The IG Farben Building 1945 – 1995

In the spring of 1945, organised resistance to US forces all but ceased after they had crossed the Rhine. As early as 26 March, the rapidly advancing troops reached Rüsselsheim, Raunheim and Groß-Gerau.[1] Aside from isolated pockets of resistance, Frankfurt was occupied within a matter of days. As can be ascertained from reports by American soldiers, an eerie silence reigned over the almost deserted city, whose inner suburbs had largely been destroyed by allied air raids over the winter. Yet the former headquarters of the “Community of Interests of Dye-making Corporations plc” (IG Farben) had scarcely been damaged by the war. Only one of the six cross-wings had been hit by artillery fire as the American forces advanced.

On 29 March 1945, the IG Farben Deputy Operations Manager and board member, Hermann W. Lumme, led the Commanding Officer of the US forces on a tour of the IG Farben administrative headquarters and nearby casino, at the time also known as the Poelzig Ensemble.[2] According to reliable sources, the American occupation of the IG Farben headquarters preceding this visit featured the following anecdote: apparently the single unarmed IG Farben security guard who had been positioned in front of the building resolutely refused to hand over the front door key to the advancing US Infantry—without receiving permission from his superiors.[3] Unwilling to use force, finally the Americans sent a jeep to Oberursel to fetch one of the concern’s directors.

The first American military commander in Frankfurt, Lieutenant Colonel Howard D. Criswell, and those under his command faced numerous challenges in the ensuing weeks. The living conditions of Frankfurt’s remaining population were extremely precarious and needed to be rapidly improved. In addition, since March of 1945 some 2,000 displaced persons of various nationalities—including former slave labourers and concentration camp inmates—had moved onto the administration complex. They camped in the area between the main building and the casino, using the pool there to wash and for drinking water. Searching for whatever they needed for creature comforts, some of them had taken office furniture from the complex to erect shelters or build fires.[4] As far as possible, Criswell saw to the needs of these displaced persons and those who had lost their homes in the air raids—and then he ordered clean-up work to begin.

Frankfurt’s excellent transport links and the fact that the IG Farben Building was in relatively good shape roused the interest of Criswell’s superior, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, at the time Commander-in-Chief of US forces in Europe. After some hesitation—for Frankfurt was originally supposed to be in the French occupation zone—Eisenhower moved the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF) into the first floor of the IG Farben Building. When some three months after the end of the war this organisation was disbanded, Eisenhower assumed the posts of US Military Governor and Supreme Commander of the U.S. Forces European Theatre (USFET) and in these capacities continued to direct operations from the same premises. Conference Room 130 on the first floor of the IG Farben Building became his main office, and thus it now bears the name “Eisenhower Room”.

USFET’s tasks were manifold: besides re-establishing public order, disarming the remaining German Army units, and creating a new police force, it had to see to the population’s needs regarding food and medical care. In addition, displaced persons—to include former prisoners-of-war, concentration camp inmates, and slave workers—had to be reintegrated into society, or if possible returned to their countries of origin. In addition, war criminals had to be identified and punished, and criteria for the denazification of German society established. USFET subsequently played a role in the reorganisation of western Germany: in 1948, the foundations of the first federal states were laid in the Eisenhower Room, and from here Eisenhower issued the mandate to draft a new constitution—the future Basic Law.

In the following decades, the IG Farben Building continued to play an enormously important role.[5] When the victorious western powers and the Soviet Union went their separate ways and the Cold War began, the US Army V Corps was moved here in 1951. The US Military wanted to keep Frankfurt as its main base and the IG Farben Building as its headquarters—and so it was that the latter became known as the “Pentagon of Europe”. Of decisive importance was the city’s strategically central position. From Frankfurt the Americans could oversee the military defence of the Fulda Gap, a possible invasion route some 100 kilometres long on the border between West and East Germany. Thus throughout the Cold War, two divisions with tanks and armoured vehicles were stationed in Frankfurt.

Until the US Military withdrew in the mid-1990s, the IG Farben Building was a central component of American military planning in Europe. For this reason, it was also the target of one of the first attacks carried out on a US Military installation, in 1972, by the newly formed terror group, the Red Army Faction (RAF). This first attack killed the American Lieutenant Colonel Paul A. Bloomquist and wounded thirteen others. Three further attacks on the building were to follow.

After the reunification of Germany, the Americans left Frankfurt and in 1995 handed the IG Farben Building—since 1975 named the General Creighton W. Abrams Building, after the Commander-in-Chief of the US Military in Vietnam—to the German authorities. Discussion on what should be done with the site had begun long before that date.

© Frankfurt Humanities Research Centre

Literature and Links:

  • Drummer, Heike/Zwilling, Jutta: Von der Grüneburg zum Campus Westend. Die Geschichte des IG Farben-Hauses. Frankfurt am Main 2007.
  • Kirkpatrick, Charles: “Das I.G. Farben-Gebäude als Sitz der Amerikaner – 1945-1995.” In Meißner, Werner/Rebentisch, Dieter/Wang, Wilfried (eds.): Der Poelzig-Bau. Vom I.G. Farben-Haus zur Goethe-Universität. Frankfurt am Main 1999, 104-122.

[1] Kirkpatrick 1999, 104.
[2] Ibid. 105
[3] Ibid. 106
[4] Drummer/Zwilling 2007, 96.
[5] Kirkpatrick 1999, 110ff.