The Beginning with leather stain

In 1907, Dr. Otto Röhm had modernized leather production with a new process for pickling animal skins based on enzymes and, together with his partner Otto Haas, founded the company Röhm & Haas. The growing demand for their product OROPON® made it necessary to expand the company, but this was not possible at the previous company headquarters in Esslingen, Swabia. Suitable premises were found in the form of a former roller shutter and parquet factory in Darmstadt. Several factors were decisive in the choice of the new location. The existing buildings, a residential building with an attached one-storey factory building including boiler house, engine house and storage shed, could be used immediately. An electric power and lighting system as well as railway tracks with a turntable in the courtyard and a siding to the Main-Neckar Railway had already been installed. In addition, the site was in close proximity to important centres of leather production such as Offenbach or Weinheim. At around 5,800 square meters, the new factory site was significantly larger than the old one and also offered the opportunity for expansion. On April 1, 1909, the purchase contract was concluded with the Bank für Handel und Industrie (Bank for Trade and Industry), the purchase price was 135,000 marks. After the bureaucratic hurdles had been overcome, the concession to operate the factory was granted on 16 July 1909 and from 22 July 1909 the company headquarters were moved to Darmstadt. On August 14, 1909, the company was entered in the commercial register and production could start at the end of August.

Röhm & Haas in Darmstadt, 1909

the second pillar

The larger space available in Darmstadt allowed the development of new products for the leather, textile and detergent industries; from 1919 onwards, pharmaceutical products were also manufactured. The second pillar came when Dr. Otto Röhm turned to plastics research in 1911. The first saleable acrylic polymers were created in 1928 and the big hit came in 1933 with the invention of PLEXIGLAS.®

Originally used for civilian use, PLEXIGLAS® became an armaments product from 1936 onwards, especially for the glazing of fighter aircraft. In order to be able to meet the high needs of the Reich, forced laborers and prisoners of war were used. In 1944, they accounted for 26 percent of the workforce. Production was in full swing until the air raids in 1944, in which most of the plant was severely damaged. In May 1945, reconstruction began and the onset of the upswing led to production expansions and the development of new products such as the oil additives of the VISCOPLEX® brand, the pharmaceutical polymers of the EUDRAGIT® brand and the rigid foam ROHACELL®.

Today, around 1,300 people are employed in the Nutrition & Care (Pharma Polymers), Specialty Additives (oil additives), Smart Materials (ROHACELL®) and Technology & Infrastructure divisions at the Evonik site in Darmstadt, Germany—together with around 130 trainees and students.