photography by swartz



19. Zyklon B


In the gas chambers of Auschwitz/Birkenau, the Nazis killed their victims with prussic acid gas, known as Zyklon B.

Each of the five crematoria at Auschwitz/Birkenau consisted of three elements dressing room, gas chamber, and cremation facility. The prisoners were told to undress in a room that could hold 1,000 people. They were then herded into the underground "bathroom." A sign on the doorway read, Cleanliness Brings Freedom! Fake shower heads were fitted on the ceiling. Approximately 2,000 victims were contained at any one time in each of the four gas chambers in Birkenau. After the doors had been sealed shut, the chalky pellets of Zyklon B were poured into the chamber through special vents in the roof. Within 15-20 minutes, the trapped victims were dead. Ventilators removed the asphyxiating gas. The doors were opened, and jewelry and gold tooth fillings were removed from the bodies, after which the bodies were put into elevators and brought up one floor to the incinerators.

Crematorium II at Birkenau had fifteen ovens, which were capable of burning 45 to 75 corpses at once over 1,000 bodies a day. More than 1,100,000 Jews were murdered in Birkenau, mostly in the gas chambers.

Shown here is the label from a Zyklon B canister superimposed over the small peephole in the gas chamber's door which was used by the SS guards to monitor the killing.

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Last modified: 07/15/03