Otto Ambros (born 1901)
Otto Ambros (19 May 1901 – 23 July 1990) was a German chemist and Nazi war criminal, who was involved with the research of chemical nerve agents, especially sarin and tabun. After the end of the war, he was tried at Nuremberg and convicted of crimes against humanity for his use of slave labor from the Auschwitz III–Monowitz concentration camp.
The son of a university professor, Ambros attended school and passed his Abitur exam in Munich. In 1920 he went to the University of Munich to study chemistry and agricultural science. In 1925 he gained a doctorate, studying under the 1915 Nobel Prize for Chemistry winner, Richard Willstätter.
From 1934 he worked at IG Farben, becoming head of their Schkopau plant in 1935. His division of IG Farben developed chemical weapons, including the nerve agents sarin (in 1938) and soman (in 1944). In this capacity, he was an advisor to Carl Krauch, a company executive.
Ambros then managed the IG Farben factories at Dyhernfurth, which produced tabun (a nerve agent similar to sarin), and at Gendorf, which produced mustard gas (a poison gas originally developed and used in World War I). The Dyhernfurth factory included a slave labor concentration camp with about 3000 prisoners (needs citation, too vague) who were used for the most hard and dangerous work at the plant, and as human guinea pigs in nerve gas experiments.
In 1944 Ambros was awarded the Knight's Cross of War Merit Cross.
Ambros was arrested by the US Army in 1946. He had overseen the IG Buna Werke rubber plant at Monowitz in the Auschwitz complex. At the IG Farben trial in Nuremberg in 1948 he was sentenced to eight years' confinement, and was ultimately released from Landsberg Prison early in 1952. The extensive works were to have produced (WIKI) Buna rubber, or (WIKI) polybutadiene for use in rubber tyres. Monowitz was built as an Arbeitslager (workcamp); it also contained an "Arbeitsausbildungslager" (Labor Education Camp) for non-Jewish prisoners perceived not up to par with German work standards. It held approximately 12,000 prisoners, the great majority of whom were Jewish, in addition to non-Jewish criminals and political prisoners. Prisoners from Monowitz were leased out by the SS to IG Farben to labor at the Buna Werke, a collection of chemical factories including those used to manufacture Buna (synthetic rubber) and synthetic oil. The SS charged IG Farben three Reichsmarks (RM) per day for unskilled workers, four (RM) per hour for skilled workers, and one and one-half (RM) for children. By 1942 the new labour camp complex for IG Farben prisoners occupied about half of its projected area, the expansion was for the most part finished in the summer of 1943. The last 4 barracks were built a year later. The labour camp's population grew from 3,500 in December 1942 to over 6,000 by the first half of 1943. By July 1944 the prisoner population was over 11,000, most of whom were Jews. Despite the growing death-rate from slave labour, starvation, executions or other forms of murder, the demand for labour was growing, and more prisoners were brought in. Because the factory management insisted on removing sick and exhausted prisoners from Monowitz, people incapable of continuing their work were murdered at the death camp at Birkenau nearby. The company argued that they had not spent large amounts of money building barracks for prisoners unfit to work.
Release from prison
[...] In 1998, Congress passed the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act, which required various U.S. government agencies to identify and release federal records relating to Nazi war criminals that had been kept classified for decades. In accordance with the act, President Clinton established an lnteragency Working Group-made up of federal agency representatives and members of the public to oversee the interpretation of over eight million pages of U.S. government records and report its findings to Congress. The documentation revealed a vast web of profitable relationships between hundreds of Nazi war criminals and U.S. military and intelligence agencies.
In 2005, in a final report to Congress, U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis, the Interagency Working Group determined that "[t]he notion that they [the U.S. military and the CIA] employed only a few 'bad apples’ will not stand up to the new documentation." In hindsight, wrote the Interagency Working Group, the government’s use of Nazis was a very bad idea, and "there was no compelling reason to begin the postwar era with the assistance of some of those associated with the worst crimes of the war." And yet history now shows us that that is exactly what the American government did – and continued to do throughout the Cold War.
In the decades since Operation Paperclip ended, new facts continue to come to light. In 2008, previously unreported information about Otto Ambros emerged, serving as a reminder that the story of what lies hidden behind America's Nazi scientist program is not complete.
A group of medical doctors and researchers in England, working on behalf of an organization called the Thalidomide Trust, believe they have tied the wartime work of IG Farben and Otto Ambros to the thalidomide tragedy of the late 1950s and early 1960s. After Ambros was released from Landsberg Prison, he worked as an economic consultant to German chancellor Konrad Adenauer and to the industrial magnate Friedrich Flick, the richest person in Germany during the Cold War. Like Ambros, Flick had been tried and convicted at Nuremberg, then released early by John J. McCloy.
In the late 1950s, Ambros was also elected chairman of the advisory committee for a German company called Chemie Grünenthal. Grünenthal was about to market a new tranquilizer that promised pregnant women relief from morning sickness. The drug, called thalidomide, was going to be sold under the brand name Contergan. Otto Ambros served on the board of directors of Grünenthal. In the late 1950s, very few people knew that Grünenthal Was a safe haven for many Nazis, including Dr. Ernst-Gunther Schenck, the inspector of nutrition for the SS, and Dr. Heinz Baumkotter, an SS captain (Hauptsturmfiihrer) and the chief concentration camp doctor in Mauthausen, Natzweiler-Struthof, and Sachsenhausen concentration camps.
Ten months before Grünenthal's public release of thalidomide, the wife of a Grünenthal employee, who took the drug to combat morning sickness, gave birth to a baby without ears. No one linked the birth defect to the drug, and thalidomide was released by the company. After several months on the market, in 1959, Grünenthal received its first reports that thalidomide caused polyneuropathy, or nerve damage, in the hands and feet of elderly people who took the drug. The drug's over-the-counter status was changed so that it now required a prescription. Still, thalidomide was marketed aggressively in forty-six countries with a label that stated it could be " given with complete safety to pregnant women and nursing mothers without any adverse effect on mother and child." Instead, the drug resulted in more than ten thousand mothers giving birth to babies with terrible deformities, creating the most horrific pharmaceutical disaster in the history of modern medicine. Many of the children were born without ears, arms, or legs and with reptilian, flipperlike appendages in place of healthy limbs.
The origins of thalidomide were never accounted for. Grünenthal had always maintained that it lost its documents that showed where and when the first human trials were conducted on the drug. Then, in 2008, the Thalidomide Trust, in England, headed by Dr. Martin Johnson, located a group of Nazi-era documents that produced a link between thalidomide and the drugs researched and developed by IG Farben chemists during the war. Dr. Johnson points out that Grünenthal’s 1954 patents for thalidomide cryptically state that human trials had already been completed, but the company says it cannot offer that data because it was lost, ostensibly during the war. "The patents suggest that thalidomide was probably one of a number of products developed at Dyhernfurth or Auschwitz-Monowitz under the leadership of Otto Ambros in the course of nerve gas research," Dr. Johnson says.
The Thalidomide Trust also links Paperclip scientist Richard Kuhn to the medical tragedy. "Kuhn worked with a wide range of chemicals in his nerve gas research, and in his antidote research we know he used Antergan, which are fairly sure was a 'sister drug' to Contergan," the brand name for thalidomide, Dr. Johnson explains.
[...] It seems that the legacy of Hitler's chemists has yet to be fully unveiled. Because so many of these German scientists were seen as assets to the U.S. Army Chemical Corps' nerve agent programs, and were thus wanted as participants in Operation Paperclip, secret deals were made, and the many documents pertaining to these arrangements were classified. President Clinton's Interagency Working Group had access to eight million pages of declassified documents, but millions more documents remain classified. In U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis, the Interagency Working Group's authors Write that " the truest reckoning with the official past can never be complete without the full release of government records."
Part of the problem lies in identifying where records are physically located. For example, a 2012 FOIA request to the State Department, asking for the release of all files related to Otto Ambros, was denied on the grounds that no such files exist. But it is a matter of record; owing to a May 1971 news article in the "Jewish Telegraphic Agency", that Otto Ambros traveled to the United States twice with the State Departments assistance, despite his status as a convicted war criminal. In an interview with State Department official Fred Scott, the Jewish Telegraph1c Agency learned "Ambros came to the United States in 1967 after the State Department recommended to the Justice Department a waiver on his eligibility, which was granted" and that in 1969, Ambros received a second visa waiver and traveled to the United States again. In the spring o 1971 Ambros was attempting to get a third visa waiver from the State Department when the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported the story. According to Fred Scott, Ambros's host for his May 1971 visit was listed as the Dow Chemical Company. After the story was published, Jewish groups held protests, and Ambros allegedly canceled his trip. But none of this information is contained in Ambros's declassified U.S. Army files, FBI files, or CIA files. Otto Ambros was a convicted Nazi war criminal. In accordance with the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act, all files about him should have been released and declassified. But records that cannot be located cannot be declassified. [...]
Otto Ambros lived until 1990, to the age of ninety-two. After his death, the chemical conglomerate BASF, on whose board of directors he had served, lauded him as " an expressive entrepreneurial figure of great charisma." [...]
As I read your book I started thinking about the various Nazi genre films such as; The Boys from Brazil, The Odessa File, and Marathon Man — they all hold to a similar premise, key Nazi’s escape Germany after the war and plot in various ways to do bad things. Apparently truth is stranger than fiction. What was Operation Paperclip?
Operation Paperclip was a classified program to bring Nazi scientists to America right after World War II. It had, however, a benign public face. The war department had issued a press release saying that good German scientists would be coming to America to help out in our scientific endeavors.
But it was not benign at all, as seen in the character of Otto Ambros, a man, as you explain, was keen on helping U.S. soldiers in matters of hygiene by offering them soap, this soon after they had conquered Germany. Who was Ambros?
Otto Ambros I must say was one of the most dark-hearted characters that I wrote about in this book. He was Hitler’s favorite chemist, and I don’t say that lightly. I found a document in the National Archives, I don’t believe it had ever been revealed before, that showed that during the war Hitler gave Ambros a one million Reichsmark bonus for his scientific acumen. The reason was two-fold. Ambros worked on the Reich’s secret nerve agent program, but he also invented synthetic rubber, that was called buna. The reason rubber was so important — if you think about the Reich’s war-machine and how tanks need treads, aircraft need wheels — the Reich needed rubber. By inventing synthetic rubber, Ambros became Hitler’s favorite chemist.
Not only that when the Reich decided to develop a factory at Auschwitz, — the death camp had a third territory, there was Auschwitz, there was Birkenau — they did it in a third territory called Auschwitz III also known as Monowitvz-Buna. This was where synthetic rubber was going to be manufactured using prisoners who would be spared the gas chamber as they were put to work, and most often worked to death by the Reich war machine. The person, the general manager there at Auschwitz III, was Otto Ambros. Ambros was one of the last individuals to leave Auschwitz, this is in the last days of January 1945 as the Russians are about to liberate the death camp. Ambros is there according to these documents I have located in Germany, destroying evidence right up until the very end.
After the war, Ambros was sought by the Allies and later found, interrogated and put on trial at Nuremberg, where he was convicted of mass-murder and slavery. He was sentenced to prison, but in the early 1950s as the Cold War became elevated he was given clemency by the U.S. High Commissioner John McCloy and released from prison. When he was sentenced, the Nuremberg judges took away all his finances, including that one million Reichsmark bonus from Hitler. When McCloy gave him clemency he also restored Otto Ambros’ finances, so he got back what was left of that money. He was then given a contract with the U.S. Department of Energy.
He actually came to work in the United States?
Otto Ambros remains one of the most difficult cases to crack in terms of Paperclip. While I was able to unearth some new and horrifying information about his postwar life, most of it remains, “lost or missing,” which I take to mean classified. We do know for a fact that Ambros came to the United States two, possibly three times. As a convicted war criminal traveling to the United States he would have needed special papers from the U.S. State Department. The State Department, however, informed me through the Freedom of Information Act that those documents are lost or missing.
The release of the nerve gas sarin in the Tokyo subway system has unleashed another possible weapon for any terrorists, but segments of the press have credited (or blamed) the Nazis for development of sarin and its mate, tabun. Such is incorrect, for tabun was publicized as early as 1902, as was sarin, and I. G. Farbenindustrie patented tabun in 1937 and sarin in 1938.
The Nazi regime merely refined these two nerve gases. In Tokyo, diluting chemicals must have been used, otherwise the death rate would have been in the thousands with many more thousands sickened.
By the fall of 1944 the unholy trio of Martin Bormann, Josef Goebbels and Robert Ley had pressured Hitler to use tabun on enemy cities and other installations. In May 1943 the same three urged its use on the Russian front after the Nazi debacle of Stalingrad.
In a conference in Hitler's East Prussian headquarters, Hitler learned that Albert Speer was opposed to the use of tabun against the Allies. Otto Ambros, a member of I. G. Farben's managing board and expert on poison gas and synthetic rubber, reminded Hitler that the Allies had a greater capacity to produce mustard gas and access to ethylene, its source from petroleum.
Otto Ambros also warned Hitler that if Germany used tabun, the Allies could produce this gas in much greater quantities. Hearing this discouraging report from an expert, Hitler abruptly left the conference, but insisted that research be continued on sarin, which was coded "N-Stoff" as a closely guarded military secret, and ordered testing transferred from Army Ordnance to the SS.
When the nerve gas subject came up again in the fall of 1944, Hitler was told by Ambros that nothing had changed from his 1943 views, and Hitler again forbade its use against the Allies. But in February 1945 Speer conceived the idea of using tabun to kill Hitler by introducing it into the ventilating system of the Berlin Fuhrerbunker, but technical problems nullified that scheme.
After the war Ambros's estimate of the Allied chemical warfare capability proved wrong, ironically, for either gas might have altered the course of the war if Hitler had authorized the use of sarin or tabun.
Also, after the war, it was alleged that Farben's poison gases were used on inmates of concentration camps. R. H. HODGES Pelham, N.Y., March 21, 1995 The writer is a longtime researcher into the Nazi regime.