Zyklon B was the tradename of a pesticide ultimately used by Nazi Germany in some Holocaust gas chambers. The reason why it was called Zyklon B is not certain. Some say it stands for Zyklon-Blausäure and some say it was named that way because it contained Cyankohlensäureester. It consisted of little pellets or discs of wood pulp or diatomaceous earth which were impregnated with hydrocyanic acid or HCN, a stabilizer and a warning odorant/irritant. The pellets evolvedhydrogen cyanide as a gas once removed from their airtight containers
Use on humans
The pesticide was used 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 September 1941, the first experiments were performed in Auschwitz I to test the killing of humans with the poison. Zyklon B was provided by the German companies ‘Degesch (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Schädlingsbekämpfung GmbH) and Tesch und Stabenow, under license from I.G. Farben, which held the patent. The Nazis ordered Degesch to produce Zyklon B without the warning chemical, a 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. 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 a pesticide, using 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.