The pharmaceutical industry and the German National Socialist Regime: I.G. Farben and pharmacological research

J Clin Pharm Ther. 2009 Feb;34(1):67-77. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2710.2008.00972.x.


Before the National Socialist party came to power, the German pharmaceutical industry constituted an international reference as far as the development of new medicines was concerned, having been responsible for synthetic analgesics (phenacetin, phenazones, acetylsalicylic acid), arsphenamine, barbiturates and sulfonamides. The year 1925 saw the founding of I.G. Farben (Interessen-Gemeinschaft Farbenindustrie AG), a conglomerate of companies that would monopolize the country's chemical production and come to own all its major pharmaceutical industries. During the World War II, I.G. Farben participated in numerous operations associated with the criminal activities of the Nazi executive, including the use of slave labour in plants built close to concentration camps, such as that at Auschwitz. With regard to medical and pharmacological research projects, I.G. Farben became involved in experimental programmes using patients from the Nazi regime's euthanasia programmes and healthy subjects recruited without their consent from concentration camps, on whom various pharmacological substances were tested, including sulfamide and arsenical derivatives and other preparations whose composition is not precisely known (B-1012, B-1034, 3382 or Rutenol, 3582 or Acridine), generally in relation to the treatment of infectious diseases, such as typhus, erysipelas, scarlet fever or paratyphoid diarrhoea. Furthermore, I.G. Farben played a decisive role in the German army's chemical warfare programme, contributing to the development of the first two neurotoxic substances, later known as 'nerve agents', tabun and sarin. Some of these activities came to light as a result of the one the famous Nuremberg Trials in 1947, which saw 24 executives and scientists from I.G. Farben brought to justice for, among other offences, the use of slave labour in the concentration camps and forced experimentation with drugs on prisoners.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / history*
  • Chemical Warfare Agents / history*
  • Chemical Warfare Agents / toxicity
  • Concentration Camps / history
  • Drug Industry / history*
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Germany
  • History, 20th Century
  • Human Experimentation / history
  • Humans
  • National Socialism*
  • Nervous System Diseases / chemically induced
  • Nervous System Diseases / history
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / history*
  • World War II


  • Chemical Warfare Agents
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations