Albert Vögler


By Felicitas von Aretin

In 1941 the Reich Minister of Education appointed one of Germany's most influential industrial magnates President of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society: Albert Vögler. Compared with Planck and Bosch, Vögler willingly placed himself at the disposal of the Nazi regime. However, at the same time, he campaigned for freedom of scientific research and opposed the state's attempts at dictation. As such, Vögler's presidency was marked by considerable ambivalence: as a close adviser to the Reich Minister of Armaments and War Production he organised the coordination of the armaments industry and made sure that the research capacities of the Kaiser Wilhelm institutes were optimally used for war aims. On the other hand, his close contacts with Albert Speer enabled him to obtain materials and money for the KWIs, and have many scientists exempted from conscription. Despite all its entanglement in the National Socialist system, the Nazi regime did not ultimately manage to completely Nazify the Kaiser Wilhelm Society.

At the end of 1944 Vögler became chief representative for the Rhine-Ruhr region. Albert Speer empowered him to make all decisions he deemed necessary in the field of armaments and war production. As head of the Ruhr headquarters, Vögler was in charge of all the duty stations of the Reich Ministry of Armaments and War Production in the Ruhr region. With Germany about to lose the War, the Chairman of Vereinigte Stahlwerke's Supervisory Board changed his stance of loyalty to the regime. One of the things he made sure of was that the Administrative Headquarters moved from the wreckage of Berlin to Göttingen, and that institutes were relocated to southern Germany. For himself, Vögler saw no other option but to take his own life on 14 May 1945 as American troops marched into Dortmund.

Albert Vögler had already spent two decades supporting the Kaiser Wilhelm Society prior to his election as President. As an engineer with a great interest in the natural sciences, he firmly believed that cutting-edge research could only work with generous financial contributions and freedom. Since 1920 he had been a member of the Senate. Just four years after that he was made a member of the Executive Committee as the third Treasurer. Vögler made an appearance whenever institutes had financial problems that needed to be solved. He used his wide-ranging business contacts with Alfred Hugenberg, Carl Bosch, Gustav Krupp, Paul Silverberg and Fritz Thyssen, for instance, to place the KWIs for Iron Research, Coal Research and Metals Research on a secure financial basis. He exerted a particular influence on the KWI for Occupational Physiology.

Politically speaking, Vögler initially belonged to the right wing of the German People's Party, later becoming close to the anti-republican German National People's Party. Vögler's outlook became more radical as the economic difficulties increased. While he did not actually join the Nazi Party, he did have a seat in the Reichstag from 1933 to 1945 as a guest of the Nazi Party faction. From 1932 onwards he was among the major industrialists who supported Hitler financially and politically: after the Nazis came to power, German heavy industry donated three million reichsmarks for the election campaign, for example. A student of Hugo Stinnes, Vögler was a self-made man who had carved out an unprecedented career which had begun at Dortmunder Union. He took up a number of important posts in industry in quick succession: Chairman of Deutsch-Luxemburgische Berg- und Hüttenwerks AG in 1917, Chairman of Vereinigte Stahlwerke AG in 1926, from which he moved onto the Advisory Board in 1935.

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