On Trial at Nuremberg

The Elberfeld research and production establishment survived the war largely intact. The German pharmaceutical industry, insofar as it can be separated from the chemical industry, had not been a major target of Allied bombing. Some facilities had been destroyed, but the overall damage was uneven. Even the June 1943 attack on Wuppertal-Elberfeld, mentioned above, had resulted in only temporary stoppages. More serious were indirect effects brought about by interruptions of supplies of basic chemicals through bombing of other chemical sites or by destruction of railroad or canal transport. When Leverkusen was bombed, for example, Elberfeld was deprived of supplies of sulfuric and chlorosulfuric acid necessary for manufacture of its medicines, including sulfa drugs. Such breakdowns in the system proved temporary, however, and the Elberfeld plant was able to maintain most of its production throughout the war.34

Occupation of the area by U.S. forces achieved what the war could not. All production was halted at Elberfeld. On May 16, 1945, Hörlein and his co-director, Clemens Lutter, appealed to the military government to permit reopening of the Elberfeld plant. They stressed the urgency of supplying dispensaries and military hospitals with pharmaceuticals, including aspirin, hypnotics, narcotics, sulfa drugs, scabies treatments, vitamins and D, and disinfectants. To that end, they requested minimal supplies of fuel, raw materials, including especially basic chemicals, and transport. Perhaps prompted by this request, an Allied intelligence team from the Combined Intelligence Objectives Sub-Committee, CIOS Group 3, visited the Elberfeld laboratories and plant from May 21 through May 29. The CIOS team interrogated all members of the research staff, including Hörlein and Lutter, and gathered information on "factory methods of production of medicinals made at that plant, researches completed and in progress, testing methods and results on tropical diseases and a list of pending patents." On May 24, the local commanding officer of the military government granted temporary permission to I.G. Farben to reopen the Elberfeld plant. Finally, on May 31, in response to a request from the office of the U.S. Army Chief Surgeon citing the urgent need for pharmaceuticals to treat prisoners of war and displaced persons, authority to resume production at Elberfeld was granted by the Production Control Agency of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force.35

Pharmaceutical production was an urgent and uncontroversial necessity. Germany's defeat meant, however, that the larger entity of which Elberfeld was a part, the I.G. Farbenindustrie industrial combine, came under severe scrutiny by the Allies for its role in the war and in the crimes of the Nazi regime. As a member of the executive board (Vorstand) and a leading figure in I.G. Farben's pharmaceutical and plant protection divisions, Hörlein was swept up in the net cast for those held to be responsible for I.G. Farben's actions. In August 1945, he was placed under arrest by the U.S. military government. After two years of detention, he went on trial, along with twenty-three other high executives of I.G. Farben, before the U.S Military Tribunal VI in Nuremberg, charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. Each of the defendants in United States of America v. Carl Krauch et al., also known as the I.G. Farben case, was charged individually. Collectively, the accusations were staggering. They included planning of a war of aggression, coordination with military planning of the German High Command, directing mobilization for war, equipping the Nazi military machine, espionage, participation in plunder and spoilation of occupied countries, enslavement, and mass murder. Charges against the defendants and sentences passed on them varied widely. Thirteen were convicted of various charges and received prison sentences ranging from one and one-half to eight years. The remainder, including Hörlein, were acquitted of all charges.36

National Archives records of the I.G. Farben trial, one of twelve separate proceedings held before U.S. military tribunals at Nuremberg against citizens or officials of the Third Reich, occupy 113 rolls of microfilm. They include trial transcripts that alone fill forty-three bound volumes, prosecution and defense briefs and statements, prosecution and defense exhibits and document books, and other material. Even the small fraction of this material directly related to Hörlein is substantial. Among the issues raised in Hörlein's trial were the nature of his relationship to the Nazi regime, its ideology, policies, and practices; the extent of participation of I.G. Farben pharmaceutical units in preparations for a war of aggression; the existence and extent of Elberfeld and Leverkusen managers' knowledge of experiments on human subjects in concentration camps; and participation of Elberfeld in weapons research and development. Testimony evoked by the trial places in sharper relief aspects of Hörlein's, and the Elberfeld establishment's, relationships to the Nazi party and regime.37

Hörlein had joined the NSDAP in 1934. His party membership was bound to become an issue in his trial. It provoked the defense to gather extensive testimony to clarify Hörlein's relationship to the regime, and especially to support a distinction between formal party membership and real attitudes and behavior. Those giving testimony, frequently in the form of sworn affidavits, were usually people who had known Hörlein over a period of years. They were not members of the Nazi party and often were its victims. Many were prepared to give witness to Hörlein's humane character and liberal political inclinations, his inward hostility to many of the policies and practices of the National Socialist government, and his efforts to aid and protect individuals both inside and outside the Elberfeld research establishment from the consequences of these policies and practices.

In its cumulative effect this testimony is persuasive and supports three conclusions about Hörlein. First, his party membership represented tactical accommodation rather than ideological conviction. He did not share the regime's political goals

or racism and was primarily concerned to preserve the domain of research and production he had built. Second, he worked throughout the Nazi era to shield German science and scientists from the ill effects of the regime. Third, although not medically trained, he infused his research and development efforts with a medical ethos that gave priority to the welfare of patients in the introduction of new drugs.

Hörlein had first joined the party as a condition for remaining on the city council of Wuppertal. Adelheid Schulte, a resident of Wuppertal-Elberfeld who had been retired from her job as student counselor in 1934 because of her political convictions, had known Hörlein as one of the founders of the German Democratic Party in Wuppertal-Vohwinkel in 1919. She had perceived no change in his "free and human attitude" after he joined the NSDAP and thought that party membership had enabled him to exert a strong influence in the economic affairs of the city. Hörlein's influence evidently extended to other local matters, as well. When, after the June 1943 bombing of Wuppertal, the party moved to requisition the city's churches for its own use, a local Catholic priest, Heinrich Rembold, had appealed to Hörlein for help. Hörlein had responded by renting Rembold's church on behalf of Elberfeld workers whose homes had been destroyed and by contributing 10,000 marks toward its repair.38

Many of the professional employees of I.G. Farben at Elberfeld testified that Hörlein's party membership should not be taken at face value. Thirty-two Elberfeld staff members who had not been party members stated that they had not thought of Hörlein as a convinced National Socialist but had always thought that he had joined the party so as to keep the damage to the Elberfeld establishment from party programs to a minimum. In weekly meetings, Hörlein had made no secret of his critical attitude toward party members, directives, and organization, they noted. Party representation in the plant was formally acknowledged but was always under a certain ridicule. Hörlein, they said, protected colleagues persecuted for racial or political reasons as long as he could or tried to establish them in comparable positions in other countries. In a separate statement signed by twelve other professional staff members, including Domagk and Klarer, the writers testified that they were astonished to learn of the charges against Hörlein. Describing themselves as opponents of National Socialism, the signatories thanked Hörlein for resisting the demands of party doctrine in the plant and for making it possible for them to avoid joining the party. They attributed the relatively good atmosphere of the Elberfeld plant to Hör-lein's actions, for example, his protection of colleagues from attacks by the party.39 Several witnesses attested to the persistence of Hörlein's liberal, democratic political orientation and negative attitude toward Nazi policies and practices through the early years of the regime. Clemens Giese, the Prussian Interior Ministry official who had worked with Hörlein to achieve an animal protection law tolerable to medical science, described Hörlein as "anything but a National Socialist" and as someone who never made any secret to Giese of his negative opinion of the NSDAP.40

A similar impression was given by Irene Claasen Young, a woman of German origin who had settled in the United States with her American husband in 1931. Young had worked as secretary for German and English correspondence and translator for the Winthrop Chemical Company in Rensselaer, New York, an American partner of I.G. Farben. A large part of Young's job involved handling technical reports from I.G. Farben pharmaceutical plants, especially Elberfeld but also others such as Höchst and Wolfen. Young recalled that several years before the war Hörlein had sent Winthrop directions for manufacture of the antimalarial Atabrine, "including the various steps of production, listing the raw materials required and giving detailed test methods for each intermediate as well as for the finished product." Winthrop had decided for financial reasons to purchase one of the intermediaries from I.G. Farben but, after the war broke out, was able to move rapidly to manufacture "from the ground up" of the strategically important medicine because of the data supplied earlier by Hörlein. Hörlein had also supplied Winthrop before the war with all data required for manufacture of the various sulfa drugs. Young recalled a conversation she had overheard while taking dictation during a visit Hörlein had made to Rensselaer. Hörlein, she said, had expressed "disgust with the then existing Nazi regime in Germany." His words had been "to the effect that we could be glad to be so fortunate as to be in the United States, that in Germany neither business nor life itself were any longer worthwhile since the Nazi government meddled in every single transaction and there was no freedom of action or thought."41

Paul György, a German biochemist who had immigrated to the United States in 1937, warmly recalled Hörlein's "invaluable assistance" to himself and Kuhn in their studies that led to the breakdown of the vitamin B2 complex into its first two members, riboflavin and pyridoxine. György recalled that on the few occasions he and I discussed political matters, he struck me as a liberal, democratic individual. I saw him last time in 1937 in Cologne. He appeared to be very depressed and pessimistic with regard to Germany's future and the reckless policy of the Nazi government. He appeared to be sincere in wishing me good luck in America and in expressing the opinion that the future is decidedly with the United States.

György recalled Hörlein's strong will and was convinced that "through all the war years he must have remained in his inner soul faithful to his old convictions."42

Other testimony at Nuremberg revealed that Hörlein had actively intervened to protect individuals from actions of the party. Among these cases, one of the more surprising is that of Jacques Trefouel, the director of the Pasteur Institute in Paris. Trefouel had written a letter to the British doctor Leonard Cole-brook in which he made violent remarks about Adolf Hitler. Colebrook had left the letter with other documents in Paris in June 1940. The Colebrook documents had reached the German authorities, who had passed them on to Hörlein to examine for their chemotherapeutic interest. Finding the letter in question, Hörlein had withdrawn it from the dossier and had passed it to Marcel Bo, assistant director of the Pasteur Institute, so that it would not fall into the hands of the Gestapo.43

Several German Jews testified to Hörlein's lack of prejudice both before and after Hitler came to power, and in some cases to his help in making arrangements to safely leave Germany and to secure positions abroad. One such case was Erich Danziger, who had joined I.G. Farben at Elberfeld as a chemist in 1916 and who had eventually risen to head the Analytical Department there. Danziger recalled that Hörlein's "kind and cooperative" behavior toward him had not changed in 1933 and that Hörlein had continued to trust him with confidential work. After the situation for Jews worsened in 1935, Hörlein arranged for Danziger to be hired by the Winthrop Chemical Company in the United States, where he began work in June 1937. Siegfried Thannhauser, a physiological chemist, had headed a medical clinic at the University of Freiburg before he was forced out of his position by the Nazi regime and immigrated to the United States in 1934. He recalled Hörlein as "a man of extremely high intellectual and scientific qualities" who was "very democratic and unbiased" and who, up to the time of his last personal contact with him in 1937, had "remained the same and was not touched politically by the Hitler poison." Another prominent physiological chemist, Bernhard Zondek, recalled that in the twenty years he had known Hörlein he had never known him to be involved in any activity hostile to Jews. After his forced departure from Germany in 1933, Zondek stated, Hörlein had maintained friendly contact with him even though this could have placed Hörlein in danger. Ludwig Taub, a chemist who had worked with Hörlein at Elberfeld for thirty years before leaving in 1936, recalled that Hörlein had treated all colleagues the same "regardless of person or race" and that this had not changed under the Nazi regime. In 1939, Hörlein had helped Taub immigrate to Palestine.44

A somewhat different situation was reported by Benno Reifenberg, who was dismissed from his job at the Frankfurter Zeitung after 25 years of work, under pressure from the Propaganda Ministry, because he was a "half-Jew" in Nazi terminology. In desperate circumstances and fearing for the safety of himself and his family in Frankfurt, Reifenberg accepted an unpaid post as assistant in Professor Oskar Vogt's institute for brain research in Neustadt. Hörlein heard of Reifen-berg's plight and, having failed to secure funds in his capacity as treasurer of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society, arranged for a stipend to go from I.G. Farben through Vogt to Reifenberg. Reifenberg credited his survival in the last year of the war to this support.45

Well before 1933, Hörlein had seen it as part of his task as research manager to support and encourage German science, especially chemistry and the medical sciences, both inside and outside of industry. This activity continued after January 1933, but with the added burden for Hörlein of frequently having to work against the policies or practices of the National Socialist state. Hörlein aided individual scientists in their difficulties with the regime, worked against politiciza-tion of academic appointments, and resisted pressures from the party and state to place excessive emphasis on utilitarian goals, including military ones, in research. When he went on trial at Nuremberg, a number of German scientists came forward to clarify his actions before and during the Third Reich. Among these were Nobel Prize winners Adolf Windaus, Otto Hahn, Heinrich Wieland, and Butenandt.46

Karl Freudenberg, who was professor of chemistry and director of the Chemical Institute at the University of Heidelberg, recalled Hörlein's many services to German and international chemistry through his support of research, teaching, and publications. Hörlein's scientific disposition and tireless activity on behalf of chemistry had won him the trust of academic chemists, Freudenberg noted. Freudenberg viewed Hörlein's entry into the NSDAP not as an expression of inner convictions but as a sacrifice made for tactical reasons so that Hörlein could work against high party officials hostile to science, such as Julius Streicher. The chemistry professors, Freudenberg recalled, had increasingly looked to Hörlein to resist the "cultural bully" Rudolf Mentzel, an SS man in the Education Ministry, especially the latter's efforts to place unqualified National Socialists in teaching positions.47

Hahn, a 1944 Nobel laureate, had known Hörlein for many years as the treasurer of the Emil Fischer Society, through which private funds were distributed in support of chemical research. The greater part of the society's funds went to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry, of which Hahn was the director in the 1930s and 1940s. In the last years of the war, the annual subvention had been more than 200,000 marks. Hahn testified that although most of this money came from I.G. Farben, neither Hörlein nor the company had made any attempt to influence the direction of the institute's research. In particular, they had never given the institute war-related work, even after Hahn's discovery of uranium fission in

1938. Hahn also recalled that Hörlein had helped him secure housing for Lise Meitner's successor at the institute, Joseph Mattauch, after the latter gained the enmity of the NSDAP for opposing the regime in Vienna.48

Windaus, Hahn, and Wieland, a 1927 Nobel laureate in chemistry, signed other statements, in which Hörlein's name appeared several times, attesting to the role of I.G. Farben in funding scientific research outside the company, in supporting freedom of research, in helping researchers persecuted for political or racial reasons, and in contributing to technical and medical progress for the benefit of humanity.49

The same themes were given more specific content by Butenandt, who from 1936 to 1945 had directed the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Biochemistry in Berlin-Dahlem before moving to the University of Tübingen as professor and director of the Institute for Physiological Chemistry. Butenandt, a 1939 Nobel laureate who had known Hörlein throughout the Hitler years, affirmed that Hörlein had used all his influence to maintain the German tradition of science and research and had resisted political encroachments on science from the NSDAP. As member of the board of the German Chemical Society, Hörlein had sought to preserve the purely scientific goals of the organization from party influence and to maintain traditional contacts with foreign scientists and scientific societies. He had tried to help scientists who were under pressure from the party or regime when he was convinced of the value of their work.50

As evidence for the last point, Butenandt described his own case. While teaching organic chemistry at the Technische Hochschule in Danzig from 1933 to 1936, Butenandt had experienced difficulties with the Education Ministry and the NSDAP because of his political views. At first, these were expressed in shortages of funds for his research. In 1935, when the government was on the point of closing the school entirely, Butenandt received an offer of a professorship at Harvard. When he asked the Education Ministry whether it could guarantee employment equivalent to his current position if he declined the Harvard offer, he was told that he should accept the offer because his political attitude made it impossible for him to receive such a guarantee. Hearing of this situation, Hörlein offered to set up at Elberfeld a well-endowed research section in which Butenandt and his assistants could proceed freely with their research without industrial obligations. That Hörlein was motivated solely by dedication to German science Butenandt concluded from the Elberfeld director's knowledge that Butenandt had already made arrangements with a competing firm to make use of any industrially valuable results of his research. With Hörlein's offer in hand, Butenandt declined the position at Harvard, and further negotiations with the Education Ministry led to his appointment as director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Biochemistry in 1936.51

In Berlin-Dahlem, Butenandt once more found himself the beneficiary of Hörlein's support, this time in a direct financial way. In 1938, on Hörlein's initiative, funds were provided by I.G. Farben to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Biochemistry for the establishment of a division of virus research. Later, this unit was joined to a similar one in the Institute for Biology to form an interdisciplinary workshop (Arbeitsstätte) on viruses, which carried on significant research through the war years. Butenandt doubted that the workshop would have been founded without the financial support arranged by Hörlein, and he cited it as one example of Hörlein's commitment to basic research throughout the National Socialist period.52

Other witnesses who had been in a position to know Hörlein over a period of years testified to his humane motives and sense of responsibility toward patients and consumers of I.G. Farben products, a medical ethos that took precedence over commercial considerations. Eberhard Gross stated that Hörlein had given full support to occupational health activities at Elberfeld and had backed I.G. Far-ben's medical-scientific personnel in placing limits on activities of the commercial divisions of the company, for example, by restricting the chemical content of foodstuffs. Paul Loth, who handled the quality control laboratory for pharmaceutical products manufactured at Elberfeld and Leverkusen, emphasized the importance Hörlein attached to his work in providing protection for users of I.G. Farben pharmaceuticals all over the world and in maintaining the company's good name. Loth recalled the conclusion of a company meeting at which Hörlein had stated that he saw the meaning of his work in the help he brought to suffering humanity and that he expected the same attitude from his co-workers.53

According to Helmut Weese, who as head of pharmacology at Elberfeld was responsible for testing every compound for toxicity before releasing it for clinical trials arranged by Leverkusen, Hörlein insisted on personally scrutinizing all his reports before they were released. As partial evidence for Hörlein's caution in releasing compounds for clinical trials, Weese cited the case of Helmut Thielicke. In 1933 Thielicke, a theology student, suffered damage to his parathyroid gland in the course of a goiter operation. As a consequence, his blood concentration of calcium fell below normal. At the time, it was not possible to obtain the needed compensatory hormone in Germany, and Thielicke was placed in mortal danger. Elberfeld had a compound, called AT 10, that in animal experiments restored blood calcium concentration to normal but that at high doses caused damage to blood vessels. Hörlein had not approved its release for clinical trials, fearing the same ill effects in humans. Hearing of Thielicke's case, he met with the student, explained the hazards, and with the patient's consent approved use of AT 10 under closely controlled conditions. An effective and safe dosage level was established, and Thielicke went on to lead a full life. Dismissed from his teaching position in 1940 because of conflict with the Nazi party in Heidelberg, Thielicke was forbidden to travel or speak publicly during the war. After the war, now a professor of theology at Tübingen, Thielicke gratefully recalled Hörlein's humane and physician-like handling of his case.54

Testimony such as that of Gross, Loth, Weese, and Thielicke was evoked in part in response to charges by the prosecution that Hörlein, and others at I.G. Farben, had knowingly supplied medicines used in criminal experiments on prisoners in concentration camps during the war. In Hörlein's case, special attention was given to his knowledge of one Hellmuth Vetter, a doctor in the Waffen-SS (combat arm of the SS) who before the war had been employed in the pharmaceutical scientific department at Leverkusen and who was convicted by the Nuremberg tribunal of crimes against humanity. Vetter had joined I.G. Farben in 1938, had worked in Leverkusen especially on matters related to hormones, and had left the company to join the SS in 1939.55

In January 1942, Vetter came to Leverkusen and spoke with Karl Koenig, who was then the director of the Pharmaceutical Scientific Department II. Koenig's department was responsible for collecting, analyzing, and distributing information on the use of medicines manufactured by I.G. Farben in the treatment of tropical diseases, including typhus. Vetter explained to Koenig that he was a physician to SS soldiers at Auschwitz and that he was in urgent need of medicines to use in treatment of typhus, of which there were many cases. Vetter did not tell Koenig that Auschwitz was the site of a concentration camp or that Vetter was treating concentration camp inmates. On Koenig's authority, Vetter was supplied with a compound called B 1034, which was then in clinical trials as a treatment for typhus and which had been developed and was manufactured at Elberfeld. Vetter reported back to Leverkusen on his results with B 1034 and another compound, Periston, also made at Elberfeld. It was not until December 1943, however, that Koenig inferred from the body weights of Vetter's patients that he was treating concentration camp prisoners. What neither Koenig nor others suspected until it was brought out at Nuremberg after the war was that some of Vetter's patients had been inmates deliberately infected with typhus, an act of murder for which Vetter was condemned to death by the tribunal.56

The prosecution tried but failed to establish Hörlein's knowledge of, and indirect complicity in, Vetter's criminal experiments on prisoners. The weakness of the prosecution case resulted not only from a lack of documentary or testimonial evidence but also from the convincing picture of Hörlein's good character, humane concerns for patients, and rigorous standards for developing and testing new medicines that emerged from the defense presentation. One point of medical language became especially important in this part of Hörlein's trial. In the translation of German documents, for example, Vetter's reports on his results with new medicines, the term Versuch was routinely rendered as experiment. Thus, it appeared that Hörlein, Koenig, and others had been in possession of documents that explicitly referred to experiments on human subjects. In response, the defense brought forward a number of witnesses, including research staff at Elberfeld and Leverkusen, to explain that Versuch meant clinical trial and that the distinction was crucial to the case. The difference was put most clearly by Koenig, who stated that in the exclusive sense used by us, the term "Versuch" means a curative endeavor of a physician towards a patient, suffering from a disease, by the application of a new remedy which previously, and as a result of profound and extensive scientific research work, has been declared by the medical experts of the laboratories as non-toxic in the prescribed doses and as to the best of their judgment possessing a real curative effect. The disease of the patient in question must have been naturally contracted (not intentionally induced) and the exclusive aim, when applying the new medicine, is to cure the disease or to improve the conditions of the patient.

... In contrast to this, the characteristic of a medical experiment is the intentional creation of the experimental condition. That means that in an experiment the human being or the animal is an experimental object on whom the experimenter afflicts [sic] by willful intervention an alteration on his or its bodily condition, i.e. mostly a damage corresponding to a disease which in the further procedure of the experiment has to be influenced or simply observed in its further development.

As examples of medical experiments, Koenig cited intentional infection with germs producing a disease, deprivation or excess of heat to change body temperature, or deprivation or abnormal consumption of food and drink. Vetter had indeed carried out medical experiments in this sense by deliberately infecting individuals with typhus, but had represented himself to managers at Leverkusen and Elberfeld as performing clinical trials.57

The prosecution also attempted to associate Hörlein with the production of Zyklon B, a granular vaporizing pesticide that was used in the mass killing of Jews at Auschwitz. Zyklon B, generically known as hydrocyanic or prussic acid, was manufactured by the German Pesticide Corporation (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Schädlingsbekamfungsmittel or Degesch mbH), a subsidiary of I.G. Farben, and had been widely used since World War I as a delousing agent in settings such as military barracks and prison camps. As owner of 42.5 percent of Degesch's stock, I.G. Farben was entitled to three seats on the company's administration committee. Hörlein formally occupied one of these starting in 1937. It came out in the trial, however, that Hörlein had not attended any meetings of this committee and had had no active role in the affairs of the company. The administrative committee itself had not met after 1940. Since Zyklon B was widely employed and was supplied by the company to many sites, its delivery to Auschwitz did not in itself reveal the murderous uses to which it was put. Rumors of mass killings at Auschwitz probably reached some members of I.G. Farben's executive board in 1943, although no proof of first-hand knowledge was brought forward in trials after the war. If Hörlein came by such information, it was indirectly, as one member of I.G. Farben's executive board, and not as a manager of a subsidiary who knowingly supplied poison gas to concentration camps for the murder of their inmates.58

Along with other I.G. Farben executives, Hörlein was accused of participation in planning for a war of aggression. His acquittal was based in part on records of meetings of I.G. Farben's pharmaceutical major conference, of which Hörlein served as chair primus inter pares on the basis of seniority. At the seventy-fifth meeting of the conference on July 19, 1939, for example, its members were discussing business in France as though peace would continue indefinitely. The same implicit view of relations with Russia was expressed in conference proceedings for the eighty-third meeting on October 11, 1940. Hörlein had tried to maintain international contacts almost to the eve of the outbreak of war. In late July 1939, for example, he had helped to host the visit to Cologne and Leverkusen of 150 staff from the London, Manchester, and Dublin offices of Bayer Products, Ltd. Five of this group visited Hörlein at Elberfeld. On June 30, 1941, only days after the German invasion of Russia, Hörlein resigned as director of the Elberfeld factory, while retaining his position on I.G. Farben's executive board and his responsibilities related to research at Elberfeld. Later he cited as reason for his resignation his distaste for the whole internal and external political situation, with the invasion of Russia as the last straw. His secretaries recalled that he had also mentioned difficulties with the NSDAP.59

The prosecution at Nuremberg also attempted to show that Hörlein, and the Elberfeld research establishment, had participated in the development of gas weapons. Here there was some basis for the charge, although the extent of Hörlein's and Elberfeld's role was limited. In 1935, Hörlein and the then second director of the Elberfeld plant, Werner Schulemann, met with representatives of Army Ordnance (Heereswaffenamt), including Leopold von Sicherer. After this meeting, Hörlein was required to turn over to Army Ordnance information on toxic substances that were encountered in research and that met defined criteria. Much of the preliminary screening was done in Gross's occupational hygiene laboratory in Elberfeld. Gross prepared reports on these substances and passed the reports to Hörlein, who sent them on to Army Ordnance, sometimes with copies to the parts of I.G. Farben from which the compounds had originated. The aim of the work at this stage was to identify compounds that might be of interest to Army Ordnance and to obtain that office's clearance to proceed with patent applications and peaceful industrial use for as many of the screened compounds as possible, as quickly as possible. By this means, several substances were selected by Army Ordnance for further development as chemical weapons. Among these were two phosphorus compounds first prepared by the Elberfeld chemist Gerhard Schrader and subsequently developed as poison gases by the Army under the names Tabun and Sarin. From 1937 to 1944, Gross conducted animal experiments at Elberfeld on the effects of Tabun. As the German military position deteriorated by later 1944, Hitler seriously considered use of the nerve gas Tabun and was dissuaded only by the argument, later found to be mistaken, that the Allies also had the gas and could reply in kind.60

Screening of toxic substances was a routine part of peacetime research and development at Elberfeld. Compounds needed to be tested for toxicity because they might pose an occupational health hazard, and some of those identified as toxic might be sent to Leverkusen for further development as pesticides. That many compounds after 1935 had to be sent to Army Ordnance before they could be developed for peaceful uses represented both an additional burden on I.G. Farben's research and development effort and a degree of participation, albeit compulsory, in weapons development priorities, and it appears that Hörlein tried to keep to a minimum Elberfeld's association with Army Ordnance. Elberfeld never did directed research, held a contract, or received money from Army Ordnance, and no weapons were ever manufactured at Elberfeld. By his own account and by the separate testimony of two employees of the Army Ordnance research section (Heereswaffenamt Prüfwesen 9), the chemist von Sicherer and the pharmacologist Wolfgang Wirth, Hörlein saw weapons development as antithetical to his life's work and to the fundamental mission of Elberfeld to supply medicines to the whole world. In September 1944, Hörlein ordered the destruction of all substances and documents in Elberfeld related to weapons.61

As the American army approached in March 1945, Nazi party officials threatened to destroy the works and research holdings at Elberfeld, in fulfillment of Hitler's scorched earth policy. The works foreman, one Liebold, stated that when the Americans arrived they would find not a single stone of any building still standing. Hörlein ordered the head of works security, Amandus Hoffman, to billet his well-armed staff inside the works and to resist with force any attempt to destroy the buildings. Hörlein hoped that if it came to a fight he could delay the party's action long enough to mobilize the whole staff in defense of its workplace.62

It did not come to a fight, and amid the ruins of a defeated Germany the Elberfeld research and production establishment remained standing. Its last-minute defense and persistence may serve as metaphor for Hörlein's posture and actions throughout the Nazi era. Hörlein's fundamental purpose was to preserve what he conceived of as the freedom of science in Germany and, in particular and especially, the existence and integrity of the pharmaceutical research and production establishment he had built. To this end, he was prepared to do whatever was necessary. On occasion, this meant fighting or preparing to fight, as in the struggle over animal experimentation at the beginning of the regime or the defense of the Elberfeld buildings at its end. On occasion, it meant quietly extending help to victims of the regime from the scientific or medical communities.

Doing whatever was necessary also meant, for Hörlein, outward political accommodation to the regime and lack of resistance to it outside of the limited sphere within which he saw the vital interests of his life work at stake. It is in this light that his joining of the NSDAP in 1934 must be seen. Hörlein was not a National Socialist in any ideological sense. His overriding values were scientific, medical, technical, and commercial. His life work, to which he was intensely dedicated, was the building and maintenance of a pharmaceutical research and production organization in an industrial setting, with close ties to the scientific and medical communities. Politically, his own tendencies were liberal. He did not subscribe to party doctrine, did not envision a greater Germany, and did not think in racial hygiene terms. Once the regime was in place, however, he joined the party in order to gain leverage in protection of his own domain, which he identified with a high purpose.

Whatever judgment is made of Hörlein must take into consideration the whole picture of his actions before and during the Nazi regime. Apart from the limited and compulsory role played by Elberfeld in the development of gas weapons, Hörlein did not initiate, endorse, or participate in the worst aspects of the Hitler regime, including militarism, expansionist aggression against neighboring states and peoples, domestic political repression, persecution on racial grounds, experiments on concentration camp inmates, or mass murder. Yet, once the regime was in power, he chose to stay in Germany, to create at least a façade of acceptance of the regime, and to try as far as possible to conduct business as usual. Hörlein said that he was working for the good of humanity. There is no reason to doubt that this was his view of himself and that such sentiments composed part of his motivation, along with career ambition, an entrepreneurial zest for institution building and the commercial struggle, and scientific and medical curiosity. Was it tenable for him to think that he could encapsulate a zone of scientific freedom and humane values within a society and regime that was militaristic, racist, and repressive? From our vantage point, knowing all that we know, the answer must be no. From the standpoint of 1933, or the years that followed before the war, the answer was not so obvious. As Alan Beyerchen has pointed out, perceptions of National Socialism both within and outside Germany were different before the war than they were during and after it.63

Beyerchen's pioneering study of German physicists in the Third Reich and more recent scholarship have shown that Hörlein was far from alone in his determination to preserve German science in the face of a regime that he regarded as hostile to or destructive of its real interests. Perhaps the best known such case is Max Planck, who as head of the Prussian Academy of Sciences and the Kaiser Wilhelm Society worked quietly behind the scenes to help colleagues and to salvage what he could of the institutions of German science. John Heilbron's study of Planck shows that, like Hörlein, the physicist practiced outward compliance with the regime, though, unlike Hörlein, without joining the NSDAP, and that he refrained from public protest of its worst injustices. Like Hörlein, too, Planck "tried to build enclaves within the system in which relatively normal life and work could be pursued."64

Kristie Macrakis's study of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society has shown that those scientists who remained in Germany during the Third Reich represented a spectrum of beliefs. Many of them, though lacking Planck's eminence or position, were hostile or indifferent to National Socialism and were determined to try to continue their work, often by outward accommodation to the regime. Although certain areas of German biology, especially eugenics and racial hygiene, were not only politically sensitive but also central to Nazi ideology, Macrakis shows that other areas of fundamental biology, for example, virus research, bore little or no relationship to political doctrine.65

The present study indicates that the same may be said of substantial areas of medical science. Although Hörlein ran head on into the völkisch critique of scientific medicine, and in particular chemical medicine, early in the regime, the subsequent reception of the sulfa drugs by German physicians does not appear to reflect ideologically grounded hostility. Chemotherapy in the form of the sulfa drugs was not problematic for most German physicians except in the ways that it was for physicians in other countries. That is, initial skepticism based on past failures of bacterial chemotherapy was replaced by increasing acceptance, and even enthusiasm, tempered by the recognition that much remained to be sorted out about the extent, limits, and modalities of the uses of sulfa drugs in medical practice. The reception of the sulfa drugs in Germany appears to exemplify the continuity and apolitical character of much of the German technical medical press before, during, and after the Nazi regime. Many German physicians joined the party, but much of German medical science did not.66

Whatever judgment is made on Hörlein's actions, it is also the case that Hörlein and I.G. Farben were able to maintain a measure of continuity in pharmaceutical research and production operations throughout the Nazi period. Research, including that of Domagk and his collaborators Mietzsch and Klarer, went on. New drugs were developed, clinically tested, and put on the market. Laboratory and clinical reports on the sulfas were published in the medical press. Production and use of sulfa drugs rose. Sulfa drugs were used extensively by German military and civilian physicians during the war. Anticipating shortages, I.G. Farben stockpiled essential medicines toward the end of the war and was able to bridge the gap in production that followed Allied occupation. Already by June 1945, pharmaceutical production had been resumed at Elberfeld, meeting the needs of a population vulnerable to disease in the midst of immediate postwar hardships.

For all this, there were costs. Hörlein had to struggle to preserve the conditions for pharmaceutical research from the very beginning of the Nazi regime. I.G. Farben staff were lost to political or antisemitic oppression. Especially after the war began, research staff was lost to military service, and later to Allied bombing. Research and development had to be curtailed for lack of funds or necessary materials. Contact with the international medical and scientific community was inhibited, and then cut off. At the end of the war, production temporarily ceased altogether. Once the war was over, the former I.G. Farben pharmaceutical establishment faced the task of reconnecting with the international medical and scientific community, in an environment in which competition in pharmaceutical research and development was significantly greater than it had been before the mid-1930s. For all that, the Elberfeld research organization remained intact. As part of a Bayer company reconstituted in the wake of Allied dismantlement of I.G. Farbenindustrie, it became a key element in the postwar reconstruction of pharmaceutical research in Germany.

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