The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

How long does it take to ventilate fully an area fumigated by Zyklon-B?

30. How long does it take to ventilate fully an area fumigated by Zyklon-B?

The IHR says:

Normally about 20 hours. The whole procedure is extremely involved and technical. Gas masks have to be used and only well-trained technicians are employed.

Nizkor replies:

No. The "20 hours" figure is irrelevant for a variety of reasons.

First of all, the figure is intended to apply to ordinary, unventilated, commercial- or home-use buildings. One should not reenter an ordinary building within that period of time, because there is little if any forced ventilation. Furthermore, ordinary items like carpets, drapes, furniture, and so on lengthen the time required to restore fresh air. The Nazi gas chambers, on the other hand, were empty concrete rooms, forcibly ventilated, so even five minutes was enough to recycle the air (see Gutman, Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, 1994, p. 232). Some gas chambers did not have forced-ventilation systems; in those, the people who took the bodies out wore gas masks.

Also, there is a tremendous safety factor allowed for. Safety standards don't apply in wartime, and especially not when the aim is to kill a thousand people as quickly as possible. The Germans had plenty of experience with gas in general, and Zyklon in particular, since it was used so often in delousing.

Perhaps the Holocaust-deniers' next claim will be that the Germans never could have shot down any Allied planes, because it is impossible to fire a bomber's machine-gun while one is properly wearing a safety-belt according to FAA regulations.

Furthermore, the SS used Sonderkommando, prisoners used as forced labor, to remove the corpses from the gas chambers and cremate them. Needless to say, they didn't care much if the Sonderkommando would be hurt by the remaining gas. They were operating under a death sentence anyway -- the first thing each new Sonderkommando unit did was to burn the corpses of the previous unit.

If the "20 hours ventilation period" above was true, this would mean that the corpses of people executed using cyanide gas in US gas chambers would remain tied to the chair 20 hours after they were killed.

See also question 31, and the appropriate section of the Auschwitz FAQ.

Recommended Reading: Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp

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