The early days of Röhm

©Evonik Industries AG, Company archive Hanau

On September 6, 1907, Dr. Otto Röhm and businessman Otto Haas founded the company Röhm & Haas OHG in Esslingen, Germany. The company developed enzymatic agents for bating leather. Dr. Otto Röhm was the first chemist to recognize the effectiveness of pancreatic enzymes from animals in the tanning of hides. Based on this, he subsequently developed a new bating process for the leather industry that revolutionized the techniques used in this field.

The rapidly growing demand for Röhm & Haas products made it necessary to expand production, something that wasn’t possible at the existing premises in Esslingen. Consequently, Darmstadt became the location for the company’s new headquarters and production site on July 22, 1909. It was above all else the town’s proximity to the leather industry in the Rhine-Main region that made it so attractive for the new company.

In the same year, Otto Haas founded the first branch in America and supplied tanneries all over the world from there. During World War I, German shares in the Röhm & Haas branch in Philadelphia were confiscated by the U.S. government. Otto Haas, who had become an American citizen by this point, was allowed to keep his shares. He incorporated the branch into a separate enterprise, the Rohm and Haas Company, but retained close ties with the German company Röhm & Haas OHG. In the years after 1945, the Rohm and Haas Company went its own way and became one of the most prominent chemical companies in the US.

From enzymes to PLEXIGLAS®

©Evonik Industries AG, Corporate archive Hanau

After his breakthrough using enzymes within the leather industry, Dr. Otto Röhm soon identified other industrial applications for the process, for example in the areas of personal and textile care. Later on, Röhm & Haas also introduced the use of enzymes in the food industry, initially for the clarification of apple juice, and then for the production of baked goods post-World War II.

Otto Röhm also became a pioneer in the field of plastics. Building on his doctoral thesis on acrylic acid and its polymerization products, chemists at Röhm & Haas began researching acrylic compounds in 1911.

©Evonik Industries AG, Corporate archive Hanau

Success followed in 1928 with the development of a clear, transparent laminated safety glass with an internal polyacrylic layer, which was used for protective eyewear and shatterproof windshields in the automotive industry. By 1933, an innovative acrylic glass (chem. polymethyl methacrylate, or PMMA for short) had been developed; a material which continues to impress with its transparency, formability, and toughness to this day: PLEXIGLAS®.

Röhm & Haas received a gold medal for this outstanding invention at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris.

Röhm & Haas under National Socialism

In 1936, the Nazi regime and the associated trade associations intensified their authoritarian demands, particularly with regard to the monitoring and control of war-related products. Against this backdrop, Röhm & Haas decided to collaborate with the regime and actively promoted the sale of its products. This strategy strengthened Röhm & Haas’s position against competing industrial companies and led to profitable armaments contracts. As a result of the expansion of plastics production for the wartime economy, enzymes production was increasingly neglected. The use of forced labor contributed to the company’s involvement in Nazi war crimes.

As the successor company to Röhm & Haas, today’s Röhm GmbH feels obligated to actively address its own corporate history due to these historical entanglements. As part of these efforts, the company cooperates closely with the Evonik Industries Group Archive, which is responsible for documenting and processing the history of Röhm & Haas as part of the corporate history of the modern-day company Röhm. History of Röhm GmbH – Evonik Industries

Röhm becomes Röhm again

Today, around 1300 employees work at the largest site in Worms

Established in 1907, Röhm & Haas was run as a stock corporation from 1920 to 1938 and then as a limited liability company until 1970. After the Haas family ceased to be shareholders, the company was renamed Röhm GmbH in 1971.

In 1989, Röhm GmbH became a wholly owned subsidiary of Hüls AG following the company’s acquisition of all remaining shares. Following the merger of Degussa AG and Hüls AG to form Degussa-Hüls AG in 1999, the Degussa subsidiary Agomer GmbH was merged with Röhm GmbH. Today’s product lines of reactive resins for flooring (DEGADUR®), binders (DEGALAN®) and cold plastic solutions for road markings (DEGAROUTE®) originate from this business relationship.

The beginnings of the former Degussa AG date back to the middle of the 19th century. At the end of the 19th century, Degussa had started producing bright gold and ceramic paints and was thus increasingly transforming itself into a chemical company. In 1905, the company participated in the founding of Chemische Fabrik Wesseling AG on the Rhine near Cologne, Germany. In 1964 the production of methyl methacrylate (MMA) started there. Röhm GmbH still operates production facilities in Wesseling today.

In 1957, the Degussa Board of Management at the time decided to consolidate the Group's research and development activities in Hanau-Wolfgang, Germany. As a quick consequence, a whole series of new laboratories and workshops for various business units were built in the 1960s and 70s. Among other things, these gave rise to the facilities in which Röhm continues to develop innovative applications and specifications for reactive resins.

In 2003, CyPlus GmbH was established as a spin-off of the former mining chemicals product unit of Degussa AG. The company supplies customers in the mining, chemical-pharmaceutical, and surface treatment industries. Today, it is a wholly owned subsidiary of Röhm GmbH.

In 2006, Degussa AG was acquired by Essen-based RAG Beteiligungs-AG. This became Evonik Industries AG a year later and included the methacrylates business of the original Röhm GmbH.

In 2009, the company set another milestone on its way to becoming the leading Methacrylate Verbund. For this purpose, the company started up a new production facility in the Shanghai Chemical Industry Park in China. Since then, around 100,000 metric tons of methyl methacrylate (MMA), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), specialty esters and thermoplastic resins have been produced there annually.

On August 1, 2019, Evonik sold the methacrylates business to the financial investor Advent International. Since then, this business has operated as the independent company Röhm GmbH and has 3,500 employees worldwide.

In the meantime, the Röhm Group has taken further steps to consolidate and expand its leading position in methacrylate chemistry. In Bay City (Texas/USA), Röhm is building a new plant for the production of methyl methacrylate using the innovative LiMA (Leading in Methacrylates) process developed by the company itself. The new C2-based technology enables high product yields with low energy consumption and reduced wastewater volumes. The process sets new standards when it comes to using resources efficiently and noticeably reducing the burden on the environment. The LiMA plant in Bay City will have a production volume of 250,000 tons. Technical completion is scheduled for 2023.

The Röhm history in video


PLEXIGLAS® is a registered trademark of Röhm GmbH. Röhm GmbH and its affiliates are a worldwide manufacturer of PMMA products sold under the PLEXIGLAS® trademark on the European, Asian, African and Australian continents and under the ACRYLITE® trademark in the Americas.