Rumours about the connection between thalidomide and the Third Reich

Activists and the media frequently allege that thalidomide was developed by the Nazis as a chemical agent which was then manufactured by high-level officials of the regime who went on to be employed by Grünenthal.

Grünenthal was founded in 1946 1, i.e. after World War II. The company synthesized thalidomide for the first time in 1954 and filed a patent 2 in the same year. There is no evidence for the assertion that thalidomide was developed at an earlier time. On the contrary, scientific publications provide proof that the Grünenthal researchers Kunz and Keller developed thalidomide in 1954.

The recently published research report of the University of Münster commissioned by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia assesses the speculation that the chemical agent in Contergan/Distaval was already developed during the Second World War and that it was tested as an antidote against chemical warfare agents and was tested on concentration camp inmates. The historian concludes that these are "theoretical conspiracy allegations without robust evidence".3

Grünenthal vigorously condemns the atrocities of the Nazi regime and has committed itself in the past to support initiatives against right wing radicalism. As was the case with many German businesses in the 1950s and 60s, some of those who worked at Grünenthal had previously held positions in the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP).  However, there is no connection between the former roles of these individuals and the development of thalidomide.

1 Foundation Certificate Grünenthal

2 Letters Patent Thalidomid

3 Research report by WWU Münster for the Department of Health, Emancipation, Care and Age by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia with the Title "Die Haltung des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen zu Contergan und den Folgen" (The position of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia with respect to Contergan and its consequence), pages 26 and 27