Otto Ambros

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Otto Ambros
Otto Ambros
At the Nuremberg Trials, taken by the US Army
Born19 May 1901
Died23 July 1990(1990-07-23) (aged 89)
Alma materUniversity of Munich
Scientific career
FieldsOrganophosphate insecticides and nerve-agent chemicals
InstitutionsIG Farben, BASF

Otto Ambros (19 May 1901 – 23 July 1990) was a German chemist known for inventing rubber, specifically Buna rubber or polybutadiene for use in rubber tyres.

Early life[edit]

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.


Beginning in 1926, Ambros worked at BASF in Ludwigshafen. In 1930 he spent a year studying in The Far East.

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. [1]

In 1944 Ambros was awarded the Knight's Cross of War Merit Cross.


IG Farben plant at Monowitz under construction approximately 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) from Auschwitz, 1942
Concentration camp prisoners, identified by striped clothes at work in Monowitz

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 1951. The extensive works were to have produced Buna rubber, or 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[edit]

Otto Ambros was released from prison in 1951 after he was granted clemency by U.S. High Commissioner (of Allied Germany) John McCloy.[2]

He became an adviser to chemical companies such as W. R. Grace, Dow Chemical, as well as the U.S. Army Chemical Corps, and Konrad Adenauer.[3]

He was also advising Chemie Grünenthal (now Grünenthal GmbH) in the development of thalidomide.[4][5]


  1. ^ Tucker, Jonathon B. (2006), "Chapter 3-4", War of Nerves, New York: Anchor Books, ISBN 978-0-375-42229-4
  2. ^ Tracking Nazi scientists who came to America, The Star
  3. ^ Otto Ambros (1901–1990)
  4. ^ The Nazis and Thalidomide: The Worst Drug Scandal of All Time, Newsweek
  5. ^ From the Holocaust to Thalidomide: A Nazi Legacy, Alliance for Human Research Protection