Seventy years ago today, on September 3rd 1941, six hundred soviet POW’s (many of whom were selected on the basis of their “Mongolian” characteristics) and 250 sick polish prisoners were put in an airtight room where pellets of the insecticide Zyklon B were then added. This followed a successful, but far less disciplined experiment, on a few hundred Roma children from Brno conducted in early 1940.
The experiment took 20 hours even though it was estimated that the subjects expired within 20 minutes. Johann Kremer (an SS doctor) dispassionately described following the progress of the experiments: "Shouting and screaming of the victims could be heard through the opening and it was clear that they fought for their lives.". These original experiments may have become protracted through an unsophisticated means of airing the chamber out. The commercial Zyklon B had an odorant added to it (Methyl-2-bromoacetate which smells like bad eggs or flatulence) which may have lingered longer than the active hydrogen cyanide component.
The chamber clean-up crews reported that: “the victims were found half-squatting, their skin colored pink with red and green spots, some foaming at the mouth or bleeding from the ears.”
Later batches of Zyklon B were made for the gas chambers specifically by omitting the odorant.
Zyklon B was so much more effective on humans than lice that, by tracking bills of sale, it can be noted that only 5% of the insecticide delivered to Auschwitz was made for use in its gas chambers.
Zyklon B was not the only gas used by the Nazis in their gas chambers. Carbon monoxide from directed engine exhaust might arguably have been more efficient. Zyklon B remains the iconic source of gas and it’s generic cousin, hydrogen cyanide gas, is still used in single-person gas chambers today.
In a little under four years the Nazis would use Zyklon B, and its competitors, to exterminate a variety of people. Though the Nazis apparently preferred to exterminate Jewish folk they continued to select Mongolian soviets, like those in that fateful first group, whenever the opportunity arose.
In recent years holocaust deniers have pointed to the lack of Prussian blue residue on gas chambers as proof that the all the Zyklon B stories are just made up. Prussian blue is a dye that forms when prussic acid (another name for hydrogen cyanide) reacts with some materials. I would think that this would be a perfect sort of experiment for some re-creationist engineers –like Myth-Busters. That is it would be perfect for them if not for the fact that even suggesting it might acknowledge some hint of validation for holocaust denier hate-speech.
I am amazed at how neo-Nazi groups have sprung up around the world. With them the rate of holocaust denier literature publishing has also risen. When the truth behind holocaust itself is denied the details easily become lost.
One geographic hot-bed of recent neo-Nazi activity (with a major upsurge in 2008) is in Mongolia. The Mongolian neo-Nazis are apparently quite violent.