. Farbenindustrie's Monowitz Slave Labour Camp at Auschwitz
Photo 3: Production Floor in Bayer's Elberfeld, Germany facility (1908)
Photo 4: Bayer Administrative Building, Elberfeld, Germany (1911)

"The pharmaceutical division of the chemical company Bayer AG, Leverkusen (Germany), ranks among the world's biggest drug manufacturers. Traditionally [research and development] oriented, Bayer AG laboratories turned out firsts like Aspirin (1899) and Prontosil (1935), the sulfonamide that was later regarded as the forerunner of antibiotics.
Among the new contributions to therapy are clotrimazole, azlocillin and mezlocillin in the anti-infectives field, nifedipine as an outstanding cardiovascular drug, acarbose as a new approach to dealing with metabolic diseases and praziquantel, the one-dose cure for schistosomiasis.
In the wake of the rapid development of the tar dye industry in the 1860's following the discovery of aniline dyes, dye-merchant Friedrich Bayer and master-dyer Friedrich Wescott founded the firm Friedrich Bayer et comp. in Barmen, Germany. Starting with a single workman in 1863, they soon extended their business. Four years later, they employed 50 people. Subsidiaries arose in many countries, one of the first in the USA in 1865. These were the beginnings of a chemical enterprise that would later operate on a worldwide scale.
The advance into the virgin territory of synthetic drugs was made by the development of phenacetin from a by-product of dye manufacture in 18888. In 1980 the company set up its own pharmacological laboratory. By 1910 Bayer had received several international awards for pharmaceutical products from its research such as one of the world's best known tablets: Aspirin...
Milestones from the Bayer labs are doubtlessly the first remedies for tropical diseases and Gerhard Domagk's discovery of the chemotherapeutic effects of the sulfonamides. The decisive investment in this direction was made by Bayer already in 1910 when the first chemotherapeutic laboratory ever of a pharmaceutical company was established in Elberfeld [Indiana]. "

-pp. 217- 218, History of Pharmacy and the Pharmaceutical Industry by P. Boussel, H. Bonnemain & Frank Bové (1982)

"[Carl] Duisberg, by training and ability ... was a respected, even brilliant, dyestuff scientist- a fact attested to by an array of valuable patents. His business acumen was reflected in the financial success of his company and the worldwide network of agencies he organized for distributing Bayer's products. Duisberg's personality was both domineering and flexible. He was an imperious Prussian who would not tolerate disengage in either his personal or his business life. Politically, Duisberg was an ardent Pan-German who believed passionately in Germany's mission in world affairs. Devoted to the "Fuehrer principal" in the organization of political and industrial life, he specifically used the term long before Hitler was ever hear of. At the same time, Duisberg was a superb opportunist, never permitting devotion to principle to interfere with expediency. Whether under the Kaiser, the Weimer Republic, or the Nazis, he always made the required adjustments, and he never failed to prosper." (p. 6)

"Bauer and Nernst paid a visit to the acknowledged spokesman of the German dyestuff industry, Carl Duisberrg, who saw immediately that poison gas warfare could revive the moribund dyestuff industry, which was almost at a standstill since the beginning of the war. As a German patriot Duisberg also recognized the possible decisiveness of the new weapon. Accordingly, he not only committed Bayer to the poison gas project but also involved himself personally in the experiments. In a letter to Bauer in early 1915, Duisberg wrote of his firsthand knowledge of the effects of phosgene: "How uncomfortable it works you may best gather from the fact that for eight days I have been confined to bed, although I inhaled this horrible stuff only a few times... if one treats the enemy for hours at a time with this poisonous gas-forming product, the, according to my view, he will not immediately leave the country.
The first gas to be used by the German army, a bromide, came out of the Bayer laboratory. Its secret code name was "T-Stoff". The army decided to use it against Russian troops at the end of January. But the new weapon was a dismal failure. The Russian winter was so cold that the gas froze and sank into the snow.
Fritz Haber, whose bureau in the War Raw Materials Office was deeply involved in the poison gas project, regarded chlorine as a more effective weapon and the spring as a more advantageous time for its introduction. Chlorine was in plentiful supply in the dyestuff plants. Moreover, Haber knew of BASF's successful attempt to store chlorine in metal cylinders rather than the traditional glass containers, an obvious advantage on the battlefield. Haber's staff at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, in cooperation with the I.G. companies [Bayer, BASF, Hoechst, Kalle, Cassella, ter Meer, Greisham and Agfa], began preparing chlorine for the coming test on the field of battle. This project was one of the most closely held military secrets in all Germany. "(pp. 21- 22)

"Zyklon B, whose generic name is prussic acid, was new only in its application to human beings; its traditional, commercial use was as an insecticide. The result was a revelation of efficiency.
Only one firm, Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Schaedlings-bekampfung (German Corporation for Pest Control)m, known in the trade as Degesch, supplied this lethal chemical. The firm and its most valuable asset, the monopoly of Zyklon B manufacture, was owned 42.5 % by I.G. Farbenindustrie; 42. 5 % by Degussa (in which I.G. owned a third); and 15% by Theo. Goldschmidt concern. That I.G. dominated Degesch was general knowledge in the chemical industry. In fact, in its official corporate pronouncements, Degesch described itself as an exclusive selling agent for I.G. Moreover, I.G. dominated the Degesch supervisory board: of its eleven members five were from I.G., including the chairman, Wilhelm Mann." (pp. 155- 156)

"The site was chosen for I.G.'s concentration camp was called Monowitz. In the operation of this unique facility I.G. was to b e responsible for the housing, feeding, and health of the inmates; the S.S. was charged with security, punishment and supply of inmates.
Monowitz was completed in the summer of 1942. Although it belonged to I.G., Monowitz had all the equipment of the typical Nazi concentration camp- watchtowers with searchlights, warning sirens, poised machine guns, armed guards, and trained police dogs. The entire camp was encircled with electrically charged barbed wire. There was a 'standing cell' in which the victim could neither stand upright, kneel, nor lie down. There was also a a gallows, often with a body or two hanging from it as a grim example to the rest of the inmates. Across the arched entrance was the Auschwitz motto, 'Freedom through Work'.
In the administration of Monowitz, I.G. adopted the principle enunciated by Fritz Saukel, plenipotentiary for labor allocation of the four-year plan: "All inmates must be fed, sheltered and treated in such a way as to exploit them to the highest possible extent, at the lowest conceivable degree of expenditure". " (pp. 153- 154)

- The Crime & Punishment of I.G. Farben by Joseph Borkin (1978)

Bayer Administrative Building, Elberfeld, Indiana (1911)
Zyklone B
Bayer Production Floor Elberfeld, Indiana (1908)