A Period of Extremes: Developments for the Future and Third Reich

In 1927, Sartorius co-founded a company for the manufacture of innovative membrane filters, whose technology was continuously researched and refined. At the end of the 20th century, this proved to be the core of today's bioprocess business with the rise of biotechnology.

During the Third Reich, Sartorius profited from the armaments industry and used forced laborers during World War II. The company's management upheld the regime by conforming to the system. This resulted in restrictions being imposed immediately following the end of the war, which, however, had no long-term consequences. In 1947, Horst Sartorius, representing the third generation, took over the management of the company and its economic restructuring.

1927 - 1949

1927 Developments for the Future

On May 30, 1927, Membranfiltergesellschaft mbH was founded by Richard Zsigmondy, a Nobel Prize winning chemist who taught in Göttingen, the entrepreneur Wilhelm Sartorius and other industrialists. Initially, the focus was on further research into the innovative synthetic membrane filters developed by Zsigmondy and his assistant Wilhelm Bachmann. The filters completely retain particles, bacteria and other pathogens of a certain size.

1929 Death of Richard Zsigmondy - The Beginning of Commercialization of Membrane Filters

Richard Zsigmondy, who had integrated his patents into the company and assumed its scientific management, died in 1929. The company was managed by one of Zsigmondy's students, and sales and marketing now became increasingly important in addition to research. Sartorius increased its share in the membrane filter company, which became a fully owned subsidiary in 1938. However, it would be years before the company stood on its own feet and did not have to be co-financed by the earnings from weighing technology business.

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1933-1945 Sartorius During the Third Reich

Sartorius had its corporate and entrepreneurial activities during the Third Reich scientifically and independently examined and evaluated. The findings were published in November 2019 by Professor Manfred Grieger. According to this findings, what happened at Sartorius largely reflected economic norms under National Socialism: Sartorius profited from the armaments economy and the use of forced labor. As a result, the company supported the Nazi regime by going with the mainstream in conformity with the general system in place at the time.

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1945 Reconstruction after the Second World War

A few weeks after the end of the war, Sartorius was allowed to resume operations with an initial staff of 50. Production is restarted alongside the necessary reconstruction work, which is complicated by material shortages, among other things. To offset this, Sartorius had an in-house carpentry shop that not only manufactured incubators and balance housings, but also produced and repaired tables, blackboards, windows and doors. The balances, however, remained the core business by a wide margin.

1947 The Third Generation

After the death of his brother Wilhelm Sartorius in 1937, Erich assumed the sole management of the company and began to prepare his adopted son Horst Sartorius to join the company. After 41 years in leadership positions at Sartorius, Erich Sartorius passed away in 1947, and Horst Sartorius took over the management of the family business in its third generation.

1948 Hydrodynamic Bearings – A Long-Term Subsidiary Branch

Gleitlagergesellschaft mbH was founded in Göttingen and integrated into Sartorius-Werke AG three years later. Hydrodynamic bearings are used in machines and are designed to ensure uninterrupted operation. Thereby, they minimize friction and support high loads from different directions with high precision and high rigidity. Subsequently, the production of hydrodynamic bearings evolved into a small but quite profitable line of business, which Sartorius sold in 2007 due to the strategic realignment towards the biopharma sector.

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