Zyklon B

Zyklon B label — Note that "Gift" translates as "poison"
Zyklon B label — Note that "Gift" translates as "poison"

Zyklon B was the tradename of a pesticide ultimately used by Nazi Germany in some Holocaust gas chambers. It is pronounced as (tsʏkloːn ˈbeː) and alternately refered to as "Cyclon" due to its cyanide components. It consisted of a quantity of small pellets, fiber discs, or diatomaceous earth substrates which were impregnated with hydrocyanic acid (prussic acid), a stabilizer, and a warning odorant. The substrates evolved gaseous hydrogen cyanide (HCN) once removed from their airtight containers.

Use on humans

The pesticide was used as a lethal chemical weapon by Nazi Germany in the holocaust gas chambers of the Auschwitz Birkenau and Majdanek extermination camps.

Zyklon B was used in the concentration camps initially for delousing to control typhus.

In January or February, 1940, 250 Gypsy children from Brno in the Buchenwald concentration camp were used as guinea pigs for testing the Zyklon B gas (see Proester's report ref.). In September 1941, the experiments with Zyklon B were performed in Auschwitz I. Zyklon B was provided by the German companies Degesch (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Schädlingsbekämpfung mbH) and Testa (Tesch und Stabenow, Internationale Gesellschaft für Schädlingsbekämpfung m.b.H.), under license from patentholder IG Farben. The Nazis ordered Degesch to produce Zyklon B without the warning odorant, in breach of German law. After the war, two directors of Tesch were tried by a British military court and were executed for their part in supplying the chemical. Coincidently, Zyklon B was originally developed in the 1920s by Fritz Haber, a German Jew who was forced to emigrate in 1934.

The use of the word Zyklon (German for cyclone) continues to prompt angry reactions from Jewish groups. In 2002 both Bosch Siemens Hausgeräte and Umbro were forced to withdraw from attempts to use or trademark the term for their products.

Zyklon A was also used as a pesticide, with methyl cyanoformate as the active agent. Its manufacture was banned under the Treaty of Versailles as it could be an intermediate in poison gas production.


  • Emil Proester, Vraždeni čs. cikanu v Buchenwaldu (The murder of Czech Gypsies in Buchenwald). Document No. UV CSPB K-135 on deposit in the Archives of the Museum of the Fighters Against Nazism, Prague. 1940. (Quoted in: Miriam Novitch, Le génocide des Tziganes sous le régime nazi (Genocide of Gypsies by the Nazi Regime), Paris, AMIF, 1968)

External link

fr:Zyklon B it:Zyklon B he:ציקלון בי nl:Zyklon B pl:Cyklon B pt:Zyklon B sl:Zyklon B fi:Zyklon B sv:Zyklon B


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