War and crisis


With a shareholding by the Deutsche Gold- und Silber-Scheideanstalt the Chemische Fabrik Weissenstein Ges.m.b.H. was founded. This company was the forerunner of Österreichische Chemische Werke Ges.m.b.H., Vienna/Austria. The company operated the world's first electrolytic hydrogen peroxide factory in Weißenstein, Carinthia and so gave the name to the “Weißenstein Process” that allowed for the large-scale production of hydrogen peroxide. This allowed the former Degussa to produce the detergent additive perborate in a simpler and more cost-effective method. The Weißenstein Process was replaced by the anthraquinone process of Degussa in 1967. A new pilot plant for the novel process technology was opened in Weißenstein on April 21, 1967 to significantly reduce energy and raw material use. Today, Evonik Degussa Peroxid GmbH in Weißenstein manufactures hydrogen peroxide in addition to peracetic acid and polyoxycarbonic acids. . Röhm & Haas built an experimental tannery on its Darmstadt site, in order to guarantee excellent quality at all times of its leather bating agent OROPON®, now marketed worldwide, which was awarded a gold medal in 1911 at the International Hygiene Exhibition in Dresden. Goldschmidt also received an award at this Exhibition for its recreation home for employees, donated in 1907.


On July 7, Th. Goldschmidt AG was founded with an initial share capital of 10 million Reichsmark. Hans and Karl Goldschmidt continued to hold by far the largest proportion of capital, while a smaller share went to the stock market.

Research into acrylic polymers began at Röhm & Haas in Darmstadt. However, it was not until 1927 that the patent was registered for a solution polymerizate made from ethyl acrylate, which was called PLEXIGUM®. The breakthrough with a methacrylate patent came in 1928, followed in 1933 by further patents for PLEXIGLAS®.


Th. Goldschmidt AG acquired a subsidiary facility in Mannheim-Rheinau. In 1904 the company had already acquired a majority holding in the Chemische Werke Gernsheim-Heubruch, a rival manufacturer of tin salt. These Gernsheim works now acquired the Chemische Fabrik Rhenania in Rheinau, whose site had good transport links and room for expansion. Operations were transferred there as soon as the old works in Gernsheim and Heubruch were finally closed and Rheinau became a subsidiary of Th. Goldschmidt AG by 100% merger.

In Krefeld, Hans Stockhausen and his brothers Julius jr., Adolf and Ferdinand laid the foundations for the Chemische Fabrik Stockhausen & Cie. OHG, the forerunner of today's Krefeld site of Evonik Industries AG, through a change of legal form. Then, as now, the company headquarters were located on the site on the road Bäkerpfad, on which a subsidiary facility of the limited commercial partnership trading company Crefelder Seifenfabrik Stockhausen & Traiser had been built back in 1907. In addition to Monopol soap, the Stockhausen brothers' young company produced anti-static detergents for carpets. Today’s product portfolio of the Krefeld site ranges from superabsorbents for the hygiene industry and skincare products to specialty polymers for use in agriculture, the cable and packaging industry, and firefighting.


With the arrival of future Nobel prize winner Friedrich Bergius on January 1, specific chemical research at Th. Goldschmidt AG took on a whole new dimension. Bergius’ main field of research was ethylene chemistry. However, he was primarily known for the research work he initiated because of the war, on the hydrogenation of coal into oil.. This work was as complex as it was pioneering. The large-scale experimental plant at the Rheinau facility swallowed enormous amounts of money and suffered from technical difficulties. In 1918 Goldschmidt was forced to seek partners, with whom it founded the Consortium for Coal Chemistry. In 1924 it was abandoned because coal hydrogenation was not sufficiently cost-effective. Friedrich Bergius, who even sat on the executive board of Th. Goldschmidt AG from 1916 until his departure in 1919, finally received the Nobel prize for chemistry in 1931.

In addition to leather supplies, the company Röhm & Haas also introduced other enzyme-based products on to the market, including BURNUS®, the world's enzyme-based laundry soaking agent. To gain a foothold in the soap sector, in 1916 Röhm & Haas acquired the Seifenfabrik August Jacobi located near Darmstadt.


Against the background of the wartime economy, the Reich Treasury commissioned the Bayerische Stickstoffwerke AG to build two more production plants, in Piesteritz near Wittenberg and Chorzow in Upper Silesia. There was an urgent need for calcium cyanamide both as a fertilizer and for the production of gun powder and explosives. Capacity at the Trostberg facility was increased by additional carbide and calcium cyanamide crushing plants.


The confiscation of its UK subsidiaries hit Th. Goldschmidt just as hard as the emergency sale of its North American holdings owing to high losses. This sale anticipated the likelihood of confiscation when the USA entered the war in 1917. Also lost due to the war were the worldwide purchasing organization for tin plate and numerous patents.


After the German stake in the Röhm & Haas subsidiary in Philadelphia had been sequestered following the USA's entry into the World War, the independent Rohm and Haas Company, Philadelphia came into being. Otto Haas, who had now become an American citizen, held a management post. Contacts were initially broken off, but resumed in the 1920s. In the 1930s Otto Haas worked on research into enzyme cultures at the request of Dr. Otto Röhm. After 1945, the Rohm & Haas Company went its own way, and became one of the most important chemical companies in the USA.


The expropriation of holdings in countries which had opposed Germany during the war hit the Deutsche Gold- und Silber-Scheideanstalt especially hard in the case of its American subsidiaries. Over the years the Frankfurt company had incorporated its entire manufacturing program into the ever-expanding American company. Now it was in the hands of the competition. Not until 1973 did the former Degussa once more establish its own production company in the United States.


In partnership with the Accumulatorenfabrik Hagen, Th. Goldschmidt AG founded the Elektro Thermit GmbH in Berlin-Tempelhof, to combine the welding processes developed by both companies. After it emerged that only the thermit process had met company expectations, Goldschmidt purchased all the shares in Elektro Thermit GmbH in 1922. The new company was highly successful almost from the start and contributed to the global breakthrough of the thermite process in rail welding. As by far the most successful branch of commerce between the wars, the thermite business was instrumental in Goldschmidt's success in surviving the global economic crisis between 1929 and 1933 better than many of its competitors.

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