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IG Auschwitz: The primacy of racial politics

Joseph Robert White, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Abstract

This study examines IG Farben's Auschwitz plant, a synthetic oil and rubber complex under construction in East Upper Silesia. Based on documents from the Nuremberg Trials, the Former Soviet Union, and the US military, a questionnaire of former British prisoners of war, and Holocaust survivor testimonies, it approaches IG Auschwitz from the bottom and the top, to illuminate the workers' histories and to place genocidal complicity in greater context. Contrary to traditional interpretations, which stress the corporation's interest in exploiting “cheap” slave labor, the project exemplified the National Socialist version of command economy. ^ From beginning to end, Nazi racial and economic policy had primacy at IG Auschwitz. The Reich ordered IG Farben to build a fourth synthetic rubber plant in Upper Silesia and the firm selected the Auschwitz site on the basis of technical criteria, including the prospect for future commercial development. Though it is as yet unclear who initiated the decision to deploy concentration-camp (KL) inmates, the labor situation left IG Farben without a choice but to deal with KL Auschwitz. The SS practice of destruction through work resulted in the incremental barbarization of plant leaders and German workers. Management became an instrument of Nazi policy, by implementing a plant racial hierarchy. Race, status, and performance largely shaped the fate of the working groups. While the first two criteria derived from the regime, the latter was management's domain. Erratic governmental support, chronic labor shortages, and the area's inadequate infrastructure helped to insure that the plant never produced any oil or rubber. ^ Plant leaders were willfully ignorant of and indifferent to the mass murder of Jewish inmates. Though more indirect and complicated than depicted at Nuremberg, management's refusals to alleviate overcrowding in the barracks and hospital of Auschwitz-Monowitz contributed to selections for killing. British relations with Jews compellingly demonstrated that more could have been done to save lives. Even under Allied bombs in 1944 and during evacuation in January 1945, the plant racial hierarchy continued to persist. ^

Subject Area

History, European|History, Modern

Recommended Citation

White, Joseph Robert, "IG Auschwitz: The primacy of racial politics" (2000). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI9977033.
http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI9977033

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