Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The WW II Gas Story

At the end of the late 1800s, Francis Galton (combination geographer, inventor, meteorologist, statistician, sociologist, anthropologist, and lecturer) sat down and read his cousin's new book. His cousin? Charles Darwin.  Yeah, that Charles Darwin who wrote the theory of evolution.

There's a lot of fine details with Galton.  He was apparently bright as a kid.....knowing a fair amount of Greek and Latin before he was seven.

After reading Darwin's book....Galton proposed this idea of what would become Eugenics, give eventually birth to the Hadamar facility and its transformation, and lead onto the death of millions of Jews at the hands of the Nazis.

The fact that he produced well over 300 books in his life and was widely read in the science and political field....gave his idea on Eugenics a platform to exist.

The basic theme to Eugenics?  There were way too many idiots and incompetent people in the you needed to weed these people out.  Galton's chief concept was that you'd sterilize and castrate enough people and over a generation or'd fix this problem.  We aren't talking about a friendly optional sterilization or castration program.....we are talking about a mandatory function.

In roughly twenty you gazed across the landscape of the civilized world (the US and Europe)....birth control, marriage laws (restrictions), mandatory placement of the mentally ill into facilities, forced abortions, mandated sterilization/castration, and ultimately genocide itself.....came into play.

In some ways, Galton presented an intellectual and scientific argument that made sense on paper, and it's ultimate desire was a better world.  How you got there....was ethically wrong in a thousand different ways.

Hadamar, Germany is about an hour's drive west of the middle of nowhere.  In the late 1800s, they were operating a mental-holding facility.  Galton's Eugenics idea was picked by the folks there and became a practiced science (science is likely a poor term to use in this case).

Month after month, Hadamar progressed into their application of the science, and there was nothing much to hinder or slow them down.

Forced sterilization became a pretty routine thing at Hadamar.  In the short period leading up to 1941, Hadamar had killed off around 10,000 Germans (these were the handicapped and mentally disturbed Germans, not Jews).  The gas used for this group?  Just plain carbon monoxide.  You'd run a vehicle and simply pipe the monoxide into the room.  The facility was basically given a blank check by the Nazi-led government to continue with it's program.

At some point in 1941....the number of bodies being disposed (burned) at the Hadamar facility....became noticed by the local townspeople, and it became public knowledge.  This led to the local bishop sending off a letter to Berlin and noting that it was not acceptable behavior.  This got the Berlin crowd a bit worried.....mostly over the public knowing and understanding what was going on.

So, there was some thinking put into this, and Hadamar's staff was moved a couple of locations, and these would become the concentration camps that we all remember from history lessons.

The carbon monoxide replacement element in the new camps?  Well....Zyklon B.

Yeah, it's not a household name.  It came out of the late 1800s and agricultural developments in California.  The product was originally called Hydrogen Cyanide, and it was used for pesticide control.  The Germans (via Degesch Company) took the product and redefined it.  Again, for the purpose of pesticide control.  You could use it for controlling fleas, or clearing out bug-infested areas.  There were various legit purposes for the agent.

Why Zyklon B?  If you go and read through all the literature on the Nazi era and how this was simply a pick by one German military officer (a Captain) who used it for execution purposes over a couple of Russian prisoners in 1941.  It was quick, effective, and an agent that you could easily come across.  By word of mouth, this traveled around, and within a year, it was the main extermination tools for the concentration camps.  A pesticide that started in California sixty years prior....hard to believe.

Hadamar?  It gets mentioned once in a while, but it's rare that history professors pick up the topic and talk about the behavior and standards set by this group of doctors.

The use of Sarin or more advanced chemical warfare elements?  No.  My suspicion is that Zyklon B was an agent which was regarded more as a pesticide than a CW agent.  If you'd used Sarin or the more advanced were taking various risks with the camp guards or support staff.  The fact that it was already used for clearing out bug-infested warehouses and train-cars....made it a fairly used item, with people knowing how to handle it.

As for Eugenics?  It's rarely discussed today and generally regarded as a bogus-science.

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