In March 1919 the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Schädlingsbekämpfung mbH (Degesch, lit. “German Limited Company for Pest Control”) was founded by a consortium of German chemical companies including Degussa, and initially led by chemistry Nobel laureate Fritz Haber. Haber had World War I experience in the development of poison gas for the German chemical warfare program. At Degesch, Ferdinand Flury developed Zyklon A in 1920. Its development was a major advance over previous methods of delivering hydrocyanic acid for pest control because of its improved chemical stability and the presence of a warning odorant. Walter Heerdt, Bruno Tesch and Gerhard Peters were all collaborators of Fritz Haber working at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry at Berlin-Dahlem. Out of this group of Haber assistants, Walter Heerdt was named the official inventor of Zyklon B in a Degesch patent application from 20 June 1922 (number DE 438818). Reichspatentamt awarded the patent on 27 December 1926. From 1929 onwards the U.S. used Zyklon B to disinfect the freight trains and clothes of Mexican immigrants entering the U.S. Farm Securities Administration photographer Marion Post Wolcott recorded the use of cyanide gas and Zyklon B by the Public Health Service at the New Orleans Quarantine Station during the 1930s.
In early 1942, Zyklon B had emerged as the preferred extermination tool of the Nazi regime for both the Auschwitz-Birkenau and Majdanek extermination camps. The chemical claimed the lives of roughly 1.2 million people in these camps. Rudolf Höss, commandant of Auschwitz, said that the use of Zyklon-B came about on the initiative of one of his subordinates, Captain Karl Fritzsch, who used the substance to kill some Russian POWs in late August 1941. The experiment was repeated on more Russian POWs, with Höss watching, in September of the same year. The emergence of Zyklon-B as the preferred chemical was a multistranded process. Holocaust deniers claim that Zyklon B gas was not used in gas chambers. (source: Wikipedia)
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