Israeli Government Might be Buying from a Company which Supplied the Nazis

Gas mask from an Imperial War Museum and a gas chamber in Auschwitz. Source: jamiejohndavies CC BY 2.0 (left) and By Illogical2007 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, (right)

One of the life’s many ironies seems recently to have come to light in Israel. The Israeli government has been sourcing gas masks and filters, since the Six Day War in 1967, from the German company Dräger and Auer (now both owned by American firm MSA). The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem, using research previously done by Jean-Claude Pressac, an expert on Auschwitz and a scholar of the French Holocaust, uncovered the information.

The irony is that this same company supplied personal protective equipment, namely gas masks, to SS soldiers that had the responsibility of operating the gas chambers at the Nazi death camps during WWII. This equipment ensured that the soldiers were protected against the cyanide-based poison gas called Zyklon B, which was routinely used in the gas chambers and resulted in the deaths of millions of innocents.

The Israeli Government distributed hundreds of gas masks to the civilian population when fears of chemical attacks were rampant. These occurred in 1991 when Saddam Hussein threatened to use chemical weapons; then again in 2013 when fears arose that Syria would launch a chemical attack on Israel in retaliation for a US-led attack on that country. It was not until 2014 that the distribution of gas masks was halted when the government felt that the threat from Syria had diminished significantly.

The German company and its American owner were both quick to refute the claims against them. A spokesperson said: “The American MSA did not provide the Germans with equipment during World War II, it acquired the Auergesellschaft factory in 1958, long after it was no longer providing gas masks to the German army.”

MSA, Draeger’s American owner, issued a statement saying their equipment has “kept firefighters, police officers, emergency teams, industrial workers and soldiers — including in the Israeli army — from harm.

The Israeli Government claimed to be “unfamiliar” with this allegation whilst the Firefighting and Rescue Commission confirmed that they purchased these items from Draeger saying that their equipment was “among the best in the world.”

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE