The Nazis Developed Sarin Gas During WWII, But Hitler Was Afraid to Use It

The Nazis Developed Sarin Gas During WWII, But Hitler Was Afraid to Use It

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Hitler certainly had the opportunity to use sarin in World War II. The Nazis were actually the ones to develop the deadly nerve agent—accidentally. In late 1938, the German scientist Gerhard Schrader was tasked with inventing a cheaper pesticide to kill the weevils that were damaging German fields and orchards. By mixing phosphorus with cyanide, he came up with a substance that was way too toxic to use for agriculture purposes.

After Schrader’s employer, drug conglomerate I.G. Farben, informed the German army of his discovery, some impressed army scientists dubbed the liquid “tabun,” after the German word for taboo. Back in the lab, Schrader tinkered some more and came up with something even more toxic. He called the new substance sarin, an acronym for the names of the four scientists who developed it.

By the end of World War II, Nazi Germany had produced some 12,000 tons of the deadly chemical compound, enough to kill millions of people. From early in the conflict, high-level military officers pressed Hitler to use sarin against their adversaries. But despite such pressure, Hitler declined to employ it as a chemical weapon against the Allied Powers.

As reported in the Washington Post, some historians have traced this reluctance to Hitler’s own experience as a soldier during World War I. Though Germany was the first to unleash chlorine gas on French troops during the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915, Britain and France would also employ chlorine and mustard gas during the Great War, generating widespread outrage over the new horrors of chemical warfare.

In his biography of the Nazi leader, the historian Ian Kershaw described how Hitler himself fell victim to a mustard gas attack near Ypres on the night of October 13-14, 1918: “He and several comrades, retreating from their dug-out during a gas attack, were partially blinded by the gas and found their way to safety only by clinging to on to each other and following a comrade who was slightly less badly afflicted.” After the attack, Hitler was transported from Flanders to a military hospital in Pomerania, where he would learn the devastating news of Germany’s surrender.

The idea that Hitler would have objected to using poison gas on the battlefield on ethical grounds may seem blatantly inconsistent with the fact that Nazis were systematically using Zyklon B and other chemical agents to exterminate millions of people in the gas chambers. But even setting this aside, there’s little to no solid historical evidence linking Hitler’s wartime experience to his reluctance to use sarin against the Allies 20 years later.

Other factors may have been involved. Germany’s Blitzkrieg military strategy, which had so far been successful, involved sudden attacks by tanks and bombers followed swiftly by invading foot soldiers. If those bombers used sarin or another chemical weapon, they would have contaminated the same area their troops would then have had to march into.

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More importantly, perhaps, Hitler must have known that if he used chemical weapons, his adversaries would retaliate in kind. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, for one, had long argued in favor of the use of such weapons to shorten military conflicts. “I cannot understand this squeamishness about the use of gas,” he wrote in a memo in 1919, when he was Britain’s secretary of war. “It is not necessary to use only the most deadly gasses: gasses can be used which cause great inconvenience and would spread a lively terror and yet would leave no serious permanent effects on most of those affected.”

Historian Richard Langworth has emphasized that Churchill believed using (non-lethal) chemical weapons could actually be a more humane way of doing battle. In another memo written around the same time, Churchill argued: “Gas is a more merciful weapon than high explosive shell, and compels an enemy to accept a decision with less loss of life than any other agency of war.”

During World War II, Churchill was always prepared to use chemical weapons, but only if the enemy unleashed them first. In February 1943, when London learned the Germans might use gas against the Russians in the Donets Basin, Churchill wrote to his Chiefs of Staffs Committee: “In the event of the Germans using gas on the Russians…We shall retaliate by drenching the German cities with gas on the largest possible scale.”

But for whatever reason, Hitler chose not to take that step—even as Nazi factories secretly stockpiled munitions packed with the deadly nerve agent, and even as the tide of the war turned increasingly against Germany.

Why didn't Germany deploy poison gas in WW2?

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Afaik - I have to search for sources - it was mainly because Hitler was injured in WW1 by poison gas and thus simply forbade its use despite some of his generals wanting to deploy it. Some did, in small amounts, regardless.

/edit: No source for my speculation above, but I found this one:

/edit2: Here's the story. The source however, has fallen into some discredit, you could say.


1914: Tear gas Edit

The most frequently used chemicals during World War I were tear-inducing irritants rather than fatal or disabling poisons. During World War I, the French army was the first to employ tear gas, using 26 mm grenades filled with ethyl bromoacetate in August 1914. The small quantities of gas delivered, roughly 19 cm³ per cartridge, were not even detected by the Germans. The stocks were rapidly consumed and by November a new order was placed by the French military. As bromine was scarce among the Entente allies, the active ingredient was changed to chloroacetone. [7]

In October 1914, German troops fired fragmentation shells filled with a chemical irritant against British positions at Neuve Chapelle the concentration achieved was so small that it too was barely noticed. [8] None of the combatants considered the use of tear gas to be in conflict with the Hague Treaty of 1899, which specifically prohibited the launching of projectiles containing asphyxiating or poisonous gas. [9]

1915: Large-scale use and lethal gases Edit

The first instance of large-scale use of gas as a weapon was on 31 January 1915, when Germany fired 18,000 artillery shells containing liquid xylyl bromide tear gas on Russian positions on the Rawka River, west of Warsaw during the Battle of Bolimov. Instead of vaporizing, the chemical froze and failed to have the desired effect. [8]

The first killing agent was chlorine, used by the German military. [10] Chlorine is a powerful irritant that can inflict damage to the eyes, nose, throat and lungs. At high concentrations and prolonged exposure it can cause death by asphyxiation. [11] German chemical companies BASF, Hoechst and Bayer (which formed the IG Farben conglomerate in 1925) had been making chlorine as a by-product of their dye manufacturing. [12] In cooperation with Fritz Haber of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry in Berlin, they began developing methods of discharging chlorine gas against enemy trenches. [13] [14]

It may appear from a feldpost letter of Major Karl von Zingler that the first chlorine gas attack by German forces took place before 2 January 1915: "In other war theatres it does not go better and it has been said that our Chlorine is very effective. 140 English officers have been killed. This is a horrible weapon . ". [15] This letter must be discounted as evidence for early German use of chlorine, however, because the date "2 January 1915" may have been hastily scribbled instead of the intended "2 January 1916," the sort of common typographical error that is often made at the beginning of a new year. The deaths of so many English officers from gas at this time would certainly have been met with outrage, but a recent, extensive study of British reactions to chemical warfare says nothing of this supposed attack. [16] Perhaps this letter was referring to the chlorine-phosgene attack on British troops at Wieltje near Ypres, on 19 December 1915 (see below).

By 22 April 1915, the German Army had 168 tons of chlorine deployed in 5,730 cylinders from Langemark-Poelkapelle, north of Ypres. At 17:30, in a slight easterly breeze, the liquid chlorine was siphoned from the tanks, producing gas which formed a grey-green cloud that drifted across positions held by French Colonial troops from Martinique, as well as the 1st Tirailleurs and the 2nd Zouaves from Algeria. [17] Faced with an unfamiliar threat these troops broke ranks, abandoning their trenches and creating an 8,000-yard (7 km) gap in the Allied line. The German infantry were also wary of the gas and, lacking reinforcements, failed to exploit the break before the 1st Canadian Division and assorted French troops reformed the line in scattered, hastily prepared positions 1,000–3,000 yards (910–2,740 m) apart. [8] The Entente governments claimed the attack was a flagrant violation of international law but Germany argued that the Hague treaty had only banned chemical shells, rather than the use of gas projectors. [18]

In what became the Second Battle of Ypres, the Germans used gas on three more occasions on 24 April against the 1st Canadian Division, [19] on 2 May near Mouse Trap Farm and on 5 May against the British at Hill 60. [20] The British Official History stated that at Hill 60, "90 men died from gas poisoning in the trenches or before they could be got to a dressing station of the 207 brought to the nearest dressing stations, 46 died almost immediately and 12 after long suffering." [21]

On 6 August, German troops used chlorine gas against Russian troops defending Osowiec Fortress. Surviving defenders drove back the attack and retained the fortress. The event would later be called the Attack of the Dead Men.

Germany used chemical weapons on the eastern front in an attack at Rawka, south of Warsaw. The Russian army took 9,000 casualties, with more than 1,000 fatalities. In response, the artillery branch of the Russian army organised a commission to study the delivery of poison gas in shells. [22]

Effectiveness and countermeasures Edit

It quickly became evident that the men who stayed in their places suffered less than those who ran away, as any movement worsened the effects of the gas, and that those who stood up on the fire step suffered less—indeed they often escaped any serious effects—than those who lay down or sat at the bottom of a trench. Men who stood on the parapet suffered least, as the gas was denser near the ground. The worst sufferers were the wounded lying on the ground, or on stretchers, and the men who moved back with the cloud. [23] Chlorine was less effective as a weapon than the Germans had hoped, particularly as soon as simple countermeasures were introduced. The gas produced a visible greenish cloud and strong odour, making it easy to detect. It was water-soluble, so the simple expedient of covering the mouth and nose with a damp cloth was effective at reducing the effect of the gas. It was thought to be even more effective to use urine rather than water, as it was known at the time that chlorine reacted with urea (present in urine) to form dichloro urea. [24]

Chlorine required a concentration of 1,000 parts per million to be fatal, destroying tissue in the lungs, likely through the formation of hypochlorous and hydrochloric acids when dissolved in the water in the lungs. [25] Despite its limitations, chlorine was an effective psychological weapon—the sight of an oncoming cloud of the gas was a continual source of dread for the infantry. [26]

Countermeasures were quickly introduced in response to the use of chlorine. The Germans issued their troops with small gauze pads filled with cotton waste, and bottles of a bicarbonate solution with which to dampen the pads. Immediately following the use of chlorine gas by the Germans, instructions were sent to British and French troops to hold wet handkerchiefs or cloths over their mouths. Simple pad respirators similar to those issued to German troops were soon proposed by Lieutenant-Colonel N. C. Ferguson, the Assistant Director Medical Services of the 28th Division. These pads were intended to be used damp, preferably dipped into a solution of bicarbonate kept in buckets for that purpose other liquids were also used. Because such pads could not be expected to arrive at the front for several days, army divisions set about making them for themselves. Locally available muslin, flannel and gauze were used, officers were sent to Paris to buy more and local French women were employed making up rudimentary pads with string ties. Other units used lint bandages manufactured in the convent at Poperinge. Pad respirators were sent up with rations to British troops in the line as early as the evening of 24 April. [27]

In Britain the Daily Mail newspaper encouraged women to manufacture cotton pads, and within one month a variety of pad respirators were available to British and French troops, along with motoring goggles to protect the eyes. The response was enormous and a million gas masks were produced in a day. The Mail ' s design was useless when dry and caused suffocation when wet—the respirator was responsible for the deaths of scores of men. By 6 July 1915, the entire British army was equipped with the more effective "smoke helmet" designed by Major Cluny MacPherson, Newfoundland Regiment, which was a flannel bag with a celluloid window, which entirely covered the head. The race was then on between the introduction of new and more effective poison gases and the production of effective countermeasures, which marked gas warfare until the armistice in November 1918. [27]

British gas attacks Edit

The British expressed outrage at Germany's use of poison gas at Ypres and responded by developing their own gas warfare capability. The commander of II Corps, Lieutenant General Sir Charles Ferguson, said of gas:

It is a cowardly form of warfare which does not commend itself to me or other English soldiers . We cannot win this war unless we kill or incapacitate more of our enemies than they do of us, and if this can only be done by our copying the enemy in his choice of weapons, we must not refuse to do so. [28]

The first use of gas by the British was at the Battle of Loos, 25 September 1915, but the attempt was a disaster. Chlorine, codenamed Red Star, was the agent to be used (140 tons arrayed in 5,100 cylinders), and the attack was dependent on a favourable wind. On this occasion the wind proved fickle, and the gas either lingered in no man's land or, in places, blew back on the British trenches. [8] This was compounded when the gas could not be released from all the British canisters because the wrong turning keys were sent with them. Subsequent retaliatory German shelling hit some of those unused full cylinders, releasing gas among the British troops. [29] Exacerbating the situation were the primitive flannel gas masks distributed to the British. The masks got hot, and the small eye-pieces misted over, reducing visibility. Some of the troops lifted the masks to get fresh air, causing them to be gassed. [30]

1915: More deadly gases Edit

The deficiencies of chlorine were overcome with the introduction of phosgene, which was prepared by a group of French chemists led by Victor Grignard and first used by France in 1915. [31] Colourless and having an odour likened to "mouldy hay," phosgene was difficult to detect, making it a more effective weapon. Phosgene was sometimes used on its own, but was more often used mixed with an equal volume of chlorine, with the chlorine helping to spread the denser phosgene. [32] The Allies called this combination White Star after the marking painted on shells containing the mixture. [33]

Phosgene was a potent killing agent, deadlier than chlorine. It had a potential drawback in that some of the symptoms of exposure took 24 hours or more to manifest. This meant that the victims were initially still capable of putting up a fight this could also mean that apparently fit troops would be incapacitated by the effects of the gas on the following day. [34]

In the first combined chlorine–phosgene attack by Germany, against British troops at Wieltje near Ypres, Belgium on 19 December 1915, 88 tons of the gas were released from cylinders causing 1069 casualties and 69 deaths. [32] The British P gas helmet, issued at the time, was impregnated with sodium phenolate and partially effective against phosgene. The modified PH Gas Helmet, which was impregnated with phenate hexamine and hexamethylene tetramine (urotropine) to improve the protection against phosgene, was issued in January 1916. [32] [35] [36]

Around 36,600 tons of phosgene were manufactured during the war, out of a total of 190,000 tons for all chemical weapons, making it second only to chlorine (93,800 tons) in the quantity manufactured: [37]

  • Germany 18,100 tons
  • France 15,700 tons
  • United Kingdom 1,400 tons (also used French stocks)
  • United States 1,400 tons (also used French stocks)

Phosgene was never as notorious in public consciousness as mustard gas, but it killed far more people: about 85% of the 90,000 deaths caused by chemical weapons during World War I.

1916: Austrian use Edit

On 29 June 1916, Austrian forces attacked the Italian lines on Monte San Michele with a mix of phosgene and chlorine gas. [38] Thousands of Italian soldiers died in this first chemical weapons attack on the Italian Front.

1917: Mustard gas Edit

The most widely reported chemical agent of the First World War was mustard gas. It is a volatile oily liquid. It was introduced as a vesicant by Germany in July 1917 prior to the Third Battle of Ypres. [8] The Germans marked their shells yellow for mustard gas and green for chlorine and phosgene hence they called the new gas Yellow Cross. It was known to the British as HS (Hun Stuff), and the French called it Yperite (named after Ypres). [39]

Mustard gas is not an effective killing agent (though in high enough doses it is fatal) but can be used to harass and disable the enemy and pollute the battlefield. Delivered in artillery shells, mustard gas was heavier than air, and it settled to the ground as an oily liquid. Once in the soil, mustard gas remained active for several days, weeks, or even months, depending on the weather conditions. [40]

The skin of victims of mustard gas blistered, their eyes became very sore and they began to vomit. Mustard gas caused internal and external bleeding and attacked the bronchial tubes, stripping off the mucous membrane. This was extremely painful. Fatally injured victims sometimes took four or five weeks to die of mustard gas exposure. [41]

One nurse, Vera Brittain, wrote: "I wish those people who talk about going on with this war whatever it costs could see the soldiers suffering from mustard gas poisoning. Great mustard-coloured blisters, blind eyes, all sticky and stuck together, always fighting for breath, with voices a mere whisper, saying that their throats are closing and they know they will choke." [42]

The polluting nature of mustard gas meant that it was not always suitable for supporting an attack as the assaulting infantry would be exposed to the gas when they advanced. When Germany launched Operation Michael on 21 March 1918, they saturated the Flesquières salient with mustard gas instead of attacking it directly, believing that the harassing effect of the gas, coupled with threats to the salient's flanks, would make the British position untenable. [ citation needed ]

Gas never reproduced the dramatic success of 22 April 1915 it became a standard weapon which, combined with conventional artillery, was used to support most attacks in the later stages of the war. Gas was employed primarily on the Western Front—the static, confined trench system was ideal for achieving an effective concentration. Germany also used gas against Russia on the Eastern Front, where the lack of effective countermeasures resulted in deaths of over 56,000 Russians, [43] while Britain experimented with gas in Palestine during the Second Battle of Gaza. [44] Russia began manufacturing chlorine gas in 1916, with phosgene being produced later in the year. Most of the manufactured gas was never used. [22]

The British Army first used mustard gas in November 1917 at Cambrai, after their armies had captured a stockpile of German mustard gas shells. It took the British more than a year to develop their own mustard gas weapon, with production of the chemicals centred on Avonmouth Docks. [45] [46] (The only option available to the British was the Despretz–Niemann–Guthrie process.) This was used first in September 1918 during the breaking of the Hindenburg Line with the Hundred Days' Offensive.

The Allies mounted more gas attacks than the Germans in 1917 and 1918 because of a marked increase in production of gas from the Allied nations. Germany was unable to keep up with this pace despite creating various new gases for use in battle, mostly as a result of very costly methods of production. Entry into the war by the United States allowed the Allies to increase mustard gas production far more than Germany. [47] [48] Also the prevailing wind on the Western Front was blowing from west to east, [49] which meant the Allies more frequently had favourable conditions for a gas release than did the Germans.

When the United States entered the war, it was already mobilizing resources from academic, industry and military sectors for research and development into poison gas. A Subcommittee on Noxious Gases was created by the National Research Committee, a major research centre was established at Camp American University, and the 1st Gas Regiment was recruited. [48] The 1st Gas Regiment eventually served in France, where it used phosgene gas in several attacks. [50] [48] The Artillery used mustard gas with significant effect during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive on at least three occasions. [51] The United States began large-scale production of an improved vesicant gas known as Lewisite, for use in an offensive planned for early 1919. By the time of the armistice on 11 November, a plant near Willoughby, Ohio was producing 10 tons per day of the substance, for a total of about 150 tons. It is uncertain what effect this new chemical would have had on the battlefield, as it degrades in moist conditions. [52] [53]

Post-war Edit

By the end of the war, chemical weapons had lost much of their effectiveness against well trained and equipped troops. At that time, chemical weapon agents inflicted an estimated 1.3 million casualties. [54]

Nevertheless, in the following years, chemical weapons were used in several, mainly colonial, wars where one side had an advantage in equipment over the other. The British used poison gas, possibly adamsite, against Russian revolutionary troops beginning on 27 August 1919 [55] and contemplated using chemical weapons against Iraqi insurgents in the 1920s Bolshevik troops used poison gas to suppress the Tambov Rebellion in 1920, Spain used chemical weapons in Morocco against Rif tribesmen throughout the 1920s [56] and Italy used mustard gas in Libya in 1930 and again during its invasion of Ethiopia in 1936. [57] In 1925, a Chinese warlord, Zhang Zuolin, contracted a German company to build him a mustard gas plant in Shenyang, [56] which was completed in 1927.

Public opinion had by then turned against the use of such weapons which led to the Geneva Protocol, an updated and extensive prohibition of poison weapons. The Protocol, which was signed by most First World War combatants in 1925, bans the use (but not the stockpiling) of lethal gas and bacteriological weapons. Most countries that signed ratified it within around five years a few took much longer—Brazil, Japan, Uruguay, and the United States did not do so until the 1970s, and Nicaragua ratified it in 1990. [58] The signatory nations agreed not to use poison gas in the future, stating "the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and of all analogous liquids, materials or devices, has been justly condemned by the general opinion of the civilized world." [59]

Chemical weapons have been used in at least a dozen wars since the end of the First World War [57] they were not used in combat on a large scale until Iraq used mustard gas and the more deadly nerve agents in the Halabja chemical attack near the end of the 8-year Iran–Iraq War. The full conflict's use of such weaponry killed around 20,000 Iranian troops (and injured another 80,000), around a quarter of the number of deaths caused by chemical weapons during the First World War. [60]

Effect on World War II Edit

All major combatants stockpiled chemical weapons during the Second World War, but the only reports of its use in the conflict were the Japanese use of relatively small amounts of mustard gas and lewisite in China, [61] [62] Italy's use of gas in Ethiopia (in what is more often considered to be the Second Italo-Ethiopian War), and very rare occurrences in Europe (for example some mustard gas bombs were dropped on Warsaw on 3 September 1939, which Germany acknowledged in 1942 but indicated had been accidental). [56] Mustard gas was the agent of choice, with the British stockpiling 40,719 tons, the Soviets 77,400 tons, the Americans over 87,000 tons and the Germans 27,597 tons. [56] The destruction of an American cargo ship containing mustard gas led to many casualties in Bari, Italy, in December 1943.

In both Axis and Allied nations, children in school were taught to wear gas masks in case of gas attack. Germany developed the poison gases tabun, sarin, and soman during the war, and used Zyklon B in their extermination camps. Neither Germany nor the Allied nations used any of their war gases in combat, despite maintaining large stockpiles and occasional calls for their use. [nb 1] Poison gas played an important role in the Holocaust.

Britain made plans to use mustard gas on the landing beaches in the event of an invasion of the United Kingdom in 1940. [63] [64] The United States considered using gas to support their planned invasion of Japan. [65]

The contribution of gas weapons to the total casualty figures was relatively minor. British figures, which were accurately maintained from 1916, recorded that 3% of gas casualties were fatal, 2% were permanently invalid and 70% were fit for duty again within six weeks. [66]

It was remarked as a joke that if someone yelled 'Gas', everyone in France would put on a mask. . Gas shock was as frequent as shell shock.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! — An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

Death by gas was often slow and painful. According to Denis Winter (Death's Men, 1978), a fatal dose of phosgene eventually led to "shallow breathing and retching, pulse up to 120, an ashen face and the discharge of four pints (2 litres) of yellow liquid from the lungs each hour for the 48 of the drowning spasms."

A common fate of those exposed to gas was blindness, chlorine gas or mustard gas being the main causes. One of the most famous First World War paintings, Gassed by John Singer Sargent, captures such a scene of mustard gas casualties which he witnessed at a dressing station at Le Bac-du-Sud near Arras in July 1918. (The gases used during that battle (tear gas) caused temporary blindness and/or a painful stinging in the eyes. These bandages were normally water-soaked to provide a rudimentary form of pain relief to the eyes of casualties before they reached more organized medical help.)

The proportion of mustard gas fatalities to total casualties was low 2% of mustard gas casualties died and many of these succumbed to secondary infections rather than the gas itself. Once it was introduced at the third battle of Ypres, mustard gas produced 90% of all British gas casualties and 14% of battle casualties of any type.

Estimated gas casualties [43]
Nation Fatal Total
(Fatal & non-fatal)
Russia 56,000 419,340
Germany 9,000 200,000
France 8,000 190,000
British Empire
(includes Canada)
8,109 188,706
Austria-Hungary 3,000 100,000
United States 1,462 72,807
Italy 4,627 60,000
Total 90,198 1,230,853

Mustard gas was a source of extreme dread. In The Anatomy of Courage (1945), Lord Moran, who had been a medical officer during the war, wrote:

After July 1917 gas partly usurped the role of high explosive in bringing to head a natural unfitness for war. The gassed men were an expression of trench fatigue, a menace when the manhood of the nation had been picked over. [67]

Mustard gas did not need to be inhaled to be effective—any contact with skin was sufficient. Exposure to 0.1 ppm was enough to cause massive blisters. Higher concentrations could burn flesh to the bone. It was particularly effective against the soft skin of the eyes, nose, armpits and groin, since it dissolved in the natural moisture of those areas. Typical exposure would result in swelling of the conjunctiva and eyelids, forcing them closed and rendering the victim temporarily blind. Where it contacted the skin, moist red patches would immediately appear which after 24 hours would have formed into blisters. Other symptoms included severe headache, elevated pulse and temperature (fever), and pneumonia (from blistering in the lungs).

Many of those who survived a gas attack were scarred for life. Respiratory disease and failing eyesight were common post-war afflictions. Of the Canadians who, without any effective protection, had withstood the first chlorine attacks during Second Ypres, 60% of the casualties had to be repatriated and half of these were still unfit by the end of the war, over three years later.

Many of those who were fairly soon recorded as fit for service were left with scar tissue in their lungs. This tissue was susceptible to tuberculosis attack. It was from this that many of the 1918 casualties died, around the time of the Second World War, shortly before sulfa drugs became widely available for its treatment.

British casualties Edit

British forces gas casualties on the Western Front [ citation needed ]
Date Agent Casualties (official)
Fatal Non-fatal
April –
May 1915
Chlorine 350 7,000
May 1915 –
June 1916
Lachrymants 0 0
December 1915 –
August 1916
Chlorine 1,013 4,207
July 1916 –
July 1917
Various 532 8,806
July 1917 –
November 1918
Mustard gas 4,086 160,526
April 1915 –
November 1918
Total 5,981 180,539

A British nurse treating mustard gas cases recorded:

They cannot be bandaged or touched. We cover them with a tent of propped-up sheets. Gas burns must be agonizing because usually the other cases do not complain even with the worst wounds but gas cases are invariably beyond endurance and they cannot help crying out. [68]

A postmortem account from the British official medical history records one of the British casualties:

Case four. Aged 39 years. Gassed 29 July 1917. Admitted to casualty clearing station the same day. Died about ten days later. Brownish pigmentation present over large surfaces of the body. A white ring of skin where the wrist watch was. Marked superficial burning of the face and scrotum. The larynx much congested. The whole of the trachea was covered by a yellow membrane. The bronchi contained abundant gas. The lungs fairly voluminous. The right lung showing extensive collapse at the base. Liver congested and fatty. Stomach showed numerous submucous haemorrhages. The brain substance was unduly wet and very congested. [69]

Civilian casualties Edit

The distribution of gas cloud casualties was not limited to the front. Nearby towns were at risk from winds blowing the poison gases through. Civilians rarely had a warning system to alert their neighbours of the danger and often did not have access to effective gas masks. When the gas came to the towns it could easily get into houses through open windows and doors. An estimated 100,000–260,000 civilian casualties were caused by chemical weapons during the conflict and tens of thousands (along with military personnel) died from scarring of the lungs, skin damage, and cerebral damage in the years after the conflict ended. Many commanders on both sides knew that such weapons would cause major harm to civilians as wind would blow poison gases into nearby civilian towns but nonetheless continued to use them throughout the war. British Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig wrote in his diary: "My officers and I were aware that such weapon would cause harm to women and children living in nearby towns, as strong winds were common on the battlefront. However, because the weapon was to be directed against the enemy, none of us were overly concerned at all." [70] [71] [72] [73]

None of the First World War's combatants were prepared for the introduction of poison gas as a weapon. Once gas was introduced, development of gas protection began and the process continued for much of the war producing a series of increasingly effective gas masks. [48]

Even at Second Ypres, Germany, still unsure of the weapon's effectiveness, only issued breathing masks to the engineers handling the gas. At Ypres a Canadian medical officer, who was also a chemist, quickly identified the gas as chlorine and recommended that the troops urinate on a cloth and hold it over their mouth and nose. The first official equipment issued was similarly crude a pad of material, usually impregnated with a chemical, tied over the lower face. To protect the eyes from tear gas, soldiers were issued with gas goggles.

The next advance was the introduction of the gas helmet—basically a bag placed over the head. The fabric of the bag was impregnated with a chemical to neutralize the gas—the chemical would wash out into the soldier's eyes whenever it rained. Eye-pieces, which were prone to fog up, were initially made from talc. When going into combat, gas helmets were typically worn rolled up on top of the head, to be pulled down and secured about the neck when the gas alarm was given. The first British version was the Hypo helmet, the fabric of which was soaked in sodium hyposulfite (commonly known as "hypo"). The British P gas helmet, partially effective against phosgene and with which all infantry were equipped with at Loos, was impregnated with sodium phenolate. A mouthpiece was added through which the wearer would breathe out to prevent carbon dioxide build-up. The adjutant of the 1/23rd Battalion, The London Regiment, recalled his experience of the P helmet at Loos:

The goggles rapidly dimmed over, and the air came through in such suffocatingly small quantities as to demand a continuous exercise of will-power on the part of the wearers. [74]

A modified version of the P Helmet, called the PH Helmet, was issued in January 1916, and was impregnated with hexamethylenetetramine to improve the protection against phosgene. [32]

Self-contained box respirators represented the culmination of gas mask development during the First World War. Box respirators used a two-piece design a mouthpiece connected via a hose to a box filter. The box filter contained granules of chemicals that neutralised the gas, delivering clean air to the wearer. Separating the filter from the mask enabled a bulky but efficient filter to be supplied. Nevertheless, the first version, known as the Large Box Respirator (LBR) or "Harrison's Tower", was deemed too bulky—the box canister needed to be carried on the back. The LBR had no mask, just a mouthpiece and nose clip separate gas goggles had to be worn. It continued to be issued to the artillery gun crews but the infantry were supplied with the "Small Box Respirator" (SBR).

The Small Box Respirator featured a single-piece, close-fitting rubberized mask with eye-pieces. The box filter was compact and could be worn around the neck. The SBR could be readily upgraded as more effective filter technology was developed. The British-designed SBR was also adopted for use by the American Expeditionary Force. The SBR was the prized possession of the ordinary infantryman when the British were forced to retreat during the German spring offensive of 1918, it was found that while some troops had discarded their rifles, hardly any had left behind their respirators.

Horses and mules were important methods of transport that could be endangered if they came into close contact with gas. This was not so much of a problem until it became common to launch gas great distances. This caused researchers to develop masks that could be used on animals such as dogs, horses, mules, and even carrier pigeons. [75]

For mustard gas, which could cause severe damage by simply making contact with skin, no effective countermeasure was found during the war. The kilt-wearing Scottish regiments were especially vulnerable to mustard gas injuries due to their bare legs. At Nieuwpoort in Flanders some Scottish battalions took to wearing women's tights beneath the kilt as a form of protection.

Gas alert procedure became a routine for the front-line soldier. To warn of a gas attack, a bell would be rung, often made from a spent artillery shell. At the noisy batteries of the siege guns, a compressed air strombus horn was used, which could be heard nine miles (14 km) away. Notices would be posted on all approaches to an affected area, warning people to take precautions.

Other British attempts at countermeasures were not so effective. An early plan was to use 100,000 fans to disperse the gas. Burning coal or carborundum dust was tried. A proposal was made to equip front-line sentries with diving helmets, air being pumped to them through a 100 ft (30 m) hose.

The effectiveness of all countermeasures is apparent. In 1915, when poison gas was relatively new, less than 3% of British gas casualties died. In 1916, the proportion of fatalities jumped to 17%. By 1918, the figure was back below 3%, though the total number of British gas casualties was now nine times the 1915 levels.

20 Nazi-Inspired Inventions

An artistic rendering of the so-called &ldquoSun Gun&rdquo, appearing in LIFE magazine on July 23, 1945. LIFE/Wikimedia Commons.

11. The Nazis drew up plans for the creation of a &ldquoSun Gun&rdquo capable of incinerating targets from space using solar heat

A Sonnengewehr (also known as a Heliobeam or &ldquoSun Gun&rdquo) is a theoretical orbital weapon, employing concave mirrors attached to a satellite to concentrate solar rays onto a target surface area of Earth. Although not an exclusively original concept, with Archimedes allegedly using an intricate array of mirrors to burn enemy ships during the Second Punic War, it was not until German physicist Hermann Oberth created detailed plans for a peaceful heliobeam in 1929 that it became an object of serious scientific consideration Oberth believed the heat produced could thaw rivers and provide illumination among other benign purposes.

Transformed by scientists at the German Army Artillery base at Hillersleben into a conceptual weapon, the Sonnengewehr was designed to be part of a space station orbiting the Earth at an altitude of 5,100 miles. Using an enormous reflector made of metallic sodium, measuring 9 square kilometers in size, the weapon could theoretically have produced and focused enough heat to cause critical damage to ground installations.

Although tempting to write off the weapon as the ramblings of a handful of desperate lunatics the Sonnengewehr was taken sufficiently seriously at the time for the United States to examine in detail the threat posed by such a weapon, with word of these strategic considerations leaking to LIFE magazine in July 1945. Furthermore, the same concept was briefly considered by American strategic defense planners in the 1940s, 1950s, and the 1960s, in the belief such a device would have immense military ramifications including the capability to melt battleships from space notably, Werner von Braun, the father of rocketry, lobbied for the construction of similar space weaponry. by the U.S.

A Messerschmitt Me 262A at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. Wikimedia Commons.

10. Nazi engineers were responsible for the creation of the world&rsquos first jet-powered fighter plane and bomber

Given the initial supremacy of the Luftwaffe and the technological focus of German military scientists on aviation and rocketry, it is perhaps unsurprising that the Third Reich was the progenitor of the world&rsquos first jet-powered fighter and bomber aircraft: the Messerschmitt Me 262 and the Arado Ar 234 respectively.

The Messerschmitt Me 262 (nicknamed &ldquoSchwalbe&rdquo or &ldquoSwallow&rdquo) was a product of &ldquoProjekt 1065&rdquo, a request by the Reich Ministry of Aviation for a jet aircraft capable of maintaining a speed of at least 850 km/h for a minimum duration of one hour. First tested in 1941, the Messerschmitt Me 262 was not introduced in combat until April 1944 due to mechanical issues and political interference forestalling the project. Faster and more heavily armored than any Allied fighter plane, the Messerschmitt Me 262 was responsible for at least 542 confirmed aerial victories unable to be effectively countered in the air, the Allies were forced to resort to targeting the jet-fighter whilst still on the ground at German air bases. In total just 1,430 were produced before the end of the war, ultimately reducing the overall impact of the revolutionary design upon the outcome of the conflict despite this, the engineering behind the Messerschmitt Me 262 would be adapted post-war by several nations into core components of their respective air forces, including the F-86 Sabre and B-47 Stratojet by the USAF.

The Arado Ar 234, despite being the world&rsquos first jet-powered bomber, did little actual bombing during the Second World War. Like the Messerschmitt Me 262, the Arado Ar 234 was a product of the Reich Ministry of Aviation&rsquos request for a bomber with a range of 2,156 kilometers although the Arado was short of this specification, it was the best offered and thus accepted. Although testing begun in June 1943, issues with the landing gear prevented operational introduction until late 1944 with only 214 entering into service these few were predominantly used for reconnaissance, not bombing. In spite of this limited use, the bomber proved almost impossible to intercept by the Allies and was the last Luftwaffe aircraft to fly over Britain during the conflict.


Hydrogen cyanide is a poisonous gas that interferes with cellular respiration. Cyanide prevents the cell from producing adenosine triphosphate (ATP) by binding to one of the proteins involved in the electron transport chain. [1] This protein, cytochrome c oxidase, contains several subunits and has ligands containing iron groups. The cyanide component of Zyklon B can bind at one of these iron groups, heme a3, forming a more stabilized compound through metal-to-ligand pi bonding. As a result of the formation of this new iron-cyanide complex, the electrons that would situate themselves on the heme a3 group can no longer do so. Instead, these electrons destabilize the compound thus, the heme group no longer accepts them. Consequently, electron transport is halted, and cells can no longer produce the energy needed to synthesize ATP. [1] Death occurs in a human being weighing 68 kilograms (150 lb) within two minutes of inhaling 70 mg of hydrogen cyanide. [2] [3]

Hydrogen cyanide, discovered in the late 18th century, was used in the 1880s for the fumigation of citrus trees in California. Its use spread to other countries for the fumigation of silos, goods wagons, ships, and mills. Its light weight and rapid dispersal meant its application had to take place under tents or in enclosed areas. [3] Research by Fritz Haber of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry led to the founding in 1919 of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Schädlingsbekämpfung mbH (Degesch), a state-controlled consortium formed to investigate military use of the chemical. [4] Chemists at Degesch added a cautionary eye irritant to a less volatile cyanide compound which reacted with water in the presence of heat to become hydrogen cyanide. The new product was marketed as the pesticide Zyklon (cyclone). As a similar formula had been used as a weapon by the Germans during World War I, Zyklon was soon banned. [5]

Deutsche Gold- und Silber-Scheideanstalt (German Gold and Silver Refinery Degussa) became sole owners of Degesch in 1922. There, beginning in 1922, Walter Heerdt [de] , Bruno Tesch, and others worked on packaging hydrogen cyanide in sealed canisters along with a cautionary eye irritant [a] and adsorbent stabilizers such as diatomaceous earth. The new product was also labelled as Zyklon, but it became known as Zyklon B to distinguish it from the earlier version. [7] Heerdt was named the inventor of Zyklon B in the Degesch patent application (number DE 438818) dated 20 June 1922. The Deutsches Patent- und Markenamt awarded the patent on 27 December 1926. [8] Beginning in the 1920s, Zyklon B was used at U.S. Customs facilities along the Mexican border to fumigate the clothing of border crossers. [9]

In 1930, Degussa ceded 42.5 percent ownership of Degesch to IG Farben and 15 percent to Th. Goldschmidt AG, in exchange for the right to market pesticide products of those two companies through Degesch. [10] Degussa retained managerial control. [11]

While Degesch owned the rights to the brand name Zyklon and the patent on the packaging system, the chemical formula was owned by Degussa. [12] Schlempe GmbH, which was 52 percent owned by Degussa, owned the rights to a process to extract hydrogen cyanide from waste products of sugar beet processing. This process was performed under license by two companies, Dessauer Werke and Kaliwerke Kolin, who also combined the resulting hydrogen cyanide with stabilizer from IG Farben and a cautionary agent from Schering AG to form the final product, which was packaged using equipment, labels, and canisters provided by Degesch. [13] [14] The finished goods were sent to Degesch, who forwarded the product to two companies that acted as distributors: Heerdt-Linger GmbH (Heli) of Frankfurt and Tesch & Stabenow (Testa) of Hamburg. Their territory was split along the Elbe river, with Heli handling clients to the west and south, and Testa those to the east. [15] Degesch owned 51 percent of the shares of Heli, and until 1942 owned 55 percent of Testa. [16]

Prior to World War II Degesch derived most of its Zyklon B profits from overseas sales, particularly in the United States, where it was produced under license by Roessler & Hasslacher prior to 1931 and by American Cyanamid from 1931 to 1943. [17] From 1929, the United States Public Health Service used Zyklon B to fumigate freight trains and clothes of Mexican immigrants entering the United States. [18] Uses in Germany included delousing clothing (often using a portable sealed chamber invented by Degesch in the 1930s) and fumigating ships, warehouses, and trains. [19] By 1943, sales of Zyklon B accounted for 65 percent of Degesch's sales revenue and 70 percent of its gross profits. [19]

In early 1942, the Nazis began using Zyklon B as the preferred killing tool in extermination camps during the Holocaust. [20] They used it to kill roughly 1.1 million people in gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanek, and elsewhere. [21] [22] Most of the victims were Jews, and by far the majority killed using this method died at Auschwitz. [23] [24] [b] Distributor Heli supplied Zyklon B to Mauthausen, Dachau, and Buchenwald, and Testa supplied it to Auschwitz and Majdanek camps also occasionally bought it directly from the manufacturers. [26] Some 56 tonnes of the 729 tonnes sold in Germany in 1942–44 were sold to concentration camps, amounting to about 8 percent of domestic sales. [27] Auschwitz received 23.8 tonnes, of which 6 tonnes were used for fumigation. The remainder was used in the gas chambers or lost to spoilage (the product had a stated shelf life of only three months). [28] Testa conducted fumigations for the Wehrmacht and supplied them with Zyklon B. They also offered courses to the SS in the safe handling and use of the material for fumigation purposes. [29] In April 1941, the German agriculture and interior ministries designated the SS as an authorized applier of the chemical, which meant they were able to use it without any further training or governmental oversight. [30]

Rudolf Höss, commandant of Auschwitz, said that the use of Zyklon-B to kill prisoners came about on the initiative of one of his subordinates, SS-Hauptsturmführer (captain) Karl Fritzsch, who had used it to kill some Russian POWs in late August 1941 in the basement of Block 11 in the main camp. They repeated the experiment on more Russian POWs in September, with Höss watching. [31] [32] Block 11 proved unsuitable for mass killings, as the basement was difficult to air out afterwards and the crematorium (Crematorium I, which operated until July 1942) was some distance away. [32] The site of the killings was moved to Crematorium I, where more than 700 victims could be killed at once. [33] By the middle of 1942, the operation was moved to Auschwitz II–Birkenau, a nearby satellite camp that had been under construction since October 1941. [23]

The first gas chamber at Auschwitz II–Birkenau was the "red house" (called Bunker 1 by SS staff), a brick cottage converted to a gassing facility by tearing out the inside and bricking up the windows. It was operational by March 1942. A second brick cottage, called the "white house" or Bunker 2, was converted some weeks later. [34] [23] According to Höss, Bunker 1 held 800 victims and Bunker 2 held 1,200 victims. [35] These structures were in use for mass killings until early 1943. [36] At that point, the Nazis decided to greatly increase the gassing capacity of Birkenau. Crematorium II was originally designed as a mortuary with morgues in the basement and ground-level incinerators they converted it into a killing factory by installing gas-tight doors, vents for the Zyklon B to be dropped into the chamber, and ventilation equipment to remove the gas afterwards. [37] [c] Crematorium III was built using the same design. Crematoria IV and V, designed from the beginning as gassing centers, were also constructed that spring. By June 1943, all four crematoria were operational. Most of the victims were killed using these four structures. [38]

The Nazis began shipping large numbers of Jews from all over Europe to Auschwitz in the middle of 1942. Those who were not selected for work crews were immediately gassed. [39] Those selected to die generally comprised about three-quarters of the total and included almost all children, women with small children, all the elderly, and all those who appeared on brief and superficial inspection by an SS doctor not to be completely fit. [40] The victims were told that they were to undergo delousing and a shower. They were stripped of their belongings and herded into the gas chamber. [35]

A special SS bureau known as the Hygienic Institute delivered the Zyklon B to the crematoria by ambulance. [35] The actual delivery of the gas to the victims was always handled by the SS, on the order of the supervising SS doctor. [41] After the doors were shut, SS men dumped in the Zyklon B pellets through vents in the roof or holes in the side of the chamber. The victims were dead within 20 minutes. [41] Johann Kremer, an SS doctor who oversaw gassings, testified that the "shouting and screaming of the victims could be heard through the opening and it was clear that they fought for their lives". [42]

Sonderkommandos (special work crews forced to work at the gas chambers) wearing gas masks then dragged the bodies from the chamber. The victims' glasses, artificial limbs, jewelry, and hair were removed, and any dental work was extracted so the gold could be melted down. [43] If the gas chamber was crowded, which they typically were, the corpses were found half-squatting, their skin discolored pink with red and green spots, with some foaming at the mouth or bleeding from their ears. [41] The corpses were burned in the nearby incinerators, and the ashes were buried, thrown in the river, or used as fertilizer. [43] With the Soviet Red Army approaching through Poland, the last mass gassing at Auschwitz took place on 30 October 1944. [44] In November 1944, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, ordered gassing operations to cease throughout the Reich. [45]

After World War II ended in 1945, Bruno Tesch and Karl Weinbacher of Tesch & Stabenow were tried in a British military court and executed for knowingly providing Zyklon B to the SS for use on humans. [46] Gerhard Peters, who served as principal operating officer of Degesch and Heli and also held posts in the Nazi government, served two years eight months in prison as an accessory before being released due to amendments to the penal code. [47]

Use of hydrogen cyanide as a pesticide or cleaner has been banned or restricted in some countries. [48] Most hydrogen cyanide is used in industrial processes, made by companies in Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and the US. [49] [50] Degesch resumed production of Zyklon B after the war. The product was sold as Cyanosil in Germany and Zyklon in other countries. It was still produced as of 2008. [51] Degussa sold Degesch to Detia-Freyberg GmbH in 1986. The company is now called Detia-Degesch. [52] Up until around 2015, a fumigation product similar to Zyklon B was in production by Lučební závody Draslovka of the Czech Republic, under the trade name Uragan D2. Uragan means "hurricane" or "cyclone" in Czech. [53]

Subsequent use of the word "Zyklon" in trade names has prompted angry reactions in English-speaking countries. The name "Zyklon" on portable roller coasters made since 1965 by Pinfari provoked protests among Jewish groups in the U.S. in 1993, [54] and 1999. [55] In 2002, British sportswear and football equipment supplier Umbro issued an apology and stopped using the name "Zyklon", which had appeared since 1999 on the box for one of its trainers, after receiving complaints from the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre. [56] Also in 2002, Siemens withdrew its application for an American trademark of the word "Zyklon", which their subsidiary BSH Bosch und Siemens Hausgeräte had proposed to use for a new line of home appliances in the United States. (The firm was already using the name in Germany for one of their vacuum cleaners.) Protests were lodged by the Simon Wiesenthal Center after the trademark application was reported to BBC News Online by one of their readers. [57] French company IPC's product names used "Cyclone" for degreasers and suffix "B" for biodegradable: "Cyclone B" was renamed "Cyclone Cap Vert" ("green cap") in 2013 after protests from Jewish groups. [58] [59] A rabbi said the name was "horrible ignorance at best, and a Guinness record in evil and cynicism if the company did know the history of the name of its product." [60]

Holocaust deniers claim that Zyklon B gas was not used in the gas chambers, relying for evidence on the discredited research of Fred A. Leuchter, who found low levels of Prussian blue in samples of the gas chamber walls and ceilings. Leuchter attributed its presence to general delousing of the buildings. Leuchter's negative control, a sample of gasket material taken from a different camp building, had no cyanide residue. [61] In 1999, James Roth, the chemist who had analyzed Leuchter's samples, stated that the test was flawed because the material that was sent for testing included large chunks, and the chemical would only be within 10 microns of the surface. The surface that had been exposed to the chemical was not identified, and the large size of the specimens meant that any chemical present was diluted by an undeterminable amount. [62] In 1994, the Institute for Forensic Research in Kraków re-examined Leuchter's claim, stating that formation of Prussian blue by exposure of bricks to cyanide is not a highly probable reaction. [63] Using microdiffusion techniques, they tested 22 samples from the gas chambers and delousing chambers (as positive controls) and living quarters (as negative controls). They found cyanide residue in both the delousing chambers and the gas chambers but none in the living quarters. [64]

The only off-duty NYPD officer killed on 9/11 was hours from retiring

Posted On July 15, 2020 19:49:12

It’s usually awesome when life imitates art – especially when that art form is an action movie. The good guys usually overcome big odds and the bad guys usually get put away. But cop life doesn’t work out like that sometimes. In the movies, when a cop is just days away from retirement, the audience knows he may not make it. But real life isn’t supposed to be like that.

Unfortunately for NYPD officer John William Perry, the morning he turned in his retirement papers was Sept. 11, 2001. And he wasn’t about to miss his calling that day.

John Perry was not your average New York cop. A graduate of NYU Law School, he had an immigration law practice before he ever went to the police academy. He was a linguist who spoke Spanish, Swedish, Russian, and Portuguese, among others. Not bad for anyone, let alone a kid who grew up in Brooklyn with a learning disability. He even joined the New York State Guard and worked as a social worker for troubled kids.

He was a jack of all trades, beloved by all. He even took a few roles as an extra in NY-based television and film.

He was appointed to the NYPD in 1993 and was assigned to the 40th Precinct, in the Bronx borough of New York. The morning of September 11, he was off-duty, filing his retirement papers at 1 Police Plaza. In his next career, he wanted to be a medical malpractice lawyer. That’s when someone told him about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. Instead of leaving his badge, he picked it back up.

He dashed the few blocks to the scene and immediately began assisting other first responders with the rescue operation. Perry was last seen helping a woman out of the South Tower when it fell just before 10 a.m. that day.

“Apparently John was too slow carrying this woman,” said Arnold Wachtel, Perry’s close friend. “But knowing John, he would never leave that lady unattended. That was just like him to help people.”

Some 72 law enforcement officers and 343 FDNY firemen were killed in the 9/11 attacks that morning. John William Perry was the only off-duty NYPD officer who died in the attack. An estimated 25,000 people were saved by those who rushed to their aid, leaving only 2,800 civilians to die at the World Trade Center site. President George W. Bush awarded those killed in the attack the 9/11 Heroes Medal of Valor. Perry was also posthumously awarded the New York City Police Department’s Medal of Honor.

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Like some other nerve agents that affect the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, sarin attacks the nervous system by interfering with the degradation of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine at neuromuscular junctions. Death will usually occur as a result of asphyxia due to the inability to control the muscles involved in breathing.

Initial symptoms following exposure to sarin are a runny nose, tightness in the chest, and constriction of the pupils. Soon after, the person will have difficulty breathing and they will experience nausea and drooling. As they continue to lose control of bodily functions, they may vomit, defecate, and urinate. This phase is followed by twitching and jerking. Ultimately, the person becomes comatose and suffocates in a series of convulsive spasms. Moreover, common mnemonics for the symptomatology of organophosphate poisoning, including sarin, are the "killer Bs" of bronchorrhea and bronchospasm because they are the leading cause of death, [7] and SLUDGE – salivation, lacrimation, urination, defecation, gastrointestinal distress, and emesis (vomiting). Death may follow in one to ten minutes after direct inhalation.

Sarin has a high volatility (ease with which a liquid can turn into vapour) relative to similar nerve agents, therefore inhalation is very easy and even vapor may immediately penetrate the skin. A person's clothing can release sarin for about 30 minutes after it has come in contact with sarin gas, which can lead to exposure of other people. [8]

Management Edit

Treatment measures have been described. [8] Treatment is typically with the antidotes atropine and pralidoxime. [4] Atropine, an antagonist to muscarinic acetylcholine receptors, is given to treat the physiological symptoms of poisoning. Since muscular response to acetylcholine is mediated through nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, atropine does not counteract the muscular symptoms. Pralidoxime can regenerate cholinesterases if administered within approximately five hours. Biperiden, a synthetic acetylcholine antagonist, has been suggested as an alternative to atropine due to its better blood–brain barrier penetration and higher efficacy. [9]

Mechanism of action Edit

Specifically, sarin is a potent inhibitor of acetylcholinesterase, [10] an enzyme that degrades the neurotransmitter acetylcholine after it is released into the synaptic cleft. In vertebrates, acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter used at the neuromuscular junction, where signals are transmitted between neurons from the central nervous system to muscle fibres. Normally, acetylcholine is released from the neuron to stimulate the muscle, after which it is degraded by acetylcholinesterase, allowing the muscle to relax. A build-up of acetylcholine in the synaptic cleft, due to the inhibition of acetylcholinesterase, means the neurotransmitter continues to act on the muscle fibre, so that any nerve impulses are effectively continually transmitted.

Sarin acts on acetylcholinesterase by forming a covalent bond with the particular serine residue at the active site. Fluoride is the leaving group, and the resulting phosphothioester is robust and biologically inactive. [11] [12]

Its mechanism of action resembles that of some commonly used insecticides, such as malathion. In terms of biological activity, it resembles carbamate insecticides, such as Sevin, and the medicines pyridostigmine, neostigmine, and physostigmine.

Diagnostic tests Edit

Controlled studies in healthy men have shown that a nontoxic 0.43 mg oral dose administered in several portions over a 3-day interval caused average maximum depressions of 22 and 30%, respectively, in plasma and erythrocyte acetylcholinesterase levels. A single acute 0.5 mg dose caused mild symptoms of intoxication and an average reduction of 38% in both measures of acetylcholinesterase activity. Sarin in blood is rapidly degraded either in vivo or in vitro. Its primary inactive metabolites have in vivo serum half-lives of approximately 24 hours. The serum level of unbound isopropyl methylphosphonic acid (IMPA), a sarin hydrolysis product, ranged from 2–135 μg/L in survivors of a terrorist attack during the first four hours post-exposure. Sarin or its metabolites may be determined in blood or urine by gas or liquid chromatography, while acetylcholinesterase activity is usually measured by enzymatic methods. [13]

A newer method called "fluoride regeneration" or "fluoride reactivation" detects the presence of nerve agents for a longer period after exposure than the methods described above. Fluoride reactivation is a technique that has been explored since at least the early 2000s. This technique obviates some of the deficiencies of older procedures. Sarin not only reacts with the water in the blood plasma through hydrolysis (forming so-called 'free metabolites'), but also reacts with various proteins to form 'protein adducts'. These protein adducts are not so easily removed from the body, and remain for a longer period of time than the free metabolites. One clear advantage of this process is that the period, post-exposure, for determination of sarin exposure is much longer, possibly five to eight weeks according to at least one study. [14] [15]

Toxicity Edit

As a nerve gas, sarin in its purest form is estimated to be 26 times more deadly than cyanide. [16] The LD50 of subcutaneously injected sarin in mice is 172 μg/kg. [17]

Sarin is highly toxic, whether by contact with the skin or breathed in. The toxicity of sarin in humans is largely based on calculations from studies with animals. The lethal concentration of sarin in air is approximately 28 – 35 mg per cubic meter per minute for a two-minute exposure time by a healthy adult breathing normally (exchanging 15 liters of air per minute, lower 28 mg/m 3 value is for general population). [18] This number represents the estimated lethal concentration for 50% of exposed victims, the LCt50 value. The LCt95 or LCt100 value is estimated to be 40 – 83 mg per cubic meter for exposure time of two minutes. [19] [20] Calculating effects for different exposure times and concentrations requires following specific toxic load models. In general, brief exposures to higher concentrations are more lethal than comparable long time exposures to low concentrations. [21] There are many ways to make relative comparisons between toxic substances. The list below compares sarin to some current and historic chemical warfare agents, with a direct comparison to the respiratory LCt50:

    , 2,860 mg·min/m 2 [22] – Sarin is 81 times more lethal , 1,500 mg·min/m 2 [22] – Sarin is 43 times more lethal , 1,000 mg·min/m 2 [22] – Sarin is 28 times more lethal , 19,000 mg·min/m 2 [23] – Sarin is 543 times more lethal

Sarin is a chiral molecule because it has four chemically distinct substituents attached to the tetrahedral phosphorus center. [24] The SP form (the (–) optical isomer) is the more active enantiomer due to its greater binding affinity to acetylcholinesterase. [25] [26] The P-F bond is easily broken by nucleophilic agents, such as water and hydroxide. At high pH, sarin decomposes rapidly to nontoxic phosphonic acid derivatives. [27]

It is usually manufactured and weaponized as a racemic mixture (a 1:1 mixture of its two enantiomeric forms) as this involves a simpler synthetic process whilst providing an adequate weapon. [25] [26]

A number of production pathways can be used to create sarin. The final reaction typically involves attachment of the isopropoxy group to the phosphorus with an alcoholysis with isopropyl alcohol. Two variants of this process are common. One is the reaction of methylphosphonyl difluoride with isopropyl alcohol, which produces a racemic mixture of sarin enantiomers with hydrofluoric acid as a byproduct: [27]

The second process, uses equal quantities of methylphosphonyl difluoride and methylphosphonic acid dichloride, a mixture "Di-Di" in this process, rather than just the difluoride. This reaction also gives sarin, but hydrochloric acid as a byproduct instead. The Di-Di process was used by the United States for the production of its unitary sarin stockpile. [27]

The scheme below shows a generic example of Di-Di process in reality, the selection of reagents and reaction conditions dictate both product structure and yield. The choice of enantiomer of the mixed chloro fluoro intermediate displayed in the diagram is arbitrary, but the final substitution is selective for chloro over fluoro as the leaving group. Inert atmosphere and anhydrous conditions (Schlenk techniques) are used for synthesis of sarin and other organophosphates. [27]

As both reactions leave considerable acid in the product, consequently sarin produced in bulk by these methods has a short half life without further processing, and would be corrosive to containers and damaging to weapons systems. Various methods have been tried to resolve these problems. In addition to industrial refining techniques to purify the chemical itself, various additives have been tried to combat the effects of the acid, such as:

    was added to US sarin produced at Rocky Mountain Arsenal. [28] was added to UK sarin, with relatively poor success. [29] The Aum Shinrikyo cult experimented with triethylamine as well. [30] was used by Aum Shinrikyo for acid reduction. [31] was added to sarin produced at Rocky Mountain Arsenal to combat corrosion. [32] was included as part of the M687 155 mm field artillery shell, which was a binary sarin weapon system developed by the US Army. [33]

Another byproduct of these two chemical processes is diisopropyl methylphosphonate, formed when a second isopropyl alcohol reacts with the sarin itself. This chemical degrades into isopropyl methylphosphonic acid. [34]

The most important chemical reactions of phosphoryl halides is the hydrolysis of the bond between phosphorus and the fluoride. This P-F bond is easily broken by nucleophilic agents, such as water and hydroxide. At high pH, sarin decomposes rapidly to nontoxic phosphonic acid derivatives. [35] [36] The initial breakdown of sarin is into isopropyl methylphosphonic acid (IMPA), a chemical that is not commonly found in nature except as a breakdown product of sarin (this is useful for detecting the recent deployment of sarin as a weapon). IMPA then degrades into methylphosphonic acid (MPA), which can also be produced by other organophosphates. [37]

Sarin with residual acid degrades after a period of several weeks to several months. The shelf life can be shortened by impurities in precursor materials. According to the CIA, some Iraqi sarin had a shelf life of only a few weeks, owing mostly to impure precursors. [38]

Along with nerve agents such as tabun and VX, sarin can have a short shelf life. Therefore, it is usually stored as two separate precursors that produce sarin when combined. [39] Sarin's shelf life can be extended by increasing the purity of the precursor and intermediates and incorporating stabilizers such as tributylamine. In some formulations, tributylamine is replaced by diisopropylcarbodiimide (DIC), allowing sarin to be stored in aluminium casings. In binary chemical weapons, the two precursors are stored separately in the same shell and mixed to form the agent immediately before or when the shell is in flight. This approach has the dual benefit of solving the stability issue and increasing the safety of sarin munitions.

Sarin was discovered in 1938 in Wuppertal-Elberfeld in Germany by scientists at IG Farben who were attempting to create stronger pesticides it is the most toxic of the four G-Series nerve agents made by Germany. The compound, which followed the discovery of the nerve agent tabun, was named in honor of its discoverers: Schrader, Ambros, Gerhard Ritter, and Hans-Jürgen von der Linde. [40]

Use as a weapon Edit

In mid-1939, the formula for the agent was passed to the chemical warfare section of the German Army Weapons Office, which ordered that it be brought into mass production for wartime use. Pilot plants were built, and a high-production facility was under construction (but was not finished) by the end of World War II. Estimates for total sarin production by Nazi Germany range from 500 kg to 10 tons. [41] Though sarin, tabun and soman were incorporated into artillery shells, Germany did not use nerve agents against Allied targets. Adolf Hitler refused to initiate the use of gases such as sarin as weapons. [42]

Sarin Gas: This Chemical Weapon Might Be the Worst Way to Die

Only thirty-five milligrams of sarin per cubic meter are necessary to kill a human being after two minutes of exposure.

Here's What You Need to Know: Chemical weapons are inherently indiscriminate weapons of terror.

(This article first appeared in 2017.)

The residents of Khan Sheikhoun probably thought they were in for just another ordinary day of civil war when they woke up early in the morning of April 4, 2017 to the whine of approaching Syrian Air Force Su-22 attack jets. The town of around fifty thousand people was situated west of Aleppo in Idlib Province, long a stronghold of rebel groups opposing the government of Bashar al-Assad since 2011. Artillery and air attacks were a horribly routine aspect of daily life there, as they are in many parts of Syria, divided by numerous warring factions.

Residents later reported that the munitions dropped by the jets released clouds of poisonous gas. Even this was hardly unheard of in Idlib Province. Even while Assad handed over his stockpiles of mustard gas and deadly nerve agents, government helicopters launched at least a dozen chlorine-gas attacks on communities in Idlib Province alone in 2014 and 2015. However, while chlorine gas causes horrifying respiratory problems, particularly in children and the elderly, it usually killed “only” a handful of people per attack, if any.

However, rescuers arriving from outside Khan Sheikhoun beheld an unexpectedly nightmarish sight: more than six hundred civilians lying paralyzed in their homes or helpless on the ground, limbs convulsing, saliva foaming from their noses and mouths as they gasped for breath. Local first responders—the lucky ones that hadn’t died or fallen violently ill when arriving on the scene—were frantically spraying the twitching bodies with hoses.

These symptoms correspond to the effects of sarin, a colorless, odorless nerve agent that disrupts acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that helps a muscle relax once it has completed an action. By blocking the enzyme, sarin has the effect of continuously triggering those muscles, making breathing effectively impossible as well as causing the breakdown of other bodily functions, and leading to the discharge of bodily fluids.

Though inhalation of the vapors is the primary vector of the agent, even skin contact can transmit a fatal dose of sarin to victims, who may die within one to ten minutes of exposure due to asphyxiation and the loss of bodily functions. Those surviving initial exposure may suffer permanent brain damage if they do not receive swift treatment. Even worse, particles of the gas cling to clothing, food and water, and can remain lethal for up to thirty minutes. That was why responders were washing the victims with hoses.

Reports currently suggest that eighty to one hundred of the residents were killed, and over six hundred injured. On Thursday, a Turkish hospital claimed its examination of the victims confirmed the use of sarin gas.

Chemical weapons are often collectively labeled weapons of mass destruction, but many of them—fortunately—have a low fatality rate, serving principally as weapons of terror rather than attrition.

Sarin and other nerve agents are a notable exception. Only thirty-five milligrams of sarin per cubic meter are necessary to kill a human being after two minutes of exposure, compared to nineteen thousand milligrams for chlorine gas, or 1,500 for phosgene gas, the deadliest chemical weapon used in World War I. The latter invisible gas often killed those affected the day after exposure, meaning it was not especially practical for achieving battlefield objectives. Mustard gas, which was highly visible and widely feared, caused horrible blistering injuries on contact with the skin, but killed only two percent of those it scarred.

The first nerve agent was accidentally discovered by German scientist Gerhard Schrader in 1938, who had to be hospitalized for three weeks after exposing himself to a partial dose of tabun. Realizing the gas’s potential as a weapon, Nazi Germany developed four different “G-Series” nerve agents and produced tens of thousands of tons of the deadly poisons—at the cost of a dozen workers, killed by contact with the deadly liquid despite the use of protective suits.

Fortunately, Hitler ultimately shied away from using nerve agents. This wasn’t because of some deeply buried shred of decency. When Hitler inquired about using sarin against the Allied powers, he was told by IG Farben chemist Otto Ambrose—who himself had tested the gas on human subjects—that the Allies probably had nerve agent stocks too, and would likely retaliate on an even greater scale. This was a fortunate misperception, as the Allies did not possess any nerve agents at all and were completely unaware the Germans had them.

After World War II, both the Soviet Union and Western nations studied up on the German poisons and developed even deadlier “V” series nerve agents, most notably the VX gas rather inaccurately depicted in the 1996 film The Rock. However, the taboo against using lethal chemical weapons on the battlefield was mostly respected—with some notable exceptions.

Egypt dropped mustard and phosgene gas from Il-28 bombers over villages in North Yemen between 1963 and 1968, killing an estimated 1,500 people. Nerve agents may also have been used by Vietnamese troops in Cambodia, Cuban troops in Angola and the Pinochet regime in Chile. Iraq unleashed mustard and sarin gas during the Iran-Iraq War on poorly armed Iranian militias executing human wave attacks. Then on March 16, 1988, Iraqi aircraft bombed the Kurdish town of Halabja with a mixture of both gasses, massacring between three and five thousand people in just five hours.

As my colleague Paul Iddon pointed out in a recent article, there’s a common thread in the use of chemical weapons since World War I: they’re nearly always used by governments against victims that lack the ability to retaliate in kind.

Even as far back as World War I, the opposing armies successfully phased in training and equipment that limited the effectiveness of chemical weapons. Whenever one side employed a new type of gas, the other soon copied it and retaliated. Chemical attacks failed to change the outcome of a single major battle, despite their horrifying effects. Even worse, unpredictable winds frequently blew the poisonous clouds back onto friendly troops or towards civilians, who were much less well prepared to deal with them. That explains why many armies otherwise bristling with more and more deadly weapons aren’t begging to bring gas warfare back.

As early as 1925, the Geneva Protocol banned the use of chemical weapons in international conflicts, and was succeeded in 1993 by the Chemical Weapons Convention, which further forbade their stockpiling and production. (Syria is a signatory to the former but not the latter.) The United States renounced first use of chemical weapons in 1969 under Nixon, and then committed itself to destroying its stockpiles under George H. W. Bush in 1991—a process which was reportedly 89 percent complete in 2012.

Syria came to the brink of war with the United States after a sarin gas attack on August 2013 that killed hundreds of Syrians in Ghouta, a rebel-held suburb of Damascus. It was a clear violation of the international taboo against chemical weapons (which Syria denied even possessing at the time), and more specifically, the “red line” threat made by President Obama. However, Russia brokered a deal in which Assad pledged to give up his military-grade chemical arms in order to avert a U.S. attack. The process of destroying nearly six hundred tons of mustard, sarin and VX gas was officially completed in August 2014, and involved many international observers and contractors.

However, this did not bring a halt to government air attacks using chlorine gas to terrorize rebel-held communities. Because of its broad civilian applications, there is no way to “ban” chlorine. Syrian rebels—mostly, but not exclusively, belonging to ISIS—have also occasionally launched rockets laden with chlorine or mustard gas on government-held territory in Syria and even Iraq.

Meanwhile, there were persistent rumors that the Syrian army’s destruction of its chemical stocks was less than comprehensive, and that the Assad regime had hidden away small quantities to serve as a future deterrent. International inspectors also reported discovering trace quantities of sarin, VX and ricin in facilities that had not been listed as storing chemical weapons by the Syrian government.

Damascus admitted to launching the airstrike on Khan Sheikhoun with Su-22 fighter-bombers, but maintains its warplanes did not use chemical munitions. Predictably, Moscow claimed the chemical attack was the opposition’s fault, alleging Syrian bombs had hit a rebel chemical-weapons workshop. This was far from the first time the allied governments have advanced some variant of the classic “they bombed themselves” defense in regards to chemical attacks that mostly land in rebel territory.

However, chemical-arms experts don’t buy it, pointing out that even if opposition fighters had somehow managed to produce and store sarin agents with the binary precursors side by side for rapid use, blowing them up with a bomb would simply not have dispersed the gases to such murderous effect. They argue that such a deadly attack could only have been carried out by properly deployed chemical munitions.

It is vital that the Syrian Civil War not lead to a further breakdown in international norms against chemical warfare, resulting in their more frequent use in conflicts across the world. Chemical weapons have repeatedly proven to be inherently indiscriminate terror weapons, and have killed far more civilians than combatants in the Syrian conflict.

SARIN Nerve Gas, I.G. Farben, and the Nazis

Bundesarchiv Bild 175-04413, KZ Auschwitz, Einfahrt, Stanislaw Mucha, 1945
IG Farben was founded on December 25, 1925, as a merger of the following six companies:
Hoechst (including Cassella and Chemische Fabrik Kalle)
Chemische Fabrik Griesheim-Elektron
Chemische Fabrik vorm. Weiler Ter Meer
” (Emphasis added)

I.G. Farben, Werke Monowitz, 1941, KZ Auschwitz-Monowitz (Auschwitz III)

SARIN nerve gas stands for Schrader, Ambros, Rüdiger and Van der Linde, its discoverers. If we have been surprised to learn that a notorious and important Japanese fascist, Nobusuke Kishi, was little punished for his crimes, and is the grandfather of current Japanese PM Shinzo Abe (, we are more shocked that those closely involved in Nazi crimes were little punished and sometimes walked free.

While many common folk in Germany, especially those still children, or not yet born in the Nazi era, have engaged in self-flagellation over the crimes of the Third Reich, real criminals involved with the regime have walked free and prospered. Were they set free in order to obtain the formulas of these chemical weapons? Or was there another reason?

While the German consumer carries the weight of the taxation for the shift to green energy, heavy industry and the chemical industry have refused to pay their share. Some of these chemical-heavy industrial companies are the same ones who either actively supported or at least benefitted from Hitler’s policies. [See notes at very bottom of post]

Clearly the world lives in more than the long shadow of Nazi Germany. We live with the same corporations, the same mentality, we live with the legacy of chemical weapons, nuclear energy, and nuclear missiles and more. It seems that the Allies lost the war, not only in Japan, but also in Germany. Is that why Obama is trying to import German nuclear waste to dump on America?

Gerhard Schrader, the “S” in Sarin, “discovered several very effective insecticides, including bladan (the first fully synthetic contact insecticide), and parathion (E 605). In 1936, while employed by the large German conglomerate IG Farben, he was experimenting with a class of compounds called organophosphates, which killed insects by interrupting their nervous systems. Instead of a new insecticide, he accidentally discovered tabun, an enormously toxic organophosphate compound still sometimes stockpiled today as a nerve agent. During World War II, under the Nazi regime, teams led by Schrader discovered two more organophosphate nerve agents, and a fourth after the war:
Tabun (1936)
Sarin (1938)
Soman (1944)
Cyclosarin (1949)
(Emphasis added) Schrader seems not to have even been prosecuted for war crimes! More on him further down.

=> IG FARBEN was closely involved in the war of conquest of the Third Reich. The company followed the armed forces into the conquered countries of Europe and took over considerable parts of the chemical industry there within a few weeks. It also took coal mines and oil production. The later Chairman of the BAYER Board of Management, Kurt Hansen, played a leading role in these robberies.
=> In the war criminal trials in Nuremberg, IG FARBEN also faced a trial of its own. One section, for example, states the following: ‘It is undisputed that criminal experiments were undertaken by SS physicians on concentration camp prisoners. These experiments served the express purpose of testing the products of IG FARBEN
=> The managers condemned in Nuremberg were able to continue their careers unhindered after sitting out their sentences. Fritz ter Meer, for example, became Chairman of the Supervisory Board of BAYER. During his interrogation in Nuremberg, he said that the slave laborers in Auschwitz had ‘not been made to suffer particularly badly as they were to have been killed anyway
=> In BAYER laboratories, research was carried out into chemical war gases. The inventor of SARIN and TABUN, Dr. Gerhard Schrader, was head of the BAYER pesticides department after WW II. During the Vietnam war, BAYER was involved in the development of AGENT ORANGE. Production was carried out at the firm MOBAY, founded jointly by BAYER and MONSANTO
“. Excerpted from: “Press Release, March 21, 2013, Coalition against Bayer Dangers, 150th anniversary / Countermotions to shareholder meeting: BAYER: Company History Whitewashed” (Emphasis added this and more:

Bayer claims it is no longer a legal entity related to IG Farben, and yet:
PRESS RELEASE, November 14, 2006, Coalition against Bayer Dangers,
BAYER honours war criminal Fritz ter Meer
— Why, three months ago, in November 2006, did the modern Bayer Corporation place a wreath from the “Bayer Board of Trustees and Supervisory Board” at the grave site of convicted Nuremberg war criminal Fritz ter Meer?
— Why does the post-1952 Bayer Corporation currently administer a scholarship fund named for this same individual?
” See more here:

Fritz ter Meer (July 4, 1884 – October 27, 1967) was a German chemist and Nazi war criminal.

From 1925 to 1945 Fritz ter Meer was on the board of IG Farben AG. He was involved in the planning of Monowitz concentration camp, a satellite camp of KZ Auschwitz. Fritz ter Meer was sentenced to seven years in prison in the Nuremberg Trials in 1948. After he was released in 1951 he became upervisory board chairman (Aufsichtsratsvorsitzender) of Bayer AG.
He was released early in the summer of 1950 because of ‘good behavior’ in prison for war criminals from the prison in Landsberg and was given the removal of the restrictive clause of the Allied War Crimes Act No. 35 in 1956 and became Chairman of Bayer AG. In subsequent years, he also took on board positions at a number of other companies, including, inter alia, Theodor Goldschmidt AG, Commerzbank AG, Bank Association, Duewag, VIAG and Union Bank AG, West Germany. His achievements in the reconstruction of the chemical industry in Germany are considered significant.
” (Emphasis added
For those who think that “ter” is a typo, it is not. It appears likely regional dialect for “der”. See:

The “A” in SARIN stands for:
Otto Ambros (19 May 1901 – 23 July 1990) was a German chemist and Nazi war criminal, notably involved with the research of chemical nerve agents…. Beginning in 1926, Ambros worked at BASF in Ludwigshafen. In 1930 he spent a year studying in the Far East.

From 1934 he worked at IG Farben, becoming head of their Schkopau plant in 1935. His division of IG Farben developed chemical weapons, including the nerve agents sarin (in 1938) and soman (in 1944). In this capacity, he was an advisor to Carl Krauch, a company executive.

Ambros then managed the IG Farben factories at Dyhernfurth, which produced sarin and soman, and at Gendorf, which produced mustard gas, a skin irritant. In 1944 he was awarded the Knight’s Cross of War Merit Cross. He was an expert on tabun, an extremely lethal chemical.

Ambros was arrested by the US Army in 1946. He had tested poisons and chemicals on concentration camp inmates, and had overseen the IG Buna Werke rubber plant at Auschwitz. At Nuremberg in 1948 he was sentenced to eight years confinement, and was ultimately released from Landsberg Prison early in 1952.

Release from prison
After his release, he became an adviser to chemical companies such as J. Peter Grace, Dow Chemical, as well as the U.S. Army Chemical Corps, and Konrad Adenauer.
” Emphasis added References and more here:

Ambros got a light sentence considering his crimes and was let out early! And, went on to advise for Dow Chemical and the US Army Chemical Corps! There is something strange here.

Interior of gas chamber, Stutthof concentration camp, Public Domain via Wikimedia

According to Corporate Watch:
5.1. Bayer and War Crimes
Chemical Weapons

Bayer is implicated in the development of chemical weapons. During WW1 Bayer was involved in the development and manufacture of a range of poisonous gasses used in the trenches, including chlorine gas and mustard gas. As part of IG Farben, Bayer were also involved in the development of the next generation of chemical warfare agents, toxic organophosphate compounds. Tabun was first examined for use as an insecticide in late 1936 in a program under the direction of Dr. Gerhard Schrader at the Bayer facility at Elberfeld/Wuppertal. An accidental exposure of Dr. Schrader and a laboratory assistant to Tabun vapors made it quite clear that this compound had potential military applications. Tabun was then mass produced by IG Farben during WWII although it was never used as a weapon. Schrader was also responsible for the discovery of related, but more toxic, nerve agents including Sarin and Soman.[213] Whilst working on chemical weapons Schrader discovered the chemical compound E 605, the principle ingredient in the pesticide parathion. After the post-war dissolution of IG Farben, Schrader continued to develop pesticides for Bayer. After World War II, Bayer and other companies began to introduce a large number of organophosphorus compounds, including parathion, into the marketplace for insect control. The difficulty with organophosphates (OPs) is that they are neurotoxic due to their effects on acetycholinesterase, and unfortunately this enzyme occurs in humans as well as in insects.[214]

The links between chemicals developed as ‘pesticides’ with chemicals suitable for weapons has continued at Bayer. In 1989 it was revealed that Bayer hold a patent for a compound chemically identical to the VX gas used by the US military. The compound was discovered by Gerhard Schrader, and was patented in Germany in 1957, and in the US in 1961. Bayer claim that the compound was developed as a potential pesticide and that the US military application of the compound has nothing to do with them.[215]

Bayer, IG Farben and World War II: Slave Labour and Deadly Gas

Bayer (along with BASF and Hoechst) was an original member of the IG Farben group. During WWII, IG Farben built a synthetic rubber and oil plant complex called Monowitz close to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Inmates worked as slave labour for IG Farben,[216] and when they were too weak to work they were killed in the gas chambers. IG Farben subsidiary Degesch manufactured Zyklon B, the gas used in the concentration camp gas chambers.[217]

Bayer head Carl Duisberg personally propagated the concept of forced labour during WW1.[218] The company placed itself under a large burden of guilt due to its heavy involvement in the planning, preparation and implementation of both world wars. The International War Crimes Tribunal pronounced the company guilty for its share of responsibility in the war and the crimes of the Nazi dictatorship.

On 29 July 1948, sentences for mass murder and slavery were handed down at the Nuremberg trials to twelve Farben executives. The longest sentence of only seven years was dealt out was to Dr. Fritz ter Meer, a top executive and scientist on the IG Farben managing board.[219]

After the war, IG Farben separated into three giant corporations: Bayer, Hoechst and BASF. On 1 August 1963, Bayer celebrated its 100th anniversary at the Cologne fairgrounds. The opening speech was delivered by Dr. Fritz ter Meer, not only out of prison but – a convicted mass murderer -elevated to the position of Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Bayer.[220]

More than eight million people had to do slave work for the Nazi war industry, and none ever received compensation from the companies or the government. David Fishel, one of the few survivors of the camp, sued the companies for compensation. When he was 13 he was forced to work for IG Farben carrying 50-kilo bags of coal and cement when he weighed only 75 pounds.[221]

Bayer, IG Farben and Human Experiments[222]

IG Farben also conducted experiments on humans. Eva Mozes Kor, among the 1,500 sets of twins experimented on by the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele, claims that IG Farben monitored and supervised medical experiments at the Nazi concentration camp where she was interned. She claims the experiments involved toxic chemicals that IG Farben (Bayer) provided. In some of the experiments, the lawsuit states, prisoners were injected with germs known to cause diseases, ‘to test the effectiveness of various drugs’ manufactured by IG Farben. Mengele conducted genetic experiments there in an effort to create a super race of blonde, blue-eyed Aryans who would be born in multiple births. Both Kor and her sister survived their 10-month ordeal in the concentration camp and were liberated by Soviet troops in January 1945. They were nearly 10 years old. According to Irwin Levin (Kor’s Lawyer), IG Farben paid Nazi officials during World War II for access to those confined in the camps and collaborated in Nazi experiments as a form of research and development. The lawsuit sought unspecified punitive damages and the recovery of profits it maintains IG Farben (Bayer) earned as a result of such research.

Eventually Eva Kor and various others were paid out of a fund put up by the German government and the companies. Bayer gave 100 million German Marks to the fund. The entire fund (totalling 10 billion German Marks) was a result of various American lawsuits – without the loss of reputation in the US the companies would never have agreed.

Bayer and the Congo War [223]

A recent report commissioned by the UN Secretary General stated that the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) centred on the control of five mineral resources, including colombite-tantalite or coltan.[224] Coltan is a hardening agent for metal used in the manufacture of electrical products. In October a report listed H.C. Starck (a wholly owned subsidiary of Bayer AG), as the buyer of over 80% of the coltan originating in the DRC.[225] By purchasing coltan from one or other of the warring factions in the DRC, H.C. Starck have been fuelling the two-year conflict. The fighting has killed over 250,000 people, and a million people have been displaced in East Congo.” (Emphasis added references and much more about Bayer at link:
The throwing of chemical weapons into the trenches, where the soldiers were hiding, is what made World War I one of the most horrific wars, if not the most: “The first killing agent employed by the German military was chlorine. Chlorine is a powerful irritant that can inflict damage to the eyes, nose, throat and lungs. At high concentrations and prolonged exposure it can cause death by asphyxiation. German chemical companies BASF, Hoechst and Bayer (which formed the IG Farben conglomerate in 1925) had been producing chlorine as a by-product of their dye manufacturing. In cooperation with Fritz Haber of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institutefor Chemistry in Berlin, they began developing methods of discharging chlorine gas against enemy trenches. According to the fieldpost letter of Major Karl von Zingler, the first chlorine gas attack by German forces took place before 2 January 1915: ‘In other war theaters it does not go better and it has been said that our Chlorine is very effective. 140 English officers have been killed. This is a horrible weapon…”. (Emphasis added)

US National Archives, Nuernberg War Crime Trials, USA v. Carl Krach et. al. (Case VI), Aug. 14, 1947-July 30, 1948, Roll 13 (red markings added). Full documents and much, much more at:

NOTE Regarding Chemical and Heavy Industry and Energy Policy:

Sean Spicer's Regret Is Not Enough

Nazi Germany launched its euthanasia program, using poison gas to kill people whose only crime was to be mentally ill or physically disabled. They were unworthy of life, the Nazis had determined.

After Adolf Hitler's Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, in June 1941, they started using mobile vans to gas hundreds of thousands of people, most of them Jews, Roma and the mentally ill. The Nazis added the hermetically sealed vans to their arsenal after their rank-and-file murderers whined about the mental and physical toll of shooting so many women and children.

This was just the beginning.

That same year, the Nazis decided to wipe from the face of the earth all Jews — including their Jews, in Germany — by deporting them to killing centers and gassing them. The "Final Solution," they called it, and Zyklon B was the gas of choice. At the height of the deportations, 6,000 Jews a day were gassed at Auschwitz.

By the end of World War II, the Nazis had killed more than 6 million Jews.

As White House press secretary Sean Spicer illustrated this week, we can never assume that most Americans know this.

On the first day of Passover, Spicer attempted to cast Syria's Bashar Assad, who recently used sarin gas on his own citizens, as more evil than Hitler. He did this by misrepresenting the Holocaust.

"We didn't use chemical weapons in World War II," Spicer said during a press briefing. "You know, you had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn't even sink to using chemical weapons."

A reporter asked Spicer later in the briefing to clarify this shocking misrepresentation of Holocaust history.

Spicer's response: "I think when you come to sarin gas, there was no — he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing. . He brought them into the Holocaust center I understand that. But what I'm saying, in the way that Assad used (gas), where he went into towns, dropped (it) down to innocent — into the middle of towns. . So the use of it — I appreciate the clarification there. (Saying Hitler did not use chemical weapons) was not the intent."

The worldwide outrage is heartening, but my God. How is the White House press secretary even capable of this?

Spicer acknowledged the inexcusable, but only incrementally. First he attempted to walk back his comments in a statement: "In no way was I trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust, however, I was trying to draw a contrast of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on innocent people."

Later that day, he told CNN: "I mistakenly used an inappropriate and insensitive reference to the Holocaust, for which, frankly, there is no comparison."

By Wednesday, he was in full triage mode.

"It really is painful to myself to know that I did something like that," he told Greta Van Susteren in an interview at the Newseum. "I made a mistake there's no other way to say it. I got into a topic that I shouldn't have, and I screwed up."

There is no apology to mitigate the harm of Spicer's comments. This was no slip of the tongue. This was a false narrative about the Holocaust, and when given the chance to rephrase, Spicer doubled down. He has dishonored the millions who died in the Holocaust, survivors and generations of their descendants who still grieve.

Such an alarming disregard for the truth cannot be undone with an admission that one has "screwed up," no matter how sincere the regret. The press secretary denied the facts of the Holocaust, and he did this as spokesman for the president of the United States.

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, in his memoirs, "Night":

"Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.

"Never shall I forget that smoke.

"Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.

"Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever.

"Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.

"Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.

"Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself.

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