In 1890, Johannes Kahlbaum founded a chemical and pharmaceutical company, Kahlbaum Laborpräparate [Kahlbaum Laboratory Compounds]. Its factory was located on the same plot of land in the Adlershof district of Berlin where BERLIN-CHEMIE has its headquarters today. At the turn of the century, Kahlbaum Laborpräparate had 250 employees producing more than 1,000 different laboratory chemicals and early medicines.
When the company was merged with Schering in 1927, it became one of the largest chemical/pharmaceutical companies in Germany and changed its name to Schering-Kahlbaum AG.
1937 brought a strategic refocusing, as the company was fully taken over by Schering AG: from this point onwards, production began to concentrate on chemical/technical products, but manufactured pharmaceuticals at an increasing rate as well.
After the end of the war, due to its location in the occupied zone, the company fell under Soviet control and later the GDR. It was partially dismantled, losing machinery, equipment, laboratory supplies and raw materials, but production continued under orders from the military administration. The majority of the products were confiscated by the occupying Soviet forces as reparations. In 1948, the company was nationalised and transformed into what was known during the GDR era as a volkseigener Betrieb (VEB) – a ‘people’s enterprise’ or publically owned company. After a series of renamings, the company became known as VEB BERLIN-CHEMIE in the mid-1950s.
Starting in the 1960s, VEB BERLIN-CHEMIE became one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the GDR and manufactured a wide variety of pharmaceutical and chemical products. In addition to penicillin, insulin and chloramphenicol, it produced agrochemicals and pesticides, and later silicates for residential construction and historic preservation, as well as raw materials for the textile and cosmetics industries. All of which was extremely successful and brought considerable profits.