W. German Company Dealing Chemicals Once Sold Poison Gas to Auschwitz
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W. German Company Dealing Chemicals Once Sold Poison Gas to Auschwitz

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A West German company which shipped potentially deadly chemicals to Libya was a major shareholder in the company that supplied poison gas to Auschwitz, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.

The Wiesenthal Center made public Friday the information that the Frankfurt-based Degussa Company was a 42.5 percent owner of Degesch, a company which during World War II manufactured Zyklon B, the lethal chemical used in the gas chemical used in the gas chambers.

Degesch was an acronym for German Company for Pesticide Production. The company’s manufacture of the infamous chemical is documented in historian Raoul Hilberg’s “The Destruction of European Jewry.”

Hilberg, contacted Sunday, was concerned but also very careful in his analysis of the German company’s relationship both to chemical production and to the German firm that operated during the Nazi era.

In a telephone interview from his home in Burlington, Vt., the dean of historians of the Nazi destruction of the Jews said he “espoused the fact that knowledge must be distributed to persons who make decisions, and these people in turn have an obligation to acquaint themselves with the relevant moral implications as well as with the technical commercial facts.”

Hilberg cautioned that “it’s very complicated. Even in those days, you had all the same gimmicks as now, in terms of company ownership and distribution of product.”

Degussa was one of three parent companies of Degesch, the other two having been I.G. Farben and Goldschmidt.


Degesch, said Hilberg, marketed this gas to two companies, Heli and Testa, and Testa delivered the gas to Auschwitz.

Hilberg said that “these things are not simple. Many people can claim, ‘I didn’t know what this was for.’

“And it’s true,” he acknowledged, that “many people don’t know — because they don’t inquire.”

On Thursday, meanwhile, the West German consul to New York underlined the special relationship between Germany and Israel and the feelings of moral responsibility.

But Leopold von Bredow emphasized, nonetheless, the extreme difficulty in finding and prosecuting some individual or firm that broke the law and exported lethal chemicals.

Von Bredow spoke in an exclusive interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency after he had spent more than an hour with a delegation from the Zionist Organization of America, Likud-Herut Zionists of America, United Synagogue of America, Emunah Women of America, Religious Zionists of America, Americans for a Safe Israel, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and Amit Women.

“We can only enact legislation,” von Bredow said. “We can never prevent that some people are going to circumvent laws. Our trouble is that certain things are not even punishable because until now we have had a very limited list of things which could not be exported.”

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