Leuna Works

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Leuna gasoline logo, 1930s

The Leunawerke , named after the town of Leuna to the east of the industrial area , are located south of Halle (Saale) in Saxony-Anhalt . They were the largest hydrogenation plant in Germany and then the largest in the chemical industry in the GDR . Today, numerous new companies have settled in the Leunawerke area. The infrastructure is managed by Infraleuna GmbH .


Foundation of the Merseburg ammonia plant by BASF

Ammonia is an important raw material for the production of fertilizers ( urea ) as well as nitric acid . This is used, among other things, to produce explosives ( ammonium nitrate , picric acid ). In World War I , the demand exceeded in these products, the capacity of the plant Oppau of BASF , the patent for the synthesis of ammonia by the Haber process had. At the urging of the government of the German Empire and its Supreme Army Command , BASF planned to build a second ammonia plant. In order to be safe from potential attacks by the French air forces , a location in central Germany was chosen. On May 25, 1916, the foundation stone was laid in Leuna for the Badische Aniline- und Sodafabrik, called Ammoniakwerk Merseburg , whose construction was led by Carl Bosch . After a short construction period, the first tank car left the factory premises at the end of April 1917.

In 1920 the Leunawerke and the Oppau site were merged to form Ammoniakwerke Merseburg-Oppau GmbH . During the March fighting in central Germany in the spring of 1921, insurgent workers barricaded themselves in the Leuna works.

In 1923, the new high-pressure process developed by Matthias Pier in 1920 for the production of methanol from synthesis gas was implemented on an industrial scale in Leuna .

IG Farben company

The opening of the show “German People-German Work”, Kaiserdamm Berlin. Part of the Leuna plant in the chemistry department at the exhibition in April 1934

End of 1925, BASF subsidiary of IG Farben -Konzerns where Leuna now back as ammonia Merseburg GmbH - Leunawerke changed its name . In 1926, because of its location in the Central German lignite mining area , the plant was selected for large-scale industrial trials to manufacture synthetic gasoline in order to make the German Reich more independent of oil imports. This "Leuna gasoline" was also called "German gasoline" and was produced using the Bergius-Pier process by high-pressure hydrogenation of lignite . In 1927 the experiments were interrupted due to technological problems, only to be restarted in 1932.

Compared to world market prices, the production was too expensive. Therefore, in November 1932, the IG Farben directors Bütefisch and Gattineau met with Hitler to inform him about the future importance of synthetic gasoline. They received a promise from Hitler that, in the event of his government, they would support the production of synthetic gasoline by guaranteeing sales and minimum prices. In 1933, the IG Farben Group secured the complete fuel supply for the Wehrmacht in a contract .

In Schkopau based Buna works were a subsidiary of ammonia Merseburg GmbH - Leunawerke .

Second World War

Since Germany has almost no own oil reserves, already obtained before the Second World War, the production of synthetic gasoline by coal liquefaction ( " Deutsches gasoline ") for strategic reasons of great importance. The construction of hydrogenation plants became an essential part of the self-sufficiency drive in the four-year plan published in October 1936 . When the war began in 1939, seven hydrogenation plants were producing, most of them on the basis of lignite starch . The largest in Leuna was also the lead plant and worked on the basis of lignite.

In November 1944, a total of 12,132 foreign workers were employed in the Leuna Works, and in March 1945 there were 14,140 people. The nationality of about 12,000 workers at the end of 1944 who were not part of the core workforce is known. 1,500 were Reich or Volksdeutsche from Central Europe, 2,200 were Russian Eastern workers , 2,400 French, 2,000 Italian, 450 Czechs and 430 Flemings. 515 had Croatian, Polish, Dutch, and Moroccan backgrounds. In addition, there were 1590 French prisoners of war and a further 1,600 camp prisoners in the so-called labor education camps Osendorf , Zöschen and Schkopau . In total, there were more than 15,000 workers, more than two thirds of whom had been brought to the Leuna Works for forced labor . According to another source, the Leunawerke had a workforce of 27,000 at the end of 1944, of which 16,500 were foreign workers and prisoners of war - i.e. 10,500 Germans.

Main article: Air strikes on the Leuna works

On May 12, 1944, the Allies struck the first big blow against the German fuel industry. More than 800 bombers from the 8th US Air Fleet dropped a bomb load of around 1,700 tons over the central German hydrogenation works. Albert Speer , then Reich Minister for Armaments and War Production , later wrote in his book Memoirs , published in 1969 : "With the success of these attacks, the war was lost in terms of production technology". The plant was able to resume operations ten days later, but was again paralyzed by a new attack on May 28th. In the "Battle of Leuna", Allied bomber squadrons subsequently attacked the hydrogenation plant more than twenty times until it was completely destroyed. Production started up again and again, albeit to a limited extent, between the attacks. 6552 Allied aircraft dropped a total of around 18,000 tons of bombs on the Leunawerke and its surroundings. Numerous forced laborers were also killed in the air strikes. On April 4, 1945, production finally came to a standstill.

VEB Leuna-Werke Walter Ulbricht

"VEB Leuna-Werke Walter Ulbricht" - GDR special stamp from 1966

After the end of the Second World War and the break-up of IG Farben, the Leunawerke came into Soviet ownership in the form of a Soviet joint-stock company . The heavily damaged in the war factory lost another 45 to 50 percent of the plants by dismantling a participant in the Paris Peace Conference in 1946 adopted reparations against the Soviet Union .

In 1954, the Leunawerke became public property. Officially the factory was soon called VEB Leuna-Werke “Walter Ulbricht” (LWWU) and was the largest chemical company in the GDR. Around 30,000 workers worked in the factory and the products were exported to around forty countries. The factory premises - completely fenced in - extended over a length of seven kilometers and a width of three kilometers. There are two train stations of the Thuringian Railway, which opened in 1846, on the factory site : Leuna Werke Nord and Leuna Werke Süd .

Leuna-Werke, distillation plants, September 1959

In 1959, construction of the Leuna II plant began next to the existing old plant . It was a modern production complex for the petrochemical industry . The cracking plant for the production of petrochemical raw materials such as ethene and propene and, based on this, the plants for phenol , caprolactam and high pressure polyethylene were delivered from the Federal Republic of Germany, the USSR, the GDR and Great Britain. The raw material supply for the crude oil processing in the old plant and thus for the cracking plant came from the USSR via the friendship oil pipeline via Schwedt / Oder . In order to be able to use other oil suppliers as well, the pipeline system was connected to the Rostock overseas port .

In the 1970s and 1980s, due to the two oil price crises in 1973/74 and 1979/80 and the reduced oil deliveries from the USSR, investments were made particularly in oil processing. New plants for deeper splitting of crude oil were supplied, for example, from the Federal Republic of Germany, Japan , Austria and Sweden and operated with modern Federal German and US process control systems . This reduced the proportion of “black products” ( heavy oil and bitumen ) to practically zero in favor of higher quality “white products” such as motor gasoline , diesel fuel and light heating oil . The fuels from Leuna II were also exported to western countries through the Commercial Coordination of the Ministry of Foreign Trade of the GDR in order to acquire foreign currency and to refinance the plants . So there was Leuna petrol at the petrol stations in West Berlin . Even the heaviest residues from crude oil processing were used as raw material for synthesis gas in the new low-pressure methanol plant . Overall, however, the technology was too expensive because of the high demand for hydrogen for the hydrogenation .

The technical wear and tear of the 60 to 70 year old plants (e.g. for synthesis gas generation, ammonia synthesis and high pressure methanol synthesis) was so high in the 1980s that economic operation was no longer possible due to the high energy, labor and maintenance requirements. In order to counteract the labor shortage, East German NVA construction soldiers have been working in the factory in recent years .

Division after 1990

Industrial plants in Leuna, 1991
Leuna Werke Nord stop,
Linde AG in the background

After the German reunification , the combine was broken down into smaller units and sold by the Treuhandanstalt . In addition, a number of new companies were founded and relocated. Today there are many different companies on the site of the chemical park. The number of jobs was significantly reduced, as in many other large companies in the GDR. In 1978 the Leuna factory was the largest chemical company in the GDR with 28,000 employees; In 2014 there were only 9,000 employees on the former factory site.

In order to promote the preservation of the location, Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl brokered the takeover of the oil refinery to the French mineral oil company Elf Aquitaine for the purpose of preserving "industrial cores" in the new federal states . French managers, including Alfred Sirven , were convicted of bribery payments as part of the takeover ( Leuna affair ) .

The Mitteldeutsche Erdoel-Raffinerie (MIDER) went into operation in 1997 after two and a half years of construction as the most modern of its kind in Europe. It represented the largest direct investment by a French group in the new federal states. The investment was made easier by the commitment of EU aid amounting to 1.4 billion marks or 27% of the total investment.

The refinery, which was expanded to the Leuna III area in the direction of the village of Spergau with new plants , is now called Total Raffinerie Mitteldeutschland GmbH (TRM), and other companies are involved in addition to Total.


The written records of the Leuna works from 1916 to the mid-1990s are now kept in the Merseburg department in the Saxony-Anhalt state archive, together with an extensive collection of photos . The inventory bears the inventory designation I 525 .


  • Friedrike Sattler: Corporate strategies and politics. On the development of the central German chemical industry in the 20th century. In: Hermann-Josef Rupieper, Friederike Sattler, Georg Wagner-Kyora (eds.): The central German chemical industry and its workers in the 20th century. Mitteldeutscher Verlag, Halle 2005, ISBN 3-89812-246-8 , pp. 119–175.
  • Jana Lehmann, Marion Schatz: Leuna between reconstruction and turning point. 1945–1990. Published by the State Archive of Saxony-Anhalt. Sutton Verlag, Erfurt 2006, ISBN 3-86680-024-X ( The Work Worlds series ).

Web links

Commons : VEB Leuna-Werke Walter Ulbricht  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. www.basf.com/history/1902-1924 ( Memento from July 20, 2012 in the web archive archive.today )
  2. fes.de (PDF; 71 kB), Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung , Georg Wagner-Kyora: The fate of the forced laborers and concentration camp prisoners in the Buna works
  3. Martin Pabst: The air raids on Leuna and Merseburg at the end of the Second World War . Self-published in Cuxhaven 1995. Authorized new edition: Leuna 2009.
  4. spiegel.de , Der Spiegel : Battle for fuel , issue 14/1964 of April 1, 1964.
  5. spiegel.de , Der Spiegel, Dietmar Pieper: Lebenssaft der Wehrmacht , from: The war 1939 - 1945: When the world was in flames , issue 3/2010.
  6. Martin Pabst: Recorded on the card, reported to the police, checked by the defense and brought to action: the Daspig foreign labor camp near Leuna between 1939 and 1945: Documents and eyewitness reports, Volume 7 of the Documentation series . Galgenbergsche, 2003, ISBN 3-933230-08-X , p. 136, here p. 103 ff. in Romanian .
  7. mdr.de ( Memento from October 17, 2013 in the Internet Archive ), Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk : Industrie und Technologie. The Central German chemistry triangle. , August 1, 2005.
  8. Dirk Skrzypczak: Development in Leuna - Shock turns into pride in the industrial park . In: Mitteldeutsche Zeitung . September 17, 2014 ( mz-web.de [accessed January 12, 2017]).
  9. Uwe Müller: Leuna - the lousy miracle . In: Die Welt , January 31, 2000. 
  10. ^ I 525 Leuna works in the State Archives Saxony-Anhalt. Retrieved March 26, 2020 .

Coordinates: 51 ° 19 ′ 7 ″  N , 12 ° 0 ′ 30 ″  E