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May 18, 2023 10:48 am

Disgusting Auction of Zyklon B Can and Striped Holocaust Uniforms Should Be Stopped

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avatar by Alan Zeitlin


The sign “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work makes you free”) is pictured at the main gate of the former Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz in Oswiecim, Poland. Reuters/Pawel Ulatowski

America is a free country and there are few laws that prohibit the sale of things. But being legal doesn’t make something right.

I was not surprised to learn that Antique Arena, a Brooklyn-based auction outlet that has auctions online, is selling what we can read in the description as: “A WWII Nazi German Third Reich Zyklon B Poison Gas can with a lid. A metal construction with paper label attached. Marked, Kaliwerke A. G., Kolin, and stamped. WWII Nazi German Third Reich Military Cans, Historical Collectables And Memorabilia.”

Assuming the can is real, it should go to a Holocaust museum or the garbage. I am quite aware that numerous auction houses around the world sell Nazi memorabilia. There is freedom of speech and commerce in this country, but is there really a need to sell a can of Zyklon B, which was used to murder so many Jews in gas chambers? I can only imagine some sicko antisemite buying it and showing it off to friends and family.

Zyklon B is a cyanide-based pesticide that was invented in Germany in the 1920s. Walter Heerdt is believed to have come up with the technique to package it in sealed canisters. According to, up to 2,000 people could be killed at a time in a gas chamber. Scientists found that Zyklon B pellets transformed into lethal gas upon exposure to air. It is estimated that more than one million people were gassed to death in Auschwitz.

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The auction will also include pieces of uniforms worn by concentration camp prisoners.

At a time of rising antisemitism, this is the last thing that should be auctioned off. I doubt there are any background checks to see if the person buying it is crazy or not. I hope that this auction house takes this item off the block and gives it to a Holocaust museum. It’s a head scratching move, but I guess in our times, people have no limits or decency.

It appears the item is to be sold on May 20 with a minimum bid of $225.

The author is a writer based in New York.

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