The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: orgs/polish/institute-for-forensic-research/

Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
Subject: Polish Report on Cyanide compounds, Auschwitz-Birkenau
From: The Nizkor Project 
Summary: The 1994 report from the Cracow Institute for Forensic 
         Research on the chemical analysis of cyanide compounds at 

Last-Modified: 1996/01/12
[typos mine. knm]

                     CONCENTRATION CAMPS

Institute  of Forensic Research, Cracow

ABSTRACT: In a widespread campaign to deny the existence  of
extermination  camps  with gas chambers  the  "revisionsits"
have  recently started using the results of the examiantions
of  fragments  of ruins of former crematoria. These  results
(Leuchter, Rudolf) allegedly prove that the materials  under
examination had not been in contact with cyanide, unlike the
wall   fragments  of  delousing  buildings  in   which   the
revisionists  discovered  considerable  amount  of   cyanide
compounds.  Systematic  research, involving  most  sensitive
analytical  methods,  undertaken by the Institute  confirmed
the  presence  of  cyanide compounds in  all  kinds  of  gas
chamber  ruins,  even  in  the  basement  of  Block  11   in
Auschwitz,  where first, experimental gassing of victims  by
means  of  Zyklon  B had been carried out. The  analysis  of
control  samples,  taken from other places (especially  from
living quarters) yielded unequivocally negative results. For
the  sake  of  interpretation several laboratory experiments
have been carried out.

KEYWORDS: Gas chambers; Auschwitz; Cyanide compounds;

Z Zagadnien Sqdowych, z. XXX, 1994, 17-27
Received 8 March 1994; accepted 30 May 1994

As  early as the first years after the end of World  War  II
single  publications began to appear in  which  the  authors
attempted  to "whitewash" the Hitlerite regime and  to  call
various signs of its cruelties into question. But it was not
till   the  fifties  that  the  trend  may  be  defined   as
"historical  revisionism" arose and started developing;  its
supporters  claim that the history of the World War  II  has
been  fabricated for the purposes of anti-German propaganda.
According to their statements there was no Holocaust, i.  e.
no mass extermination of Jews and in that case the Auschwitz-
Birkenau   Concentration  Camp  could  not  have   been   an
extermination  camp - it was only a "common"  forced  labour
camp and no gas chambers existed in it.

Historical  revisionism is now put  forward  by  members  of
various  nations,  who  already have  their  own  scientific
circles,  own publications and also use the mass  media  for
their  purposes.  Up  to  1988 the ,"revisionists''<1>  most
frequently  manipulated historical sources or simply  denied
the  facts.  Then,  after the appearance  of  the  so-called
Leuchter  Report (2), their tactics changed distinctly.  The
above-mentioned Report, worked out on the basis of  a  study
of  the ruins and remains of the crematoria and gas chambers
at  Auschwitz-Birkenau, has been considered by  them  to  be
specific  evidence  in  support  of  their  allegations  and
evidence  of  judicial  validity  at  that,  since  it   was
commissioned  by  the court of law in Toronto  (Canada).  F.
Leuchter,  living  in  Boston,  worked  on  the  design  and
construction  of gas chambers still in use  to  execute  the
death  penalty in some States of the USA. This is considered
to  give him authority to take the role of expert as regards
gas  chamber  issues. In this connection  Leuchter  came  to
Poland  on  25  February 1988 and stayed here  for  5  days,
visiting the camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau and at Majdanek. In
his report based on this inspection he states that "he found
no  evidence  that  any of the facilities that  are  usually
alleged  to  have  been gas chambers were actually  used  as
such". Moreover, he claims that these facilities "could  not
be  used  as gas chambers for killing people" (Item 4000  of
the Report).

Leuchter tried to confirm his conclusions with the  help  of
chemical  analysis.  For this purpose  he  took  samples  of
material fragments from the chamber ruins to subject them to
an analysis for hydrogen cyanide, the essential component of
Zyklon B, used - acc. to the testimony of witnesses - to gas
the victims. He took 30 samples altogether from all the five
structures  used  formerly as gas  chambers.  At  laboratory
analyses  performed in the USA the presence of cyanide  ions
at  concentrations of 1.1 to 7.9 mg/kg of material  examined
was  found in 14 samples. He also took one sample  from  the
delousing  building  at  Birkenau, which  he  treated  as  a
"control  sample", and in which cyanides were  found  to  be
present  at  a concentration of 1060 mg kg of material.  The
positive results of the analyses of samples from the  former
gas  chambers are explained by Leuchter by the fact that all
the  camp  facilities were subjected to  a  fumigation  with
hydrogen cyanide in connection with a typhoid epidemic which
really broke out in the camp in 1942.

A  later  investigation, carried out by  a  G.  Rudolf  (4),
confirmed  the high concentrations of cyanogen compounds  in
the facilities for clothes disinsectization. This may be  so
since, being undamaged, these facilities were not exposed to
the  action  of  weather  conditions,  especially  rainfall.
Moreover,  it is known that the duration of disinsectization
was  relatively  long,  about 24 hours  for  each  batch  of
clothes  (probably even longer), whereas the execution  with
Zyklon  B  in  the  gas  chambers  took,  according  to  the
statement  of the Auschwitz Camp Commander Rudolf  Hoess (7)
and  the  data presented by Sehn (6), only about 20 minutes.
It  should  also  be  emphasized that  the  ruins  of  these
chambers  have  been constantly exposed  to  the  action  of
precipitation and it can be estimated, on the basis  of  the
climatological records, that in these last 45  years  or  so
they have been rinsed rather thoroughly by a column of water
at least 35 m in height (!).

In  our  correspondence with the Management of the Auschwitz
Museum  in  1989, not knowing the Leuchter Report  then,  we
expressed  our  anxiety as to the chances  of  detection  of
cyanogen  compounds in the chamber ruins;  nevertheless,  we
offered  to carry out an appropriate study. At the beginning
of  1990  two workers of the Institute of Forensic  Research
arrived  on the premises of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Camp  and
took  samples for screening analysis: 10 samples of  plaster
from  the  delousing chamber (Block No 3 at  Auschwitz),  10
samples  from gas chamber ruins and, in addition, 2  control
samples  from  the buildings which, as living quarters,  had
not  been  in contact with hydrogen cyanide. Out of  the  10
samples from the delousing chamber, seven contained cyanogen
compounds  at concentrations from 9 to  147 ug in conversion
to  potassium  cyanide  (which was  used  to  construct  the
calibration  curve) and 100 g of material.  As  far  as  the
ruins   are   concerned,  the  presence   of   cyanide   was
demonstrated   only  in  the  sample  from  the   ruins   of
Crematorium  Chamber  No  II at  Birkenau.  Neither  of  the
control samples contained cyanides.

When  the dispute on the Leuchter Report arose, we undertook
a  closer  study  of the problem, availing ourselves,  among
other  publications, of J. C. Pressac's  comprehensive  work
(5).  In consequence, we decided to start considerably  more
extensive and conscientiously planned reaserches.  To  carry
them  out,  the Management of the Auschwitz Museum appointed
their  competent workers, Dr F. Piper (custodian) and Mr  W.
Smrek  (engineer) to join the commission, in which they  co-
worked  with  the authors of the present paper, representing
the Institute of Forensic Research. Under this collaboration
the  Museum  workers  were providing us  on  the  spot  with
exhaustive  information  concerning  the  facilities  to  be
examined  and - as regards the ruins - a detailed topography
of the gas chambers we were concerned with. And so they made
it  possible for us to take proper samples for analysis.  We
tried to take samples - if at all possible - from the places
best  sheltered and least exposed to rainfall, includingalso
as  far  as possible - fragments of the upper parts  of  the
chambers (hydrogen cyanide is lighter than air) and also  of
the  concrete  floors, with which the gas from  the  spilled
Zyklon B came into contract at rather high concentrations.

Samples,  about  1-2  g in weight, were  taken  by  chipping
pieces   from   bricks  and  concrete  or   scrapping   off,
particularly  in  the case of plaster and also  mortar.  The
materials  taken  were secured in plastic containers  marked
with serial numbers. All these activities were recorded  and
documented with photographs. Work connected with  them  took
the  commission  two days. The laboratory  analysis  of  the
material   collected  was  conducted  -   to   ensure   full
objectivity  -  by another group of Institute workers.  They
started  with  preliminary work: samples were comminuted  by
grinding  them  by  hand in an agate mortar,  their  pH  was
determined at 6 to 7 in nearly all samples. Next the samples
were subjected to preliminary spectrophotometric analysis in
infrared  region,  using a Digilab FTS-16 spectrophotometer.
It  was  found that the bands of cyanide groups occurred  in
the  region  of  2000-2200 cm-1 in the spectra  of  a  dozen
samples  or  so.  However, the method did not  prove  to  be
sensitive   enough   and  was  given  up   in   quantitative
determinations.    It    was    determined,    using     the
spectrographical method, that the main elements  which  made
up  the samples were: calcium, silicon, magnesium, aluminium
and  iron.  Moreover,  titanium was found  present  in  many
samples. From among other metals in some samples there  were
also  barium,  zinc, sodium, manganese and  from  non-metals

The  undertaking of chemical analysis had to be preceded  by
careful  consideration.  The  revisionists  focussed   their
attention almost exclusively on Prussian blue, which  is  of
intense  dark-blue colour and characterized  by  exceptional
fastness. This dye occurs, especially in the form of stains,
on the outer bricks of the walls of the former bathdelousing
house  in  the  area of the Birkenau camp.  It  is  hard  to
imagine the chemical reactions and physicochemical processes
that  could  have led to the formation of Prussian  blue  in
that  place.  Brick, unlike other building  materials,  very
feebly absorbs hydrogen cyanide, it sometimes does not  even
absorb  it at all. Besides, iron occurring in it is  at  the
third  oxidation  state,  whereas  bivalent  iron  ions  are
indispensable  for  the formation of  the  [Fe(Cn)6]-4  ion,
which  is  the  precursor of Prussian  blue.  This  ion  is,
besides, sensitive to the sunlight.

J.  Bailer (1) writes in the collective work "Amoklauf gegen
die  Wirklichkeit" that the formation of  Prussian  blue  in
bricks   is  simply  improbable;  however,  he  takes   into
consideration  the  possibility  that  the  walls   of   the
delousing  room  were coated with this dye as  a  paint.  It
should be added that this blue coloration does not appear on
the walls of all the delousing rooms.

We  decided therefore to determine the cyanide ions using  a
method  that  does not induce the breakdown of the  composed
ferrum  cyanide complex (this is the blue under  discussion)
and  which  fact  we  had tested before  on  an  appropriate
standard  sample.  To  isolate cyanide  compounds  from  the
materials examined in the form of hydrogen cyanide  we  used
the  techniques  of  microdiffusion in  special  Conway-type
chambers.  The  sample under examination was placed  in  the
internal  part  of the chamber and next acidified  with  10%
sulfuric  acid  solution  and  allowed  to  remain  at  room
temperature (about 20oC) for 24 hrs. The separated  hydrogen
cyanide  underwent  a  quantitative absorption  by  the  lye
solution present in the outer part of the chamber. When  the
diffusion  was brought to an end, a sample of  lye  solution
was  taken and-the pyridine-pyrazolone reaction carried  out
by  Epstein's  method (3). The intensity of the  polymethene
dye  obtained  was  measured  spectrophotometrically  at   a
wavelength  equal  to  630  nm. The  calibration  curve  was
constructed  previously  and  standards  with  a  known  CN-
content  were  introduced into each series of determinations
to  check  the  curve and the course of determination.  Each
sample  of  materials examined was analysed three times.  If
the  result  obtained  was  positive,  it  was  verified  by
repeating the analysis. Having applied this method for  many
years,  we  have opportunities to find its high sensitivity,
specificity  and  precision. Under present circumstances  we
established  the lower limit of determinability  of  cyanide
ions at a level of 3-4 ,ug CN- in 1 kg of the sample.

The  results of analyses are presented in Tables I-IV.  They
unequivocally show that the cyanide compounds occur  in  all
the  facilities that, according to the source data, were  in
contact  with them. On the other hand, they do not occur  in
dwelling accomodations, which was shown by means of  control
samples.  The  concentrations of cyanide  compounds  in  the
samples  collected from one and the same  room  or  building
show  great  differences. This indicates that the conditions
that favour the formation of stable compounds as a result of
the  reaction of hydrogen cyanide with the components of the
walls,  occur locally. In this connection it takes  quite  a
large number of samples from a given facility to give  us  a
chance  to  come  upon  this sort of local  accumulation  of
cyanide compounds.

To complete this research on the cyanide compound content in
various  camp  facilities, we decided to carry  out  several
pilotage   experiments.  The  renovation  of  the  Institute
building,  just in progress, provided us with materials  for
this  investigation. We divided particular  constituents  of
these  materials (bricks, cement, mortar and  plaster)  into
several  3-4 gram pieces and placed them to glass  chambers,
in which we generated hydrogen cyanide by reacting potassium
cyanide  and sulphuric acid. We used high concentrations  of
this  gas  (about  2%) and wetted some of the  samples  with
water.  Fumigation took 48 hours at a temperature  of  about
20oC  (Table V). Another series of samples were treated with
hydrogen cyanide as well, but now in the presence of  carbon
dioxide. According to calculations, in the chambers in which
people  had been gassed the carbon dioxide content  produced
in  the breathing process of the victims was rather high and
in  relation to hydrogen cyanide may have been even as  high
as  10:1. In our experiment we applied these two gases  (CO2
and HCN) in the 5:1 ratio. Having been subjected to gassing,
the  samples were aired in the open air at a temperature  of
about  10-15oC.  The first analysis was conducted  48  hours
after the beginning of airing.

This  series  of  tests  allows the  statement  that  mortar
absorbs and/or binds hydrogen cyanide best and also that wet
materials show a noticeable tendency to accumulate  hydrogen
cyanide  whereas brick, especially old brick, poorly absorbs
and/or binds this compound.


Site       Block No      Sample No       Concentration of
                                         CN- in ug/kg
Auschwitz    3            9           	 0
                         10		 0
             8           11		 0
                         12		 0
Birkenau     3           60		 0
                         61		 0
                         62		 0
                         63		 0

Note: In screening tests of 1990 two control samples also
produced 0 results.


Site       Place        Sample No       Concentration of
                 			CN- in ug/kg
Auschwitz    cellars of Block 11
                        13 		28, 24, 24
                        14 		20, 16, 16
                        15 		0

Note: The CN- content in a sample of diatomaceous earth - a
component of Zyklon B (material  from the Museum, sample No
24) - was 1360 ug/kg, 1320 ug/kg and 1400 ug/kg.


A - Sample No;
B - Concentration of CN~ (ug/kg).

Crematorium I
A	17	17	18	19	20	21	22
B	28	76	0	0	288	0	80
	28	80	0	0	292	0	80
	26	80	0	0	288	0	80
Crematorium II
A	25	26	27	28	29	30	31
B	640	28	0	8	20	168	296
	592	28	0	8	16	156	288
	620	28	0	8	16	168	292
Crematorium III
A 	32	33	34	35	36	37	38
B	68	12	12	16	12	16	56
	68	8	12	12	8	16	52
	68	8	8	16	8	16	56
Crematorium IV
A	39	40	41	42 	43	-	-
B	40	36	500	trace	16
	44	32	496	0	12
	44	36	496	0	12	
Crematorium V
A	46	47	48	49	50	51	52
B	244	36	92	12	116	56	0
	248	28	96	12	120	60	0
	232	32	96	12	116	60	0


Crematorium I at Auschwitz - building preserved but
reconstructed several times 
Crematorium II-V[*] at Birkenau - ruins. ONly the ceiling of the
chamber of Crematorium[*] II is in part fairly well preserved.

* Transcription Note: My copy of this document has two
corrections made, in ballpoint pen, concerning the crematorium
numbers. The first instance could have read "II-IV" in the
original, and the second could have read "III" on the
original, but the ink obscures the original text. knm.

Site		Place	Sample No	Concentration of
					CN~ in ug/kg
Auschwitz	Block No.1 (1)	
			1		4,4,4
			2		0
			3, iron hook	0
			4, piece of	0
			wood from a door	
		Block No.3 (2)
			5		0
			6		900,840,880
			7		0
			8		16,12,16
			Two series of 
			determinations 	I.  70,30,74,142,422
			were made in 	II. 118,52,80,60,214
			block No 3 in 1990
Birkenau	Bath-house
		Camp B1-A
			53  (3)		24, 20, 24
			53a (3)		224, 248, 228
			54  (3)		36, 28, 32	
			55  (3)		736, 740 ,640
			56  (4)		4, 0, 0
			57  (5)		840, 792, 840
			58  (5)		348, 324, 348
			59  (6)		28, 28, 28
(1)	Dwelling quarters next to cobbler workshop and
	disinfection chambers.
(2)	Disinfection facilities
(3)	Materials taken from the outer side of the building
(4)	Mortar taken from the outer side of the building wall
(5)	Plaster taken from dark-blue stains on the inner side
	of the building wall
(6)	Plaster from white walls inside the building


      	 |Fresh plaster| Old mortar   | New brick    |  Old brick
Sort of  |dry | wetted | dry | wetted | dry | wetted | dry | wetted
material |    |        |     |        |     |        |     | 
Concentration |        |     |        |     |        |     |
of CN~ in     |        |     |        |     |        |     | 
ug/kg    | 24 |   480  | 176 |  2700  |  4  |   52   |  20 | 0

After  a  lapse of one month the concentration  of  hydrogen
cyanide  and  its  combinations in  the  materials  examined
decreased  on  the  average by 56% (from  28%  to  86%).  An
apparent  rise in the concentration occurred only in  single
samples. That is so because the samples used for examination
were not always the same. When they had been used up in  the
first run, they had to be replaced by new samples taken from
the  same bigger lumps of material. This supports the thesis
on the local binding of hydrogen cyanide.

The results obtained in the next series of tests, in which
the materials were subjected to gassing with a mixture of
HCN + CO2 are presented in Table VI.


      	 |Fresh    |Old      |Fresh    |New      |Old
         |plaster  |mortar   |mortar   |brick    |brick  
Sort of  |dry |wet | dry| wet| dry| wet| dry| wet| dry| wet 
material |    |ted |    | ted|    | ted|    | ted|    | ted 
Concentration |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |     
of CN~ in     |    |1000|    |    |    |    |    |    |      
ug/kg    |5920|12800    | 244| 492| 388| 52 | 36 | 24 | 60   

In  this case the CN~ content in mortar (old and fresh)  and
in  new  brick  was for the most part lower  in  the  wetted
materials  than  in  the dry ones.  It  seems  that  here  a
tendency  is  revealed  towards the  competitive  action  of
carbon dioxide, which dissolves in water. In this series  of
tests fresh plaster showed an exceptionally high affinity to
hydrogen cyanide.

After  an  interval of a month the mean decrease of hydrogen
cyanide  content  in this material was 73%  and  so  it  was
markedly greater than in the run with hydrogen cyanide only.
In as many as four samples that loss ranged from 97% to 100%
and  then  airing  was nearly complete.  This  statement  is
significant   in   as  much  as  in  their   reasoning   the
revisionists   did  not  take  into  consideration   certain
circumstances, namely, the simultaneous action  of  cyanides
and  carbon dioxide on the chamber walls. In the air exhaled
by  man carbon dioxide constitutes 3.5% by volume. Breathing
for 1 minute, he takes in and next exhales 15-20 dm3 of air,
comprising  on  the average 950 cm3 CO2; consequently,  1000
people  breathe out about 950 dm3 of carbon dioxide. And  so
it  can  be  estimated that, if the victims  stayed  in  the
chamber for 5 minutes before they died, they exhaled 4.75 m3
of carbon dioxide during that period. This is at least about
1%  of the capacity, e. g. of the gas chamber of Crematorium
II  at  Birkenau, the capacity of which was  about  500  m3,
whereas the concentration of hydrogen cyanide virtually  did
not  exceed 0.1% by volume (death occurs soon at as low  HCN
concentrations   as   0.03%  by  volume).   Therefore,   the
conditions  for the preservation of HCN in the gas  chambers
were not better than in the delousing chambers, despite what
the   revisionists  claim.  Besides,  as  has  already  been
mentioned, the chamber ruins have been thoroughly washed  by

The  following experiment illustrated to what  extent  water
elutes   cyanide   ions.  Two  0.5-gram   plaster   samples,
previously  subjected to a fumigation with hydrogen  cyanide
(after  the determination of cyanide combinations  in  them)
were  placed on filter paper in glass funnels and either  of
them  was  flushed  with 1 l of clean,  deionized  distilled
water. The results of the test are presented in Table VII.


Sample  Initial concentration Concentration after 
                              flushing with water
        (CN~ in ug/kg)        (CN~ in ug/kg)    Loss, in %
 I      160                   28                82.5
II      1200                  112               90.7 

Consequently, water elutes cyanide compounds in considerable
measure.  The fact that they have survived so  long  in  the
chamber  ruins is probably due to the possible formation  of
cyanide combinations in the walls of those chambers  at  the
time  of  their utilization from about mid-1943 to the  last
weeks of 1944 (except for Crematorium IV, which was blown up
earlier).  The  significance of rainfall in the  process  of
elution  of  these  combinations out of the  ruin  walls  is
exemplified by Crematorium II in the Birkenau camp, where we
have  found  the  highest (mean) eoncentrations  of  cyanide
compounds, because many fragments of the gas chamber were to
a great degree protected from precipitation.

Final Remarks

The  present study shows that in spite of the passage  of  a
considerable period of time (over 45 years) in the walls  of
the  facilities  which  once were in contact  with  hydrogen
cyanide  the vestigial amounts of the combinations  of  this
constituent  of Zyklon B have been preserved. This  is  also
true  of  the ruins of the former gas chambers. The  cyanide
compounds  occur in the building materials only locally,  in
the  places  where the conditions arose for their  formation
and persistence for such a long time.

In  his  reasoning  Leuchter (2) claims that  the  vestigial
amounts  of  cyanide combinations detected  by  him  in  the
materials  from  the chamber ruins are residues  left  after
fumigations  carried out in the Camp "once,  long  ago"(Item
14.004  of  the  Report). This is refuted  by  the  negative
results  of  the  examination of the  control  samples  from
living quarters, which are said to have been subjected to  a
single  gassing,  and  the  fact  that  in  the  period   of
fumigation of the Camp in connection with a typhoid epidemic
in  mid-1942 there were still no crematoria in the  Birkenau
Camp. The first crematorium (Crematorium II) was put to  use
as  late  as  15  March 1943 and the others  several  months


1. The terms "historical revisionism" and "revisionists" in
the sense used there have been introduced into the
literature of the field under discussion.


1. Amoklauf gegen die Wirklichkeit. Praca zbiorowa (B. Gallanda, 
J. Bailer, F. Freund, T. Geisler, W. Lasek, N. Neugebauer, 
G. Spenn, W. Wegner). Bundesministerium fuer Unterricht und 
Kultur Wien 1991.

2. Der erste Leuchter Report, Toronto 1988, Samisdat
Publishers Ltd., Toronto 1988.

3. Epstein J., Estimation of Microquantities of
Cyanide, Analytical Chemistry 1947, Vol. 19, p. 272.

4. Gauss  E., Vorlesungen ueber Zeitgeschichte, Grabert
Vlg. Tuebingen 1993.

5. Pressac J. C., Auschwitz: Technique and Operation
of the Gas Chambers, B. Klarsfield Foundation, New York

6. Sehn J., Ob6z Koncentracyjny Oswiecim-Brzezinka.
Wydawnictwo Prawnicze, Warszawa 1960.

7. Wspomnienia Rudolf . Hoessa, komendanta obozu
oswiecimskiego. G16wna Komisja Badania Zbrodni Hitlerowskich
w Polsce. Wydawnistwo Prawnicze, Warszawa 1956.

The study was performed and funded by the Committee for
Scientific Research under the scheme of Research Project 
No 2 P 30 3088 04. Leader of the Project Prof. Jan Markiewicz.

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