Hitler used chemical weapons, but he used them on his own people and not on the battlefield (as they had been banned in global warfare after WW1).
A Quick History of Chemical Warfare as it Relates to WW2
Chemical weapons of sorts have been used for thousands of years, but their usage peaked in the trenches of WW1 where weapons like Mustard Gas were used. After WW1 the usage of chemical weapons became seen as a war crime under the Geneva Protocol.
Meanwhile, although the NAZIs had deadly and advanced chemical weapons, they mostly refrained from using them in WW2 (if there was use on the battlefield, it wasn’t widely reported, learn about a few examples of instances of their usage here and here).
Instead, the NAZIs mostly used basic chemicals like carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide (including Zyklon B), and the exhaust of gasoline in their WW2 gas chambers (as part of their genocidal and ideological Holocaust, which included the racially motivated mass murder of 1.5 million children).
Add this to the fact that some of the forced labor in NAZI Germany revolved around the production of chemical weapons, the fact that they experimented on concentration camp victims to test the effects of the nerve gases like tabun, and the fact that there are a few stories out there of their usage, and we can say, “the NAZIs did use chemical weapons, but the facts surrounding the conversation are complex.”
The Geneva Protocol and German Chemical Technology
Chemical weapons (like poisonous gasses) were banned by the 1925 Geneva Protocol due to the horrors of the chemical warfare of WW1.
Germany ratified the protocol in 1929, yet later they became some of the first to develop modern forms of chemical weapons. Tabun was accidentally discovered by the Germans in 1936, and sarin was invented by the Germans in 1939.
That means that Germans had advanced chemical weapons going into WW2, while the allies didn’t (they still had the versions used in WW1 like Mustard Gas, but not the newer technology the NAZIs had).
Signers of the Geneva Protocol agreed not to be the first to use chemical weapons in war, but reserved the right to use them if the enemy did first.
WWII Chemical Warfare. Here is a first hand account confirming that the situation was “if they use it on us, we can use it on them.” This is different than WW1 where mustard gas was used liberally.
Why Didn’t Hitler Use Chemical Weapons on the Battlefield?
As it turned out, Hitler essentially didn’t use chemical weapons on the battlefield, despite some pressure to do so. However, one should note it wasn’t just a virtuous decision, it was also a fear-based one and a tactical one.
Although we don’t fully know everything that happened, according to my research: Hitler was a WW1 Solider in the trenches. As such he would have saw the horrors of chemical warfare first hand (a story goes that he was blinded by mustard gas for example). Hitler thought the allies had vast stockpiles of chemical weapons (they did, but not to the extent they led him to think), and it is likely that his decision not to use them was in this respect, some mix of ethics and fear.
After-all, the story goes that he destroyed his own stockpiles after the allies began closing in, fearing the retaliation provision of the Geneva Protocol (which would have meant that if local commanders used chemicals it could justify the Allies using them).
Other reasons include general tactical reasons, such as problems related to killing one’s own troops and animals used for transport (like horses).
Plus, although Hitler was at war with most of the world, even in those situations (especially in those situations) there is a certain expectation to follow the rules of war. The Allies and Axis were both holding on to chemical weapons with a itchy trigger finger, this sort of cold war existed underneath the actual World War (see the video above, the person who was there essentially confirms this fear hanging over the war).
What Chemical Weapons Did Hitler Use?
The NAZIs mainly used simple chemicals like carbon monoxide and the exhaust of gasoline in their death camps, although they also used hydrogen cyanide (including Zyklon B).
That isn’t exactly “Mustard gas” or “Sarin,” but it is literally the use of chemical weapons. NOTE: NAZIs weren’t the only ones to gas their own people, or other people. The main deal with the NAZIs is that they were aggressively genocidal and exclusive, so they took forced negative eugenics to a whole level, using chemical weapons in their prison camp gas chambers and “gas vans.” WWII is complicated, but for the purposes of this factoid, we have to conceded that gas is a chemical and gas was used during WWII by Germans (mostly on their own citizens; as a German Jew, homosexual, or Communist is still a German). TIP: It wasn’t just Jews who were killed and it wasn’t just gas chambers that were used. Jews, Communists, the disabled, Allies, homosexuals, liberals, republicans, democrats, and non-National-Socialist were all killed and jailed by the NAZIs as part of their master plan for world domination and the dismantling of the global liberal establishment. They really hated liberals, jews, capitalists, and Communists. NOTE: As Wikipedia correctly states, “the genocide of the Jewish people of Europe was the Third Reich‘s “Final Solution to the Jewish question, now collectively known as the Holocaust.” If you get those terms and the conversation behind them, then you “get” fascism in WW2. If you get fascism in WW2, then you get why saying “Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons” is at best “in bad taste” and at worst “neofascist propaganda that is most certainly originating from somewhere other than the source saying it very loudly.” Here i’ll note one should also really take the time to understand Communism and the inequality of liberal state for a full picture, but each heavy subject deserves its own page. See Communism vs. Fascism for more, Hitler was obviously a fascist (not a socialist liberal democrat or whatever the alt-facts are saying these days… that is concept is neofascist propaganda).
If we forget the horrors of World War, with the battle between nationalists and internationalists, and the tension between liberalism and the new “evolutions of socialism,” we risk being doomed to repeat or lessons. In words, if we forget the dangers of extreme inequality, extremist Communism (like Stalin or Mao), or extremist Fascism (either Hitler’s National Socialist Fascism, Mussolini’s Republican Fascism, or another type), then we will forget what we still have a Duty to defend today.
This story reminds us that even the worst of tyrants are subject to some degree of fear and ethics.
It is true that there is no evidence that Hitler used chemical weapons on the battlefield, however it is a myth that Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons.
We have to choose our words carefully, because the gas chambers of WWII are more than just an attempt at genocide via chemical weapons, they are an emblem that reminds us of the horrors of despotism and the value of standing against tyranny in any form.