In an appearance on the "Morning Joe" show Tuesday, MSNBC host Chris Matthews declared confidently that Adolf Hitler did not use chemical weapons in World War II.
Matthews compared the dictator of Nazi Germany to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, stating (emphasis added):
The problem is, I don't like it, first of all I'm rather dovish, I don't like what I'm going to say but it's true. If you basically put down a red line and say don't use chemical weapons, and it's been enforced in the Western community, around the world – international community for decades – don't use chemical weapons. We didn't use them in World War II, Hitler didn't use them, we don't use chemical weapons, that's no deal. Although we do know that Assad's father did. And then he goes ahead and does it. It makes you wonder what the mullahs will do if they have a couple of nuclear weapons, just a couple. Are they capable of not using them? And that, of course, you know, I think that everybody talking this morning is projecting toward that, which is if you can't use deterrents the normal way – mutually assured destruction – you can't say, if you do this, we're blowing you up. If that doesn't work, what does work? And that's the problem.
Responding to Matthew's comment, Jewish Telegraph Agency Managing Editor Uriel Heilman set the record straight: "For the record, the U.S. used nuclear weapons in World War II, which arguably are worse than chemical weapons. And, of course, Hitler used chemical weapons – gassing defenseless Jews in the concentration camps."
Hitler used hydrogen cyanide gas, known as Zyklon B, and carbon monoxide inside concentration camp gas chambers in his effort to annihilate the Jewish people, killing an estimated 6 million Jews.
The Jewish Virtual Library explains the scientific breakdown of Zyklon B:
Hydrogen cyanide HCN, prussic acid, is a chemical compound in the form of a powerfully poisonous, volatile colorless liquid with the odor of bitter almonds. Prussic acid is considered a battlefield poison agent. Its action depends on the restraint of cellular respiration as a result of neutralizing the respiratory enzymes. Prussic acid passes through the mucous membranes and the skin, but principally through the lungs, into the blood. It blocks the process by which oxygen is released from red blood corpuscles and the result is a sort of internal asphyxiation. This is accompanied by symptoms of injury to the respiratory system, combined with a feeling of fear, dizziness and vomiting.