Poison Gas

Question:

For school, I am doing a chemistry project which involves the chemistry of the Holocaust. In this project, we will have to have information about chemical substance used in the Holocaust, chemical formulas... so on. We need, for the project, an outside source (involving and interview of some kind). I was wondering if there was anyone who knew about this somewhat extensively that I could interview, by email (or instant messenger) with a few questions. Thank you very much, if you could please contact me as soon as possible, with the contact information of the source I could use. I appreciate it very much.

Harry W. Mazal OBE Responds:

We are not a homework service therefore our responses to questions from our readers are usually of a general nature. We tend to respond to questions in the order that they are received which is usually not fast enough for those seeking out information for homework or school projects.

When you ask about chemical substances used in the Holocaust and formulas you do not state whether you are referring to chemicals used to murder people or chemicals used in medical experiments. I will presume that you are interested in the former.

You might first want to read the essays written by my colleague, Dr. Richard Green, that appear on our site:

http://www.holocaust-history.org/auschwitz/chemistry/

and

http://www.holocaust-history.org/auschwitz/chemistry/not-the-science/

Chemicals, primarily hydrogen cyanide ( HCN ) and carbon monoxide ( CO) were used in the gas chambers to murder Jews and other people:

III. Gas Chambers

The following are the major death camps in Poland and the gases employed by the Nazis to murder innocent victims:

1. Treblinka: Carbon monoxide emanating from internal combustion engines, in purpose-built gas chambers.

2.- Belzec: Carbon monoxide emanating from internal combustion engines, in purpose-built gas chambers.

3.- Sobibor.- Carbon monoxide emanating from internal combustion engines, in purpose-built gas chambers.

4.- Auschwitz (including Birkenau) Hydrogen cyanide in the form of Zyklon-B, a commercial preparation of hydrogen cyanide, in purpose-built gas chambers.

5.- Majdanek: Hydrogen cyanide in the form of Zyklon-B, a commercial preparation, and carbon monoxide from commercial high-pressure cylinders, in purpose-built gas chambers.

Other camps and locations in Poland that occasionally used gases for murdering people were:

6.- Chelmno: Carbon monoxide emanating from internal combustion engines, in mobile vehicles known as "gas vans."

7.- Natzweiler-Struthof: Hydrogen cyanide produced on site by mixing Sodium cyanide with an acid. This took place in an adapted chamber to kill Jews for a "skeleton collection.":

http://www.mazal.org/archive/nmt/01/NMT01-T738.htm

Gassing with carbon monoxide of insane, feeble-minded, and crippled people also took place in various camps and mental institutions in Germany as part of the so-called "Euthanasia Program". Many of the victims, particularly children, were killed by lethal injection.

http://www.mazal.org/archive/nmt/01/NMT01-T794.htm

I hope that this information is of some use to you.

Harry W. Mazal OBE

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