Dr Robert Jay Lifton THE NAZI DOCTORS:
                        Medical Killing and the
                            Psychology of Genocide ©
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From 1943, there were shortages in Zyklon-B because Allied air raids interfered with production. At times it even became necessary for camp officials to pick the gas up by truck at the production factory near Dessau, about 300 miles to the northwest. Höss later (in testimony) estimated that Auschwitz used a total of 1,900 kilograms of its killing medicine.38 From the beginning, he consulted Auschwitz doctors on the effects of the gas: 
I had always thought that the victims would experience a terrible choking sensation. But the bodies, without exception, showed no signs of convulsion. The doctors explained to me that the prussic acid had a paralyzing effect on the lungs, but its action was so quick and strong that death came before the convulsions could set in, and in this its effects differed from those produced by carbon monoxide or by a general oxygen deficiency.39 [Italics added] 
The explanation falsely implied painless killing. But this general medical effectiveness was reassuring to Höss, as he no longer had to experience the horrors of face-to-face killing: “I always shuddered at the prospect of carrying out exterminations by shooting .... I was therefore relieved to think that we were to be spared all these blood baths, and that the victims too would be spared suffering until the last moment came.”40 But his greatest relief — and the most important personal “therapy” the gas provided him — was its contribution to the solution of the technical and bureaucratic problem assigned him: “I must even admit that this gassing set my mind at rest, for the mass extermination of the Jews was to start soon and at that time neither Eichmann nor I was certain how these mass killings were to be carried out .... Now we had the gas, and we had established a procedure.”41 That “procedure" was the “assembly line” basis for killing — the phrase, appropriately enough, of an Auschwitz camp doctor.42  
Medical Killing and the
Psychology of Genocide

Robert J. Lifton
ISBN 0-465-09094
© 1986
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