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Shofar FTP Archive File: camps/auschwitz/cyanide/hcn-spurious-claims

Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
Subject: The Problem of Cyanide, Part One.
Message-ID: <1995Sep24.070624@miavx1>
From: (Raskolnikov)
Date: 24 Sep 95 07:06:24 -0500

The Problem of Cyanide


"Oh God, Not This Boring Nonsense again."

Holocaust deniers often make rather fantastic claims
about cyanide.  Let's check up on a few of their claims
and see how they do.

In Message-ID: <43u25l$>, 
(Marc Lemire) writes:

[claim number 1]

>   HCN gas is highly explosive.  Thus, the picture of unprotected 
>   inmates and guards rushing in before the gas has even really 
>   begun to disperse, some even lighting cigarettes, and hauling off 
>   naked bodies covered with poison is totally ridiculous.

This is wrong.

    Here's what the 10th edition (1983) of the Merck Index had 
to say on Hydrogen Cyanide.  Notice that there is no 
mention of the gas being explosive:

     HYDROGEN CYANIDE: Hydrocyanic acid, Blauseare, prussic acid. 
     [preparation info deleted] Colorless gas or liquid; 
     characteristic odor; very weakly acidic; burns in air with a 
        Gas density:  0.941 (air = 1)
        Liquid density: 0.687 [g/cm^3, I assume]
        melting point: -13.4 deg Celsius
        Boiling Point: 25.6 deg Celsius
      The LC50 (lethal dose for 50% of animals) in rats -- 544 
     ppm (5min), mice 169 ppm (30 min), dogs 300 ppm (3 min).   
     HUMAN TOXICITY:  [..] exposure to 150 ppm for 1/2 to 1 hour 
     may endanger life.  Death may result from a few min. exposure 
     to 300 ppm.  Average fatal dose: 50 to 60 milligrams. 
      USE:  The compressed gas is used for exterminating rodents 
     and insects in ships and for killing insects on trees, etc.  

  Zyklon-B was manufactured by a firm called Degesch, and 
their manual for the proper use of Zyklon did mention that 
HCN was explosive, but only at very high concentrations:

   1) Properties of Prussic Acid [HCN, cyanide]:  

     "Prussic acid is a gas which is generated by 
   evaporation... the liquid evaporates easily."  
     "Danger of explosion:  75 grams of HCN in 1 cubic meter of 
   air.  Normal application approx. 8-10 g per cubic meter, 
   therefore not explosive"
     " mg per kg of body weight is sufficient to kill a 
   human being..."

   [quote from:  Mendelsohn, John and Detwiler, Donald S.  _The 
     Holocaust:  Selected Documents in Eighteen Volumes._   
    "Volume 12: The 'Final Solution' in the Extermination Camps 
    and the Aftermath"  (New York:  Garland Publishing) c. 1982,  
    The Degesch manual is found on pages 131-146.]

Note that the manual explicitly states that HCN is 
not explosive under normal usage conditions.

According to Pressac's Technique and Operation of the Auschwitz
Gas Chambers, about 12 grams per cubic meter of Zyklon was 
added to the homicidal gas chambers, still well below
the explosive threshold.

Let's try claim number 2:

>   "        According to minimal standards for safety, when 
>    using only enough Zyklon B for pest control, the building 
>    must be ventilated for 10 hours before humans could be allowed 
>    inside.  If it was absolutely necessary that someone enter earlier 
>    than that, they had to wear a complete chemical suit that left no 
>    exposed skin, and a gas mask.  Gas masks are not considered safe 
>    and may never be used for more than 10 minutes at a time."

Well, _The Chemistry of Industrial Toxciology_ says 

     In high concentrations, hydrogen cyanide is absorbed 
     through the skin; therefore complete reliance cannot 
     be placed on a gas mask. After 1 hour exposure, 100 
     to 250 ppm of HCN are dangerous."

   [from:  Elkins, Hervey B.  _The Chemistry of Toxicology_.  
    (New York:  John Wiley and Sons Ltd.)  2nd (c) 1959, p 94.]

Now, cyanide will absorb through the skin, but the text 
explicity mentions a one _hour_ exposure time.  For absorption
through the skin to have been a real danger, the Sonderkommando
at Auschwitz would have to work in cyanide concentrations of 
100 to 250 ppm or higher for an hour or more.

Given that the chambers were ventilated before the
bodies were removed (therefore HCN concentation would
be falling), I sincerely doubt that skin absorbtion would 
be a problem.

Furthermore, accordiing to the July 1993 issue of _American
Family Physician_, cyanide poisoning through the skin is 
quite rare:

      "   Cyanide is absorbed through the lungs, gastrointestinal 
       tract, and skin.  Symptoms can occur within seconds of HCN 
       [cyanide gas] inhalation; ....Cyanide is readily absorbed 
       through the mucous membranes and the eyes.  Clinical cases of 
       cyanide poisoning after dermal exposure are rare and most 
       often have involved burns with molten cyanide salts or 
       immersion in cyanide solutions." 
   [from: "Cyanide Toxicity".  Agency for Toxic Substances and 
    Disease Registry, U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services.   
    in _American Family Physician_, Vol. 48, no 1, July 1993.]

Lastly, the Degesch manual does not treat absorbtion through 
the skin as a major problem.  In fact, only lists a gas mask
as the major agent of protection for workers:

   2) Protection against gas.
       "Each member must at all times carry with him:
           1. his own gas mask
           2. at least 2 special filter inserts against Zyklon 
         Prussic acid [for use in gas mask]
           3. The leaflet 'First aid for prussic acid poisoning'
           4. work order
           5. Authorization certificate
    Each disinfestation[sic] squad must at all times carry:
           1. at least 3 special inserts as extra stock.
           2. one gas detector
           3. 1 instrument for injecting Lobelin. 
           4. Cardiazol, Voriazol tablets 
           5. 1 lever or pickhammer for opening cans of Zyklon
           [etc.. warning signs, material to reseal cans]"

No mention of special protective clothing, no
metion of cyanide quickly seeping through the skin 
and incapacitating the workers.

Let's step back for a moment and just assume, for
the sake of argument, that HCN is highly explosive
and is readily absorbed by the skin.  

Also remember that Zyklon-B was commonly used to 
eliminate vermin from all sorts of structures,
including ships and wharehouses.

If cyanide was so ornery to manage, than it would
be useless both as a fumigant and as a weapon of 
mass murder.

I'll deal with a few more of Lemiere's funny claims
once i get around to writing part two....

-- Brian

From: (Raskolnikov)
Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
Subject: The Problem of Cyanide, part Two.
Date: 24 Sep 95 17:57:47 -0500
Message-ID: <1995Sep24.175747@miavx1>

The Problem of Cyanide, part II.

It seems that Mr. Lemire and his fellow 'Revisionist
scholars' would have us believe that mass gassing with
cyanide at Auschwitz was 'technically impossible.

Let's check out a few more of Mr. Lemire's 
interesting claims.

In Message-ID: <43u25l$>, (Marc Lemire)
sallies forth with:

>      Leuchter's on-site inspection of Poland's "gas chambers" 
>   revealed the following faults in design, fabrication, and 
>   operation at Auschwitz and Birkenau which made it impossible 
>   for them to be gas chambers:

>     No provision for gasketed windows, doors, or vents.

What Mr. Leuchter (and Mr. Lemire) forgot was that 
Kremas II, III, IV, and V were _demolished_ by the 
Nazis as they evacuatated the camp.  The doors are 
gone, and Kremas II and III are little more than 
holes in the ground.  Even worse, not much more
than the _foundations_ of Kremas IV and V remains.

One must wonder how Leuchter could tell what kind of 
doors a building had just from its foundation!

Even more upsetting for Leuchter's claim is the existence 
of this wartime document:

   Letter from SS-Sturmbannfuehrer Bischoff, March 6 1943
   [Pressac, p. 434]
   .... order of 6/3/1943 concerning the delivery of a gas tight door
   100 x 192 cm for cellar I of Krematorium III, to be produced to
   the identical pattern and dimensions as the cellar door of
   Krematorium II which is situated opposite, with peephole of
   double 8 mm glass, with rubber sealing strip and frame.

Hmm, an order for a _gas tight__, rubber sealed door.

I wonder what Krema III needed one of those for?

Let's try another claim by our 'Revisionist Scholar':

>   Walls not sealed to prevent absorption or leakage of gas.  

>  Exposed mortar and brick construction would have accumulated 
>  HCN and thus been a danger to human life for several years.  

How could Leuchter tell?  The Kremas were *gone*.

And strangely enough, such precautions were not taken in the
delousing chambers.  The brick and mortar there has accumulated
quite a bit of cyanide staining in some places.

Well, let's try another claim:

>     No exhaust system.  Thus it would take longer than the 
>   prescribed 10 hours to ventilate, even when fumigated for pest 
>   control.

Wrong again.  It seems Leuchter missed quite a few things, 
didn't he?

There are wartime documents discussing such a ventilation
system.  see below.

   Letter from SS-Sturmbannfuehrer Bischoff, of the Auschwitz 
   construction department, to SS General Kammler, January 29, 1943
   [REIT, p. 158]
   Crematorium No. 2. The completed furnaces have been started up in
   the presence of Engineer Prufer from Messers. Topf (of Erfurt). The
   planks cannot yet be moved from the ceiling of the mortuary cellar
   on account of frost, but this is not important, as the gassing
   cellar can be used for that purpose. The ventilation plant has
   been held up by restrictions on rail transport, but the installation
   should be ready by February 20th.

And again:

   Letter from SS-Sturmbannfuehrer Jahrling to Topf & Sons, March 6 
   1943  [Pressac, p. 221]
   Subject: KL Auschwitz Krematorien II and III

   In accordance with your suggestion, the service agrees that cellar 1
   should be preheated with the air coming from the rooms of the 3
   forced draught installations. The supply and installation of the
   ductwork and blowers necessary to this end are to be effected as soon
   as possible. As you point out in your above-mentiond letter,
   execution should commence this week. We would ask you to send in
   triplicate detailed quote for supply and installation.

   At the same time, we would ask you to send an additional quotation
   for the modification of the air-extraction installation in the
   undressing room.

The second document gives trather detailed references to 
'forced draught installations' and an 'air-extraction installation.'

It also mentions using heated air to warm the gas chamber, 
which deals nicely with Leuchter's next claim:

>     No system for introducing or heating Zyklon B.

What next?

>    Doors all open inward. 

How could Leuchter tell?

And lastly:

>     Bear in mind that these facts are based on scientific evidence 
>   ascertained by an impartial professional.

Bear in mind that neither Leuchter nor Lemire have teh
slightest idea what they are talking about.

Work Cited:
Pressac, Jean-Claude.  _Auschwitz: Techniques and Operation of 
the Gas Chambers_ (English edition) (New York: Beate Klarsfeld 
Foundation) c. 1989.

Reitlinger, Gerald.  _The Final Solution:  The Attempt to 
Exterminate the Jews of Europe, 1939-1945_.  (South 
Brunswick, New Jersey) c 1961.

All of the documents cited are available electronically
via anonmymous ftp from in the dir
/pub/camps/auschwitz/ or via the WWW at

-- Brian

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