110 Murkland Hall
Heilbronner Lecture: "White Collar Crimes Against Humanity: IG Farben Auschwitz, My Father's Company"
Martin Rumscheidt will deliver the 2017 Heilbronner Lecture titled "White Collar Crimes Against Humanity: IG Farben Auschwitz, My Father's Company."
Rumscheidt is an ordained minister in the United Church of Canada and retired professor of historical theology at the University of Windsor, Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Charles University, Prague. He is the translator of "Act and Being" (1996) in Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, English edition, and cotranslator with the late Barbara Rumscheidt of Soelle’s "Against the Wind" (1999) and "The Silent Cry."
In his talk, Rumscheidt will focus on specific crimes against humanity perpetrated by IG Farben, the company for which his father worked, and Walter Dürrfeld, his father's colleague and close friend, and on the impact of those activities in terms of Rumscheidt's understanding of himself and his work as the son of a perpetrator.
IG Farben and Hitler's War
The huge conglomerate IG Farben, formed in 1925 from four major chemical companies in Germany, became the second largest producer in Hitler's military-industrial complex. Rumscheidt’s father joined its research department at the factory in Leuna in 1927; he remained an IG Farben employee until his retirement in 1965. After the Allies' division of IG Farben after World War II into separately administered units, two of the "splinter" firms were his "official" employer.
The war Hitler had been planning to wage from the outset of his rule required huge quantities of synthetic rubber, produced in IG Farben's Buna Works located near the Leuna Werke. Hitler threatened the company with having a separate factory built if Buna would not produce the quantities of rubber and other nitrate-related materials needed for the conduct of the war; in early 1940 IG Farben planned what was to be its largest industrial production site near the small Polish town of Oświęcim in Poland — at that time out of reach of Allied bombers — and began construction on April 21, 1941. The man in charge of construction and eventually of administring IG Farber Auschwitz-Monowitz was the senior Rumscheidt’s colleague and close friend Walter Dürrfeld with whose family the Rumscheidts had frequent contacts. Even though his father's work was located elsewhere, his father had constant contact with Dürrfeld and went to see him in Monowitz in July 1944 just after the arrival of the huge number of Hungarian Jews at Birkenau, the camp from which IG Farben drew the majority of its workforce. The SS was paid a daily rate for every worker found fit to work after a selection process conducted every morning upon the arrival of the workers from Birkenau. Dürrfeld was present at many of them and personably selected workers. At the trials conducted by the Unites States Military at Nuremberg from 1947 to 1948, he was convicted and sentenced to 8 years in prison, but — on the order of the American High Commissioner in Germany — was released in early 1951 when, as a consequence of the Cold War, German industry was needed to assist in the opposition to Stalin's USSR.
Rumscheidt’s father never addressed the implications of his work for IG Farben and, especially, its participation in the "extermination through labor" program the company implemented at Monowitz. The younger Rumscheidt’s engagement of the Holocaust grew out of his studies in theology after he had learned how the churches in Germany offered little opposition to the persecution of Jews; it caused him to look at the faith-practice of his family, out of which had grown his decision to seek ordination in the United Church of Canada. After his father's employer located one of its offices in Montréal and the family had moved there, the younger Rumscheidt began to meet survivors and, in cooperation with Jewish women and men who befriended him, to address Auschwitz and his father's complicity.
The Hans Heilbronner lecture series honors the memory of Hans Heilbronner, professor of history, who served the University of New Hampshire with distinction from 1954 until 1991. This event is sponsored by the Endowed Fund for Holocaust Education.
Free and open to the public.
Department of History | Phone (603) 862-1764 | Fax (603) 862-1502
423 Horton Social Science Center | 20 Academic Way | Durham, NH 03824