Long after the end of the Second World War, many Germans still regarded the Autobahn network and the Volkswagen car as representative of the positive achievements of the Nazi period. Both were elements of the Führer's Motorization Program, which eventually laid the foundations for mass motorization in Germany but originally formed part of the preparations for war. One vital aspect of this program was an attempt to produce rubber for vehicle tires inside the Reich or in the conquered territories without using imported raw materials. A number of studies have investigated the research into Buna, a synthetic rubber. But there has been very little study so far of the kog-sagyz (caoutchouc) project, an attempt to grow natural rubber for industrial purposes on lands under German control. This project combined research, practical trials, processing, and marketing for a single product in a research network that was politically protected by the highest levels of government and made use of all the powers available under the Nazi regime. The project included the use of slave labor for scientific purposes in the Auschwitz concentration camp and plans to grow natural rubber in partisan-dominated territory for strategic military reasons.
This chapter will first investigate the development of rubber plant research in Germany and its expansion following the German invasion of the Soviet Union. It will also examine the differing and often, conflicting interests of the institutions involved in the kog-sagy project.
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