Arizona Prepares to Use Auschwitz Gas Zyklon B on Death Row Inmates

The state of Arizona has purchased the ingredients necessary to produce a deadly gas used in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust with the apparent intention of deploying it to execute death row inmates.

According to documents obtained by the U.K. newspaper The Guardian, Arizona's Department of Corrections has spent more than $2,000 on ingredients to make hydrogen cyanide, the same gas used at the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

The heavily redacted documents, which the newspaper has made available online, show that Arizona spent $1,530 in December, 2020 on a solid brick of potassium cyanide. The state also bought sodium hydroxide pellets and sulfuric acid necessary to generate the gas.

The state's gas chamber at Arizona State Prison Complex Florence has reportedly been "refurbished" as the Republican-controlled state pushed to begin executing death row inmates after a seven year pause.

That pause was due to the botched lethal injection of Joseph Wood in 2014. The convicted murderer took nearly two hours to die having been injected with enough drugs to execute 15 people using the amount outlined in state's protocol.

Hydrogen cyanide was manufactured in Nazi Germany under the trade name Zyklon B and was used at Auschwitz-Birkenau and Majdanek, as well as some other camps, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

"Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the killing centers, has four large gas chambers using Zyklon B (crystalline hydrogen cyanide) as the killing agent," the museum's website says.

"The gas chambers at Majdanek use both carbon monoxide and Zyklon B. Millions of Jews are killed in the gas chambers in the killing centers as part of the 'Final Solution.'"

Nearly a million European Jews were murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau between 1940 and 1945, alongside many Roma, Poles, resistance fighters and Soviet prisoners of war. The crimes were carried out by Nazi Germany during the occupation of Poland.

The last person to be executed by gas chamber in Arizona was German national Walter LaGrand in 1999. He took 18 minutes to die and an eyewitness account published in the Tucson Citizen described him "agonizing choking and gagging."

There are currently 115 inmates on death row in Arizona and the state appears keen to restart executions. However, recent shortages of drugs needed for lethal injection and a sales ban by the European Union (E.U.) have left many U.S. states unable to carry out execution and in some cases they have resorted to untested combinations of drugs.

In some cases, states have adopted new methods of execution that don't require access to lethal injection drugs. South Carolina lawmakers voted in May to add death by firing squad as an option for death row inmates following a 10 year pause in executions due to drug shortages, according to ABC News.

Newsweek has asked the Arizona Department of Corrections and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for comment.

Arizona's Gas Chamber Pictured in 1999
Correctional Officer Jim Robideau explains the use of the gas chamber used for executions inside "death house" at The Florence prison complex in Florence, some 80 miles southeast of Phoenix on February 11, 1999. The last execution by gas chamber in the state took place in that year but the chamber has recently been refurbished. Mike Fiala/Getty Images