During the Holocaust
, the Nazis used a variety of terrible tools to try to achieve their "Final Solution". Among them were various ways to make killing large groups of prisoners more efficient. The favorite, and probably the most effective, were gas chambers. Somewhat similar to the chambers used for a period of time to execute condemned prisoners in the US, Nazi gas chambers
were utilized on a large scale in the various death camps and were designed to hold large groups of prisoners. While firing squads, hangings, and even medical experimentation and starvation were all used on those the Nazis deemed 'undesirable', it is the gas chamber that ushered the highest number of people to their death.
The gasses began to be used in 1941 in the Neuengamme camp, using carbon monoxide. This was usually as simple as connecting the exhaust pipe of a gas powered automobile to a hose and piping it into the chamber.
As the concentration camps began to utilize gas chambers, the gasses varied from carbon monoxide to hydrogen cyanide, depending on the location. Some chambers were built specifically for the gas, while others were retrofitted air raid shelters such as the gas chamber at Auschwitz. Some were even setup inside vans.
Between 1941 and 1945 millions of people were killed inside gas chambers. The larger ones were capable of killing as many as 2,000 people at one time. After death, the bodies were usually dumped in mass graves or burned in large crematoriums or ovens.
As the war approached its end, the Nazis in charge of the concentration camps began to destroy the chambers in an effort to hide their crimes. A few remained in operation and were discovered by Soviet troops.
Today, some of the Nazi gas chambers remain in place to serve as memorials or reminders of the horrors that occurred there. The chamber at Auschwitz was actually rebuilt as a memorial, although the door was removed and the wall separating the washroom from the gas chamber was left out. Visitors to the site of death camps today frequently spend several moments in silence as they look in at the chambers and imagine what took place there.
Millions died inside these terrifyingly efficient chambers, often after being marched into them naked and frightened. It was only one example of how horrible the Nazis really were and as a testament to man's ability for cruelty.