The Monsanto-Bayer Merger of 1954: The Union of a Nazi Collaborator and a Pentagon Contractor

December 6, 2023  |  by Alexis Baden-Mayer
Organic Consumers Association

Part of our Billions Against Bayer campaign’s Secret Military History series.

In 2018, when Bayer bought Monsanto, none of the news reports mentioned that Bayer and Monsanto had merged once before, into the Mobay company after World War II.

The Mobay merger appears to be an odd alliance. During the war, Bayer was one of Hitler’s most important partners, while Monsanto was essential to the Manhattan Project.

Strangely, after the war, the U.S. government allowed Monsanto and Bayer to merge. Why?

The answer to that question may lie in Monsanto’s participation in Project Paperclip, the infamous ratline that funneled Nazi scientists into roles at the Pentagon, other branches of the U.S. government and private corporations.

Mobay = Nazi Collaborator + Pentagon Contractor 

Monsanto and Bayer made Agent Orange for the Vietnam War.

Then, they brought some of the same toxins into the food supply through genetically engineered crops.

Now, they’re ushering in an era of synthetic Frankenfoods, true to Bayer’s Nazi roots. 

I.G. Farben pioneered synthetic foods and the SS sustained its U-boat crews with them. The first to be commercialized was coal butter:

“Two scientists at the Kaiswer Willhelm Institute found a way to create fuel from coal. It left a waste product: paraffin. A man called Arthur Imhausen was working on turning that waste paraffin into soap, when he realised that chemically soap is a lot like fat. By adding glycerine the scientists could produce an edible fat instead of soap. The trouble was this fat was white, tasteless and waxy, so nobody in their right minds would have eaten it. A easy problem to fix if you’re a chemist: they added diacetyl to create a buttery taste, salt and beta-carotene for colour and created the first ever totally synthetic food.”

The Mobay Years: Secret Military and CIA Experiments on Unwitting Human Subjects

It was during the Mobay years that Monsanto worked with the U.S. military to secretly expose unwitting human subjects to nuclear radiation. Operation Paperclip’s Nazi scientists were involved.

One scientist involved admitted that the radiation experiments had “a little of the Buchenwald touch.” (Buchenwald was one of the Nazi concentration camps where prisoners were used to test Bayer drugs in deadly experiments.) 

The Mobay years were also the zenith of the Scientific Engineering Institute, a CIA front group that engaged in secret scientific experimentation, including on “genetic engineering, development of new strains of bacteria, and mind control.” The Scientific Engineering Institute was acquired by Monsanto in 1985.

The Nazification of America: Safe-Haven for Nazis, Jews Kept Out

In Nazi Germany, companies like Bayer literally got away with murder, but there were plenty of U.S. companies happy to work with Hitler, too. When the war was over, they were eager to get their hands on the Nazi’s wartime scientific expertise, no matter what the human cost had been. 

The U.S., with anti-semites like President Truman and General Patton in charge, was only too happy to oblige. Nazi know-how on fighting the Russians would be useful to the CIA and the Pentagon. 

Post-war, as many as 10,000 Nazis were given safe-haven the U.S, but their Jewish victims were kept out. This decision changed our country forever. The consequences are encapsulated brilliantly in the film Everything Is a Rich Man’s Trick.

Bayer: The “Machiavellian planner” of the Holocaust

Bayer worked so closely with the Nazis on human experiments and slave labor operations that it is hard to say whether the death camps were a project of Hitler’s or a project of the company’s. 

There wasn’t much space between the company and Hitler’s SS. Hitler appointed a Bayer chemist, Robert Ley, as head of the German Labor Front, and Nazis moved from working for Bayer to working for Hitler and back again, as if through a revolving door.

Josiah E. DuBois, Jr., chief prosecutor of I.G. Farben (and Bayer) executives at the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal, came to the conclusion that: 

“Farben was the Machiavellian planner for all institutions in the world that had allied themselves with military aggression.” 

Patricia Posner’s book the Pharmacist of Auschwitz makes it clear that Auschwitz was an I.G. Farben/Bayer project. Hitler wanted synthetic rubber and oil. I.G. Farben/Bayer wanted slave labor and subjects for drug trials. That exchange was the basis for Auschwitz. 

Otto Ambrose, I.G. Farben’s synthetic rubber expert, chose the location in Poland. 

They called it I.G. Auschwitz. 

The conglomerate paid for its construction, investing one billion Reichsmarks.

I.G. Auschwitz was its largest complex, several square miles in size and requiring more electricity than Berlin.

Farben paid the SS for slaves: “four Reichsmarks (then about $1.60, $20 in 2015) a day for skilled inmates, three for unskilled prisoners and one and a half (60 cents) for children.” Farben eventually spent “more than $5 million.”

Correspondence between an Auschwitz camp commander and Bayer cites the ‘sale’ of 150 female prisoners for experiments.

Bayer haggled over the price, writing to the commander, “We confirm your response, but consider the price of 200 RM per woman to be too high. We propose to pay no more than 170 RM per woman.”

Later, it reported, “The experiments were performed. All test persons died. We will contact you shortly about a new shipment.”

The Nazis didn’t just provide the test subjects for Bayer, they performed the experiments.

Bayer contracted directly with Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor known as the Angel of Death. In a November 19, 1943, letter from Wilhelm Mann, head of pharmaceutical sales at Bayer, Otmar von Verschuer, Mengele’s mentor, Mann thanked Verschuer for connecting him with Mengele and said he found Mengele’s demonstrations “very impressive” while referring to an enclosed “first check.”

As you’ll read below from first-hand testimonials, one of Mengele’s techniques, when he ran experiments for Bayer, was to use identical twins, mostly children, as test subjects. As the Irish Times reported in 1999:

“Mengele’s research on twins was aimed at investigating the effect of bacteria, chemicals and viruses on the human body. The substances being examined would be injected into one twin and not the other. Mengele, known as the ‘Angel of Death’, frequently killed both twins so that he could conduct autopsies and compare the two.”

Nuremberg prosecutor Josiah E. DuBois, Jr., wrote a scathing report on how I.G. Farben/Bayer escaped accountability, The Devil’s Chemists: Conspirators of the International Farben Cartel Who Manufacture Wars.  

DuBois tried Heinrich Hörlein, a chief of I.G. Farben’s chemical research and former chief of Bayer’s pharma labs and Wilhelm Mann, head of pharmaceutical sales at Bayer. Hörlein was a director and Mann was chairman of Degesch, the Farben subsidiary that manufactured Zyklon B, the cyanide-based insecticide that was used to murder Jews in Auschwitz’s gas chambers. Bayer was the division of I.G. Farben, responsible for the sale and distribution of Zyklon B.

When DuBois presented evidence that, in 1943, Zyklon B made up 70 percent of Degesch’s business and that 90 percent of all the Zyklon B it sold went to Auschwitz, Hörlein and Mann claimed they could not recall being aware of this.

They were acquitted. DuBois was incredulous, writing:

“The Farben directors knew nothing of this. The two who picked the site, and the one who headed the construction, knew nothing. The one who procured inmates from Himmler knew nothing even after he moved to Auschwitz. The director in charge of employee welfare at Auschwitz didn’t know a thing. The fifth, the sixth, the seventh, and the eighth directors – who headed the firm of Degesch which shipped all the Zyklon B to Auschwitz and the institution which shipped the typhus vaccines and drugs – didn’t know anything either.”

After they were acquitted, Hörlein and Mann returned to their work at Bayer. 

Fritz ter Meer, who planned the Monowitz concentration camp at Auschwitz for I.G. Farben, was sentenced to seven years in prison for “plunder and spoliation” and for “mass murder and enslavement” in 1948, but went on to serve as Bayer chairman from 1956 to 1964. In 2003, the Coalition Against Bayer Dangers reported that “His grave in Krefeld has a meter-high wreath on it–donated by Bayer in recognition of his services.”

The U.S. National Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Holocaust Encyclopedia’s entry for Bayer is informative, but characterizes Bayer not as a driver of what happened at the death camps but simply as a company that “ took advantage” of the situation. The entry reads:

“…the company took advantage of the absence of legal and ethical constraints on medical experimentation to test its drugs on unwilling human subjects. These included paying a retainer to SS physician Helmuth Vetter to test Rutenol and other sulfonamide drugs on deliberately infected patients at the Dachau, Auschwitz, and Gusen concentration camps. Vetter was later convicted by an American military tribunal at the Mauthausen Trial in 1947, and was executed at Landsberg Prison in February 1949. In Buchenwald, physicians infected prisoners with typhus in order to test the efficacy of [Bayer’s] anti-typhus drugs, resulting in high mortality among test prisoners.

“Bayer was particularly active in Auschwitz. A senior Bayer official oversaw the chemical factory in Auschwitz III (Monowitz). Most of the experiments were conducted in Birkenau in Block 20, the women’s camp hospital. There, Vetter and Auschwitz physicians Eduard Wirths and Friedrich Entress tested Bayer pharmaceuticals on prisoners who suffered from and often had been deliberately infected with tuberculosis, diphtheria, and other diseases.”

The website of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum of the Former German Nazi Extermination Camp makes clear that the Nazis worked for Bayer:

“From 1941 to 1944, the camp SS physicians Friedrich Entress, Helmuth Vetter, Eduard Wirths, and to a lesser extent Fritz Klein, Werner Rhode, Hans Wilhelm König, Victor Capesius (head of the camp pharmacy), and Bruno Weber (director of the SS Hygiene Institute in Rajsko) used Auschwitz prisoners in tests of the tolerance and effectiveness of new medical preparations or drugs designated by the code names B-1012, B-1034, B-1036, 3582, and P-111. They also used prisoners as experimental subjects in tests of the drugs Rutenol and Periston. They were acting on behalf of IG Farbenindustrie, and mostly of Bayer, which was a part of IG Farbenindustrie. They gave these drugs in various forms and doses to prisoners suffering from contagious diseases. The patients forced to take them suffered from disturbances of the digestive tract including bloody vomiting, painful bloody diarrhea containing flecks of mucous membranes, and impairment of the circulatory system.”

We know this history because of the records kept by Bayer in the course of its business conducted at the death camps, but Holocaust survivors also told their own stories. According to a 1999 Los Angeles Times report: 

“Eva Mozes Kor [was] one of 1,500 sets of twins subjected to grotesque experiments at the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Holocaust.

“The research on twins, which Mengele directed, was designed to investigate the effect of numerous bacteria, chemicals and viruses on the human body. The Nazis decided that the most precise way to conduct such research was to administer shots containing the substances under review to one twin and not the other–considered the so-called ‘control’ in the experiment.

“Frequently, the Nazis decided that to complete the research it was necessary to kill both twins so that doctors could conduct autopsies and then compare the differences between the two.”

“According to [Kor’s] suit, ‘Bayer provided toxic chemicals to the Nazis. . . . Some of those experiments involved injecting concentration camp inmates with toxic chemicals and germs known to cause diseases in order to test the effectiveness of various drugs manufactured by Bayer.’ …

“Kor and her twin sister, Miriam, who were born in Transylvania in 1934, were 9 when they were brought to Auschwitz. They survived the death camp and were freed at the end of World War II in 1945. But Miriam died in Israel in 1993 after years of illness stemming from the experiments that were conducted on her. Kor founded an organization devoted to the 112 survivors of Mengele’s deadly research.”

Kor’s organization is CANDLES “Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors.” It has continued her work since her death in 2019

In 2003, BBC recorded the story of Zoe Polanska Palmer, who was then in her 70s and suffering from cancer:

“During her two years at the camp, 13-year-old Zoe was forced to take tablets and pills as part of a series of pharmacological experiments, believed to be part of early birth control tests. [Bayer now manufacturers Yaz and Yasmin birth control pills.] 

“Now in her early 70s, she has been fighting for compensation and an apology from the German drug manufacturer, Bayer.

“Eyewitness testimonies held in the Auschwitz camp archive claim the doctor who force-fed her pills worked for the pharmaceutical company Bayer when it was part of the IG Farben conglomerate.

“His name was Dr Victor Capesius. It’s a name that Zoe can never forget.

“He helped Dr Mengele to conduct genetic experiments, usually on children, and also selected thousands of prisoners at the huge death camp, choosing those who might be useful and sending the rest to an immediate death with a flick of his finger.

“Dr Capesius was tried in Frankfurt for war crimes in 1963 and served time in prison. 

“Another longtime Bayer employee, Helmut Vetter, also worked as a SS doctor at Auschwitz. 

“He was involved in the testing of experimental vaccines and medicines on inmates and after the war he was executed for administering fatal injections.

“After the war, Zoe married and settled in Scotland. There she underwent several painful operations to repair the damage done to her body. But she has never been able to have children.”

At the time Zoe told the BBC her story, she had been campaigning for compensation for 28 years. After a BBC inquiry, she received a cheque for a little over £2,000 from a German compensation fund Bayer had paid £40 million into.

“I want to make sure people remember what happened to people like me when I was a child at Auschwitz,” she told BBC. “I was just one of thousands of children treated in this way. But I was one of the very few lucky ones who managed to survive.”

Next installment: Monsanto, Operation Paperclip and the A-Bomb

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