Monday, September 19, 2016

Bayer, Monsanto, and Me

It's interesting to see what journey a single headline in the news can send me on. The other day I noticed that Bayer bought Monsanto for $66 billion. Ah, two companies that I particularly dislike. It's not a surprise that Bayer would buy a company that is genetically modifying crops all over the world. If you knew Bayer's history (and relationship to IG Farben) you would know that sometimes the interest of human lives doesn't rank up there with other pressing matters like money and expediency.
IG Farben Plant at Auschwtiz-Monowitz (borrowed without permission)

I would recommend that you google Bayer and take a look at their connection to IG Farben and Auschwitz during World War II. It's horrifying to know what companies were up to in the throes of Nazism and Hitler's regime. If you don't get a chance to read about it, here's an excerpt:
During World War II, IG Farben used slave labor in factories that it built adjacent to German concentration camps, notably Auschwitz,[27] and the sub-camps of the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp.[28] IG Farben purchased prisoners for human experimentation of a sleep-inducing drug and later reported that all test subjects died.[29][30] IG Farben held a large investment in Degesch which produced Zyclon B used to gas and kill prisoners during the Holocaust.[31]
After World War II, the Allies broke up IG Farben and Bayer reappeared as an individual business "inheriting" many of IG Farben's assets.[29] Fritz ter Meer, an IG Farben board member from 1926 to 1945 who directed operations at the IG Farben plant at Auschwitz, was sentenced to seven years in prison during the IG Farben Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. He was elected Bayer's supervisory board head in 1956.[32]
In 1995, Helge Wehmeier, the head of Bayer, publicly apologized to Elie Wiesel for the company's involvement in the Holocaust at a lecture in Pittsburgh
So the headline about Bayer sent me looking for information about the members of my mother's family who had perished in the Holocaust. I found myself looking at lists of names of the dead. There are so many, and I wasn't sure I had the exact spelling of the name. But it turns out I did, and I found this at the Yad Vashem website. I took a screen shot and then annotated it. My mother's mother's maiden name was Dienstfrei, three names here are her two brothers and her mother.

Finding the names Max and Jacob Dienstfrei, my mother's uncles, reminded that one of their sons, Micah, had survived and was found alive many years later by my my mother's family. He was living in Israel. I did a post about that more then ten years ago. Micah had a son who was living in California, someone my parents met, went to his wedding, and kept in touch with a for a while.

Well, I thought I should check Facebook to see if I could reconnect with these long lost relatives. And, of course, I did. Turns out that not only are they still in California, but their youngest son had just started his freshman year here at the university in Arcata. They were all here in August! What a crazy surprise. I wrote to say we hope they find some comfort in knowing that there is family here on the far north coast. Yes, family. This young boy's now-deceased grandfather was my mother's first cousin. And here we are practically neighbors. The history of our connection is almost beyond what I can convey.

So, Bayer and Monsanto, as much as I truly detest your presence on earth, I am glad you sent me on this journey.

12 comments:

  1. Tears and a smile at this post. Wow, Robin. I hope we will soon be reading posts about visits from your extended family.
    I think it was Marketplace had a story about how worried this merger is making farmers. Total monopoly on GMO seeds. One farmer stopped using GMO seeds, but apparently the idea hasn't occurred to the other farmers yet.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have been reading a bit about Monsanto. Wow! I had no idea they had their dirty hands in so many horrible things: DDT, PCBs, Agent Orange, and recombinant bovine growth hormone. Oy.

      Delete
  2. Wow, what a story. My heart goes out to you and your mother. We share the same feelings about Bayer and Monsanto.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Sharon. It's quite a history to piece together.

      Delete
  3. I am stunned robin. I had no idea of Bayer's involvement in the worst atrocity in history. Guess it stands to reason they would team up with Monsanto. I understand your anger. I just read the older post and agree with Patricia. Your poem should be published but what a miracle that Micah was found.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know how or when I discovered Bayer's involvement, but I have never forgotten it. Such an outrage. I sent that poem to Micah's son yesterday. He called me, and we had quite a nice conversation.

      Delete
  4. Once again, my comment was lost to cyberspace.

    I have hated Monsanto since I first learned many years ago how they were ruining the small farmers in third world countries. Farmers who cannot afford to buy seed every year but depend on saving part of each year's crop for future planting.

    Reading the list sent shivers through my body. I can only imagine how painful it must be to see the names of relatives so coldly listed.

    My husband was a medical director of a major life/disability insurance company. I was shocked when he told me that many insurance policies refused to pay death benefits to beneficiaries of Jews who died in the Holocaust. No death certificates. (His company did, in fact pay the death benefits)

    ReplyDelete
  5. NCmountainwoman- It is disheartening to know that so many big companies and businesses have wreaked havoc on our planet in so many ways. Their endless greed is such a terrible thing. I appreciate immensely the story you share about your husband. Thank you for that.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh Robin - Such heart-wrenching things. When I went to college in 1969, I was not aware of the Holocaust. They didn't teach us about it in Ohio, it seems. Good old white bread Ohio. A Jewish friend took me to see the movie "The Pawnbroker." Afterwards she and I talked. I was completely sideswiped.
    And then came the killing fields of Cambodia. And on it goes.
    At least you have found some family.
    The global corporate horrors I can't even contemplate...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting that you weren't taught about the Holocaust in school. This makes me wonder if any of my classes taught me about it, or if I just knew because of our family history. Wow!

      Delete
  7. Some days, even a short walk into town can be an overload (is that possible?) of memories of hate. I am going to cycle to the whole food shop and the farmer's market in a minute and I will pass about 10 Stolpersteine on my way. (www.stolpersteine.eu/en/)

    During my angry teenage years I used to wonder why so many of the German nazi big shots got back into business and society less than a decade after the war until a visiting professor of history (from a US university) explained to me how the allied forced juggled the denazification process in the early cold war years. Suddenly, people who should have spent the rest of their lives in prison were useful again to build up a stronghold of prosperity on this side of the iron curtain.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh that link! Thank you for that. And thank you for reminding me of the ugly nature of all insider power brokers. Why should I surprised that even in the face of such horrors, politics and money always come first.

      Delete