Arizona prepares to use Zyklon B to execute two inmates, provoking outrage

State's plan to use Holocaust-era gas in new gas chamber sparks outrage, denounced by American Jewish committee as "defying belief."

Dan Verbin ,

Arizona Flag in Monument Valley
Arizona Flag in Monument Valley
iStock

A plan by Arizona to use poison gas Zyklon B, which was used by the Nazis to murder millions of Jews, for its first execution in seven years is being roundly condemned by Jewish groups, Holocaust scholars and legal experts on the death penalty.

The state’s attorney general has requested that two of the 115 inmates currently on death row be executed.

"Arizona's decision to employ Zyklon B gas as a means of execution defies belief. While there can be no doubt about its effectiveness – the Nazis used it to kill millions of innocent Jews – it is that very effectiveness as an instrument of genocide that makes it utterly inappropriate for use by a civilized state in a proceeding sanctioned by the state and its judiciary,” said the American Jewish Committee in a statement.

Reopening the state’s gas chamber for executions in what one expert calls the “single most inhumane method of execution” has been an ongoing process for months at the state’s Florence prison, reported NBC 12 News.

The previously shuttered gas chamber, which had sat unused for over 20 years, is being refurbished by prison officials who are also working out procedures for property handling the deadly gas.

According to Department of Corrections documents obtained by the Guardian, the chemicals used in the Arizona gas chamber are similar to those in Zyklon B, the cyanide gas the Nazis used in their gas chambers at death camps such as Auschwitz.

"It is an accurate comparison. This is very similar to what was used in Nazi Germany," said Fordham University law professor Deborah Denno in an interview with 12 News.

Fordham called death by gas chamber “the single most inhumane method” of execution.

"In 2021, how can you think it is morally acceptable to kill prisoners in a manner that is essentially the same way the Nazis committed genocide in the Holocaust?" Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center told 12 News. "How can you think that's reasonable? Did anybody who is associated with this process ever study the Holocaust?"

In an interview with the New York Times, Christoph Heubner, the executive vice president of the International Auschwitz Committee, said, "For Auschwitz survivors... this is a disgraceful act that is unworthy of any democracy and, moreover, insults the victims of the Holocaust."

The American Jewish Committee noted that it is accepted by society that there is “some level of cruelty” in the process of execution. But they questioned why the state of Arizona would be willing to resort to a method linked to such historic evil.

“There is something profoundly wrong when a state is so anxious to execute people, who in any event can be incapacitated by incarcerating them forever, that it is prepared to resort to a method of execution that inevitably, inextricably, and forever is linked to the worst outrages of human history,” the group wrote.

They continued, "Whether or not one supports the death penalty as a general matter, there is general agreement in American society that a gas devised as a pesticide, and used to eliminate Jews, has no place in the administration of criminal justice."



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