The guide led the group into one such restored gas chamber. She explained that the prisoners would be forced to stand packed, like sardines in a can, inside the closed room and the pellets of a chemical, known as Zyklon B, would be dropped through an opening in the roof, followed by its quick closure. Upon interacting with atmospheric moisture inside the chamber, the pellets would release poisonous hydrogen cyanide gas initially to incapacitate the prisoners, followed by their silent deaths, en masse. Subsequent research revealed that the death occurred in an adult (weighing approximately 68kg) within two minutes of inhaling only 70mg of hydrogen cyanide gas. The tour guide mentioned the names of the chemical companies that were involved in the production of the pellets as well as the names of some famous German scientists from that era, involved in its discovery and utility. As the group began to exit the room, John noticed a closed jar on a desktop at the corner of the room. It was full of unused pellets, discovered at the site after its liberation by the Allied Forces.
Coming outside the chamber, John sat on a roadside bench. He took out his smart phone to do some online exploration. To his surprise, he learned that the main ingredient hydrogen cyanide was carefully utilized as a pesticide in California inside his own country as far back as in 1880s. What an irony, he thought. Subsequently, German scientists found a way to utilize that knowledge to develop a pesticide, easy to handle, that on further modification gave rise to the death agent of Auschwitz.
John remained seated motionless. He began to ponder whether his own contributions to the field of chemical sciences could someday be diverted to annihilate human lives instead of saving them from diseases.