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Bayer Leadership Seminar at the Auschwitz Museum


Top-level managers of Bayer AG from Germany visited the Auschwitz Memorial on 8-12 May and took part in a pilot seminar organized by the International Center for Education about Auschwitz in the Holocaust.


The focus of the study visit was placed on the issues of remembrance and responsibility. The programme of the Bayer Leadership Seminar encompassed a number of guided tours, lectures and workshops about the history of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz, with special attention of the role of the Auschwitz III-Monowitz camp, which was established for prisoners, assigned for forced labour in the IG Farbenindustrie plant.

'We tried to balance out more theoretical elements of the programme with open discussions and group work with survivors’ testimonies and historical sources. It was crucial to create a space for exchange of thoughts and reflection about the significance of the tragic history of Auschwitz in the world we live and function in today,' – said the ICEAH educator and coordinator of the seminar Nataliia Tkachenko.

'Our aim is to encourage participants to reflect on our responsibility today based on the conclusions that can be drawn from this history: as a private person, as a representative of an organization, which history reaches into the Nazi past, and as a senior manager and people leader, influencing key decision-making processes. This has provoked absorbing and fruitful discussions, that will surely go beyond the seminar,' – said the Head of Strategy, Engagement and Operations at Bayer AG and coordinator of the seminar Dr. Matthias Schramm.

IG Farbenindustrie was a German chemical conglomerate resulting from the 1925 merger of such leading firms as Bayer, Agfa, and BASF. In the 1930s, owing to technological advances and state subsidies, it almost monopolized the production of many goods vital to the Third Reich war economy. The most important of these were liquid fuel and synthetic rubber, which could not be imported to Germany after the sea lanes were cut at the start of the war.

The conglomerate was one of the first companies to employ concentration camp prisoners on a mass scale—above all from Auschwitz— and to demand that the SS maintain their capacity for labor, mostly through the replacement of the sick (selection) and weak with healthy, strong new arrivals from the transports arriving in the camp. After the war some members of IG Farben management were tried at the American Military Tribunal in Nuremberg and sentenced to up to eight years in prison, but all the convicted men were released at the beginning of the 1950s.