By Nick Kollerstrom – 30th June 2010
I used to work at University College, London, getting by as a science historian.
Having written papers on various suitably obscure subjects - from Newton’s lunar theory to the discovery of Neptune - three years ago I made what in retrospect looks like a rather large mistake. I began to take an interest in the published chemical evidence relating to the ‘gas chambers’ at Auschwitz/ Birkenau.
Maybe it was foolish to imagine that hard scientific data was of relevance in this case. It strangely turned out that I was engaging with a predominantly religious issue, and I simply became damned as a heretic.
There is no disagreement that cyanide gas chambers existed at many WW2 concentration camps. These were delousing rooms built to kill the bugs that threatened the health of the camp inmates. They were designed to keep the prisoners healthy so that they could carry out their work effectively. Their purpose was hygienic.
We can nowadays agree that many tons of cyanide (in granular form as the insecticide Zyklon) was used during the WW2 for hygienic delousing technology. Before DDT was invented around 1945, Zyklon was the normal delousing method. Special gas chambers made by a firm called Degesch, 10m3 in volume, were installed in all the German labour-camps in 1942, the year when typhus hit the camps. That epidemic is spread by bugs, so all clothing and bedding had to go repeatedly into the delousing chambers. It was a procedure designed to be safe for regular use.
These chambers still exist at four WW2 labour camp ruins, Madjanek, Dachau, Auschwitz and Birkenau, and can be easily identified because their walls are mostly turquoise blue. There is iron in the walls of the old chambers at Auschwitz and Birkenau and this combined permanently with the cyanide then used, the brick walls being very porous to the cyanide gas. These walls are blue on the inside and on the outside, showing that the cyanide soaked right through them. The blue in the walls is ferrocyanide – just like the colour in a tube of turquoise oil paint.
In contrast to these real gas chambers, the walls of the alleged human gas chambers have no such blue colouring. This simple and obvious fact was one of the first causes of skepticism for some of those who visited the camps.
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