History Ernst Jung


The Jung Foundation for Science and Research was founded by Hamburg entrepreneur Ernst Emil Jung (1896 – 1976). During his lifetime, he generated significant wealth. Together with his wife Claere Jung (Paula Clara Hermine Philippine, born Müller, 1896– 1973), he devoted a large part to charitable causes. He has long been known as a successful entrepreneur and generous philanthropist. But an independent scientific study commissioned by the Jung Foundation in 2022 puts his work in a new light: Ernst Jung was an opportunist of National Socialism and laid the financial foundation of his assets during the Second World War using the instrument of forced labour.

Ernst Emil Jung was born on 18 May 1896, in the East Prussian town of Briensdorf. He completed a commercial apprenticeship after finishing school and took part in the First World War as a volunteer. After that and until the mid-thirties, Ernst Jung worked both as an employee and as an entrepreneur. After founding the trading company Ernst Jung Oel-Import in 1920, the company later became the Hamburger Mineralöl-Werke Ernst Jung. As the massive rearmament drive of the Third Reich increased demand for his products, his company quickly showed commercial success, so that Jung was soon able to supplement his trade with production and storage facilities. During the war, the need for defence-related products continued to increase the development of his businesses. However, they experienced their greatest upswing in the post-war period. Through structural adjustments, expansion, acquisitions and diversification, Jung's companies achieved top market positions from the mid-fifties, which they largely maintained until his death in 1976.


Jung's role as an opportunist of National Socialism

For a long time, little was known about Jung’s life during the period of National Socialism. An independent scientific study commissioned by the Jung Foundation revealed new insights in 2022: Ernst Jung was an opportunist of National Socialism and, according to estimates from the study, a total of 200 to 250 forced labourers were stationed in his companies between 1939 and 1945. Jung did not identify with the National Socialist politics, but he arranged himself with the political elite opportunistically for his economic ambitions.


Jung's later role as philanthropist

Jung's later life was shaped by charity. Together with his wife Claere Jung, he founded four foundations to put their assets at the service of society. These are the Ernst and Claere Jung Foundations in Hamburg and Stade (two care facilities), the Claere Jung Foundation (an organisation for the blind and visually impaired), and the Jung Foundation for Science and Research, which was intended to honour special advances in human medicine. The latter has been committed to science and research until today and has so far been able to support researchers who have made significant progress in the field human medicine with more than 15 million euros prize money total.


The Jung Foundation and Jung’s ambivalent role

In summary, we see an ambivalent picture of Ernst Jung as an opportunist of forced labour and as a later philanthropist. It is impossible to compensate for his earlier deeds – for nothing in the world can undo the suffering and injustice suffered through forced labour in Ernst Jung's companies. At the same time, the foundations of Ernst and Claere Jung make an important contribution to our society every day.


As the Jung Foundation for Science and Research, it is important for us to recognise this tension and face up to the history of Ernst Jung. But it is equally important to stay true to our role: We are an independent organisation, act in accordance with our statutes and are committed to serving society for the benefit of science and research. We are named after Jung, but we are acting on behalf of society.


The complete study can be requested and viewed here. For this purpose, only a registration by name is necessary.

You can find a summary of the study by Dr Peter Zolling here.

You can find the press release with measures and an update here.

You can find answers to further questions here.

You can apply for the fellowship in medical history here.