Bruno Tesch

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Bruno Emil Tesch
Bruno Emil Tesch.jpg
Born(1890-08-14)14 August 1890
Died16 May 1946(1946-05-16) (aged 55)
OccupationChemist and entrepreneur
Known forCo-inventor of Zyklon B
Criminal chargeKnowingly supplying poison gas used to kill Jews and allied nationals interned in concentration camps
Criminal penaltyHanged

Bruno Emil Tesch (14 August 1890 – 16 May 1946) was a German chemist and entrepreneur. Together with Gerhard Peters and Walter Heerdt, he invented the insecticide Zyklon B. He was the owner of Tesch & Stabenow (called Testa), a pest control company he co-founded in 1924 with Paul Stabenow in Hamburg, Germany.

Zyklon B pesticide notorious for its use during The Holocaust

Zyklon B was the trade name of a cyanide-based pesticide invented in Germany in the early 1920s. It consisted of hydrogen cyanide, as well as a cautionary eye irritant and one of several adsorbents such as diatomaceous earth. The product is infamous for its use by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust to murder approximately one million people in gas chambers installed at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanek, and other extermination camps.

The corporation Tesch & Stabenow was a market leader in pest control chemicals between 1924 and 1945 in Germany east of the Elbe. Testa distributed Zyklon B, a pesticide consisting of inert adsorbents saturated with hydrogen cyanide, a volatile liquid extremely toxic to animals and humans. For legitimate use as a pesticide, Zyklon B included a warning odorant as not everyone can smell cyanide or recognize its faint almond-like odor. The company sold Zyklon B to the Wehrmacht and the SS in Auschwitz-Birkenau without the odorant, clearly showing that it was intended for use on humans. Two directors of Testa were convicted and executed after being accused of assisting the mass murder of Jews during the Second World War.

Hamburg City in Germany

Hamburg is the second-largest city in Germany with a population of over 1.8 million, after the capital Berlin.


Following the end of World War II, he was arrested by the British as a war criminal, tried, and executed.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Early life and education

Tesch studied mathematics and physics for one semester in 1910 at the University of Göttingen before studying chemistry at the University of Berlin, receiving his degree in 1914. He obtained a position at Kaiser Wilhelm Institute.

University of Göttingen university in the city of Göttingen, Germany

The University of Göttingen is a public research university in the city of Göttingen, Germany. Founded in 1734 by George II, King of Great Britain and Elector of Hanover, and starting classes in 1737, the Georgia Augusta was conceived to promote the ideals of the Enlightenment. It is the oldest university in the state of Lower Saxony and the largest in student enrollment, which stands at around 31,500.

Zyklon B

Tesch, along with fellow chemists Gerhard Peters and Walter Heerdt, with the support of I.G. Farben, began research into the use of hydrogen cyanide as a fumigating agent. They discovered a process in which the hydrogen cyanide could be manufactured and used in a solid form. [1]

Hydrogen cyanide (HCN), sometimes called prussic acid, is a chemical compound with the chemical formula HCN. It is a colorless, extremely poisonous and flammable liquid that boils slightly above room temperature, at 25.6 °C (78.1 °F). HCN is produced on an industrial scale and is a highly valuable precursor to many chemical compounds ranging from polymers to pharmaceuticals.

Empty poison gas canisters, of Zyklon B, found by the Russians at the end of World War II in Auschwitz GiftgasAuschwitzMuseum.jpg
Empty poison gas canisters, of Zyklon B, found by the Russians at the end of World War II in Auschwitz

The patent was assigned to Degesch, "Deutsche Gesellschaft für Schädlingsbekämpfung mbH" (German Limited Company for Pest Control), subsidiary of I.G. Farben, with Walter Heerdt being the only one of the inventors to receive patent rights, a portion of the proceeds from the manufacture and sale. Peters joined Degesch and would become managing director during World War II. Degesch was designated by the German government to set the safety rules and standards for the use of Zyklon B, and was given the authority to authorize shipments from the manufacturer to the customer after the strict criteria were met.


The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Schädlingsbekämpfung mbH, in short Degesch, was a German chemical corporation. Degesch produced pesticides used against weeds, rodents and insects. Degesch had the patent of the infamous Zyklon, a pesticide whose "Zyklon B" variant was used to execute people in gas chambers of German extermination camps during the Holocaust. Through the firms Tesch & Stabenow GmbH (Testa) and Heerdt-Linger (Heli) Degesch sold the poisonous gas Zyklon B to the German Army and the Schutzstaffel (SS).

Tesch & Stabenow manufactured neither Zyklon B nor any other chemicals. It was primarily a pest control company specializing in fumigation of commercial properties such as the warehouses and freighters in the Port of Hamburg. Zyklon B was produced by Dessauer Werke and Kaliwerke.


Fumigation is a method of pest control that completely fills an area with gaseous pesticides—or fumigants—to suffocate or poison the pests within. It is used to control pests in buildings, soil, grain, and produce, and is also used during processing of goods to be imported or exported to prevent transfer of exotic organisms. This method also affects the structure itself, affecting pests that inhabit the physical structure, such as woodborers and drywood termites.

Cargo ship ship or vessel that carries cargo, goods, and materials onboard from one port to another

A cargo ship or freighter ship is a merchant ship that carries cargo, goods, and materials from one port to another. Thousands of cargo carriers ply the world's seas and oceans each year, handling the bulk of international trade. Cargo ships are usually specially designed for the task, often being equipped with cranes and other mechanisms to load and unload, and come in all sizes. Today, they are almost always built by welded steel, and with some exceptions generally have a life expectancy of 25 to 30 years before being scrapped.

Port of Hamburg port in Hamburg, Germany on the river Elbe

The Port of Hamburg is a sea port on the river Elbe in Hamburg, Germany, 110 kilometres from its mouth on the North Sea.

In 1925, Tesch & Stabenow – partly due to the largesse of Paul Haber of Degesch – received the exclusive rights to distribute the insecticide Zyklon B east of the Elbe River. In 1927, Stabenow departed from the firm. Tesch held a 45% share of the company and Degesch 55%. He would assume sole ownership of the company in 1942.

Arrest, trial and execution

Tesch was first interrogated in Hamburg by British Captain and chemist Walter Freud. Freud was accompanied by Emil Sehm, a former Testa bookkeeper. Sehm claimed to have seen a memorandum concerning correspondence between Tesch and a Wehrmacht officer about the use of Zyklon B to gas humans. Tesch was arrested by the British occupation authorities on 3 September 1945, and released on 1 October 1945, only to be re-arrested on October 6.

Tesch was tried by a British military tribunal in the Curiohaus in Hamburg 1–8 March 1946. His two co-defendants were registered general representative Karl Weinbacher and Joachim Drosihn, the firm's first gassing technician.

The prosecution case stated that Zyklon B was used for "systematically exterminating human beings to an estimated total of six million, of whom four and a half million were exterminated by the use of Zyklon B in one camp alone, known as Auschwitz/Birkenau". [2] (The figure of 4.5 million victims was based on Soviet estimates released right after the war).

The charge was that Tesch, "at Hamburg, Germany, between 1st January 1941, and 31 March 1945, in violation of the laws and usages of war, did supply poison gas used for the extermination of allied nationals interned in concentration camps, well knowing that the said gas was to be so used" in violation of Article 46 of the Hague Convention of 1907. [3] [4] One of the witnesses called by the prosecution was SS Rottenführer Perry Broad, who had worked in the political department in Auschwitz. Tesch and Weinbacher were condemned to death; Drosihn was acquitted. Tesch was executed by hanging on 16 May 1946, by Albert Pierrepoint in Hameln prison. [5]

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  1. Christianson, Scott. The Last Gasp: The Rise and Fall of the American Gas Chamber, p. 166, ISBN   0-520-25562-3
  2. Law-Reports of Trials of War Criminals, The United Nations War Crimes Commission, Volume I (1997) p. 94
  3. "Article 46". Yale Law School: Lillian Goldman Law Library. Laws of War: Laws and Customs of War on Land (Hague IV); October 18, 1907. The Avalon Project. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
  4. "Trial of Bruno Tesch and two others, British Military Court, Hamburg 1–8 March 1946". University of the West of England. Archived from the original on November 19, 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-05.
  5. Law reports of trials of war criminals By United Nations War Crimes Commission. The Zyklon B Case. Publisher: William S. Hein & Company (1997) ISBN   1-57588-403-8