Back to the Beginning

In 1950, WACKER was the first European company to start producing silicones. The foundations were laid by Dr. Siegfried Nitzsche who began his research in Burghausen in 1947, under very modest conditions at first, with only one apprentice and a small laboratory in the basement.

WACKER’s silicone fluids – as pictured – are characterized by their thermal and thermooxidative resistance and very low order of toxicity. Their versatile uses include cosmetics, shampoos, lubricants and transformer fluids.

Silicone research got off to an unfortunate start at WACKER – with a refusal. Early in 1947, a Doctor of Chemistry from Jena, Siegfried Nitzsche, applied for a job at the Burghausen site suggesting that a meeting could be of interest to both parties. These were the lean years just after the war, however, and WACKER was still controlled by the US military government – and remained so until 1953. The German economic miracle of the 1950s was still a long way off. So, Burghausen’s reply was conceivably curt: “With regard to your letter, we are not interested in a meeting.”

“Make 200 to 300 tons as soon as you can.”

Johannes Hess Former managing director of Wacker Chemie, during a visit to a silane furnace in 1950
Dr. Siegfried Nitzsche

Some weeks later, production manager Eduard Kalb and chief chemist Dr. Wolfgang Gruber traveled from Burghausen to Heidelberg to take part in the first post-war conference held by the German Chemical Society from April 15 to 17, 1947. There, they attended a plenary talk by the same Dr. Siegfried Nitzsche on “silicon-containing plastics” – the subject he had chosen for his postdoctoral studies.

The speaker proved to be one of the first German specialists on organosilicon compounds, which were still largely unknown in Europe, whose heat stability and water-repellent properties amazed experts. The WACKER representatives hired Dr. Nitzsche on the spot. The young research chemist from Jena began work in Burghausen on August 2, 1947 – a date that marked the starting point for WACKER’s ascendancy into the top international group of silicone suppliers.