Arizona Plans Executions With Gas Used in Nazi Germany Concentration Camps

Arizona Plans Executions With Gas Used in Nazi Germany Concentration Camps

Arizona’s Department of Corrections is preparing to use the same deadly gas Nazi Germany deployed in concentration camps during the Holocaust to execute death row inmates, according to documents obtained by the UK newspaper The Guardian.

Zyklon B, a highly poisonous insecticide used to kill rats and insects, was also deployed in execution gas chambers in the U.S., including in Arizona in 1920. The lethal pesticide attacks the brain, causes extreme pain, violent seizures and kills anyone who inhales it from cardiac arrest “within seconds,” according to Sven Anders, a coroner from the University Clinic of Hamburg-Eppendorf.

The corrections department has spent more than $2,000 on ingredients to make the cyanide gas, including a solid brick of potassium cyanide, sodium hydroxide pellets and sulfuric acid. Additional documents showed the state’s refurbishment of a gas chamber in Florence, Ariz., that has not been used in 22 years. It was built in 1949.

The chamber was tested for “operational functionality” and “air tightness” last summer and was refurbished in December. Officials then “verbally indicated that the vessel is operationally ready.”

In a statement to Business Insider, the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry said it was “prepared to perform its legal obligation and commence the execution process as part of the legally imposed sentence, regardless of method selected.”

Arizona paused executions in 2014 after Joseph Wood’s death by lethal injection was botched, but the state is looking to restart the process. Prosecutors in April told the Arizona Supreme Court they intend on seeking execution warrants soon for two death-row inmates. Wood was given 15 doses of a two-drug combination over two hours.

Arizona and other states have struggled to buy execution drugs in recent years after U.S. and European pharmaceutical companies began blocking the use of their products in lethal injections. Arizona corrections officials revealed a month ago that they had finally obtained a lethal injection drug and were ready to resume executions.

“Capital punishment is the law in Arizona and the appropriate response to those who commit the most shocking and vile murders,” Arizona AG Mark Brnovich said in a statement. “This is about the administration of justice and ensuring the last word still belongs to the innocent victims who can no longer speak for themselves.”

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.