The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: orgs/german/farben.ig/farben.001

Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
Subject: Holocaust Almanac - I.G. Farben removed 'indicator' from gas
Summary: S.S. orders Degesch (controlled by Farben, Degesch manufactured
         Zyklon B) to remove the warning odor added to Zyklon B. Degesch
         balks, then complies. The use to which the S.S. was putting the
         gas was now clear to those who made it, if they had harboured
         doubts before.
Followup-To: alt.revisionism
Organization: The Nizkor Project, Toronto
Keywords: Degesch,Farben

Archive/File: orgs/german/farben.ig farben.001
Last-modified: 1995/06/21
XRef: holocaust hilberg.02

   Borkin discusses the Wannsee Conference, at which the "Final Solution
   of the Jewish Question" was adopted, and then notes that the SS
   began to increase their purchases of Zyklon B substantially. This
   citation was the first I have seen that mentions the indicator
   irritant added to the gas under compulsion of law. (Much like the
   odor added to propane.)

      In the past the S.S. had bought moderate amounts of Zyklon B from
      Degesch as a vermin control in its concentration camps. When the
      Final Solution added Jews to the S.S. extermination plans, Degesch
      profits reflected the new prosperity. I.G.'s dividends on its
      Degesch investment for the years 1942, 1943, and 1944 were double
      those of 1940 and 1941.

      At least one top official of Degesch, Gerhard Peters, the managing
      director, definitely knew about the new use of Zyklon B. He had
      been specifically informed of the details of the Final Solution by
      Kurt Gerstein, the chief disinfection officer of the S.S., who did
      the purchasing of Zyklon B. 

      There was still another episode that gave the officials of Degesch
      more than a hint of the dread purpose to which their Zyklon B was
      being put by the S.S. When manufactured as a pesticide Zyklon B
      contained a special odor, or 'indicator,' to warn human beings of
      its lethal presence. The inclusion of such a warning odor was
      required by German law. When the S.S. demanded that the new,
      large order of Zyklon B omit the 'indicator,' no one familiar with
      the workings of the S.S. could have failed to realize the purpose
      behind the strange request. The Degesch executives at first were
      unwilling to comply.  But compassion was not behind their refusal.
      What troubled them was the fact that the S.S. request endangered
      Degesch's monopoly position. The patent on Zyklon B had long
      since expired.  However, Degesch retained its monopoly by a patent
      on the warning odor.  To remove the 'indicator' was bad business,
      opening up the possibility of unwelcome competition.   The
      S.S. made short shrift of this objection and the company removed
      the warning odor. Now the doomed would not even know it was
      Degesch's Zyklon B. (Borkin, 122-123)

   Note that the "special odor" to which Borkin refers was not merely
   an offensive odor, but an irritant.  When used for delousing, this
   served two purposes.  The first was to ensure that anyone
   accidentally exposed to the gas, even if they did not know what was
   happening, would leave the area immediately to relieve the symptoms
   of burning eyes and throat.
   The second purpose was to increase the respiration of insects and
   thus to cause them to die more quickly.

   This is clear upon examination of document number NI-9912, commonly
   known as the "Degesch manual" for the use of Zyklon.  On page one,
   the manual states explicitly:

      ZYKLON is the absorption of a mixture of prussic acid and an
      irritant by a carrier.  Wood fibre discs, a reddish brown
      granular mass (Diagriess - Dia gravel) or small blue cubes
      (Erco) are used as carriers.  Apart from serving its purpose as
      indicator, this irritant also had the advantage of stimulating
      the respiration of insects. Prussic acid and the irritant are
      generated through simple evaporation.

   If, as the denial set maintains, the S.S. had only wanted Zyklon B
   for insect control, they would most certainly not have wished to
   remove not only the warning device, but also the chemical that made
   the prussic acid more effective.  That would have been not only
   counterproductive but also quite dangerous.

   It also seems clear that the only conceivable reason to remove the
   indicator odor would be to disguise the killing agent from the
   victims - hydrocyanic acid has only a weak odor described sometimes
   as like "bitter almonds," or, as in the Degesch manual, "peculiar,
   repulsively sweet." In short, it shows clear intent, thus refuting
   yet another denial myth - that there was no organized plan to
   exterminate anyone.

                            Work Cited

   Borkin, Joseph. The Crime and Punishment of I.G. Farben. New York:
   The Free Press, 1978, and London: Macmillan Publishing Company.

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