German nitrogen syndicate

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The German Nitrogen Syndicate (abbr. DSS) was a cartel of the largest German producers of nitrogen fertilizers and technical fertilizers, founded on May 8, 1919 , initially under the leadership of BASF , later IG Farben , and existed until 1945. It formed the hub and clearing house for the worldwide trade of nitrogen fertilizers and led the international nitrogen cartel with the name "Convention de l'Industrie de l'Azote" (CIA). In 1926 nitrogen fertilizer production accounted for 43% of sales and 65% of IG Farben's profits.


German ammonia production from 1913 to 1945 in kilotons of fixed nitrogen

Reason for the formation of the society under the name nitrogen syndicate G. m. b. H, were the overcapacities from the First World War , in which large ammunition production plants were built to produce ammonia using the Haber-Bosch process . The negotiations on education were led by the Reich government, later industry was able to suppress the influence of the state. The BASF had 20 votes of the 33 votes on the board, the German government, however, only the third German heavy industry, nitrogen compounds such as ammonia, produced as a by-product, entered in 1930 the DSS at. In 1927, with a stake of 25%, the DSS was able to gain control of the Norwegian Norsk Hydro , which in return received the Haber-Bosch process. In a cartel agreement with the British Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), valid from July 1, 1929, with a term of 10 years, it divided the world market in a ratio of 80.5% to 19.5% in favor of the DSS. This created the DEN group (German-English-Norwegian).

On July 1, 1930, the international nitrogen cartel CIA came into force for one year and, in addition to the DEN group, included France , Belgium , the Netherlands , Poland and Czechoslovakia . It was renewed on July 1, 1932. The board member of IG Farben Hermann Schmitz became president of the cartel . The DEN group received 75.9% of the export share. In order to keep the prices in the cartel high at a market price of 40 pfennigs, the CIA paid an exceptionally high 15 gold pfennigs per kilogram for ammonium sulfate that was not produced .

In the Great Depression , a general price war of the world market price began dropped by half from August 1931st The CIA broke up. The DSS and the Federal Foreign Office worked together in this price war. All over the world, governments introduced protective tariffs to protect their nitrogen industries or blocked their markets by other means. The price war and the shrinking of the market due to the global economic crisis led to a collapse of the Chilean saltpetre industry . In Chile , the export tariff on saltpetre accounted for 60% of state revenue. This collapse led to a social and societal crisis there that resulted in five violent changes of government. The DEN group emerged as the winner of the price war and was able to further strengthen its position in the international nitrogen cartel.

In 1931 Julius Bueb , who later became the Reich nitrogen commissioner, gave a lecture to the DSS supervisory board in which he called for “international economic action” by “all capitalist-oriented states” against the price dumping of the Soviet Union for a number of raw materials.

The DSS and the ICI tried to hinder the construction of nitrogen fertilizer plants all over the world. I.a. by refusing technical assistance or by offering technical assistance that was then thwarted. A plant in Finland could be delayed for years due to thwarted aid . After consultation with the DSS, the German government prevented the construction of a Danish plant by threatening to worsen international relations.

In 1934 the DSS became a compulsory cartel, and so the last domestic German outsiders were forced into the cartel. In 1939 the DSS and the ICI agreed to maintain their relations in the event of a German-British war.

The employee of the international nitrogen cartel Walter Jacobi testified in the IG-Farben trial : "In 1938 there was much talk of war among the members of the cartel". Because this year the IG Farben informed the CIA that it could not meet the export quota, from which all members concluded that German nitrogen production was diverted to synthetic gasoline and explosives. According to the Munich Agreement , the headquarters of the CIA was relocated to Norway to protect against confiscation of assets in the event of war .


Harm G. Schröter rates the International Cartel CIA, thanks to the skilful management by the DSS, as one of the most successful cartels, as production could be successfully restricted and prices could be kept high. However, he did not succeed in stopping the expansion of production capacities, which governments around the world were interested in for military reasons. He rates the cooperation between the state and the private sector as common worldwide and there is no evidence of any “particular aggressiveness on the part of German capital”.

See also


  • Harm G. Schröter: The international nitrogen cartel 1929–1939 . In: Harm G. Schröter, Clemens A. Wurm (eds.): Politics, economics and international relations, studies on their relationship in the period between the world wars . Mainz 1991.

Individual evidence

  1. Letter from Dr. Bueb to Ernst von Borsig dated March 7, 1931, Gutsarchiv Borsig. Quote from Karsten Heinz Schönbach: The German Corporations and National Socialism 1926–1943. Berlin 2015, p. 449 f.
  2. ^ Document NI-7745. Quotation from Hans Radandt (ed.): Case 6. Selected documents and judgment of the IG Farben trial . Berlin 1970, p. 115 f.