general   philosophy


Between WWI /II, the extermination of parasites took priority in Germany. Good hygiene practice became a reaction of defense, a panacea to battle angst in a turbulent period of change, political and economic instability, but at the same time astonishing cultural improvement. In the name of pest control the environment was extensively fumigated, and poison gas, previously utilized in the Great War with the unsuccesful attempt to destroy the enemy, found unproblematic use around the Golden Twenties. Food, clothing and furnishings in warehouses, education facilities and transport were accurately and routinely sprayed to purge the German Reich of vermins (Schädlinge). Those who were most affected by parasites, like vulnerable or poverty stricken communities, became most exposed to the deadly vapor, as they lacked power, knowledge or courage to oppose the bureaucratic despotism of relevant authorities. Zyklon A, for instance, was ‘recommended for the disinfection of insect infested living quarters’.[1]

The ‘war on parasites’ sales offensive unlocked a great market potential, which led to the rise of a whole new industry in connection with scientific research. Over the years, a host of chemically modified clouds were tested on concentration, diffusion and volatility. The experimentation with a varied range of formulas on selected sites led to the conclusion that maximum effectiveness was achieved in enclosed space. But product design was also influenced by practical applicability, concerning user safety, durable packaging and easy transport of the toxin. A possible solution was offered by the sale of canned lethality, and the optional addition[2] or removal of irritant or odorant agents sent perceptive psychological signals to its users. Zyklon is still produced for ‘industrial’ purpose and finds its use, under different brand names, in the mining of noble metal. The poison trade overstretches many lines of business, which on their own are not very economic, but strategic incorporation and outsourcing, guarantees both commercial success for a very few and a transfer of liabilities. Parent companies like the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Schädlingsbekämpfung mbH (Degesch) and Degussa were back then not directly involved in the production and distribution of Zyklon.

[1] see Sloterdijk (2009), p. 50. The follow-up version could be only deployed in people’s surroundings by government-certified experts. see Hayes (2009), p. 275
[2] ‘the reintroduction in the perception of the user of the functions of the product.’ see Sloterdijk (2009), p. 50

Hayes P. (2009). From Cooperation to Complicity - Degussa in the Third Reich. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Sloterdijk P. (2009). Airquakes. In Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 2009, volume 27, pages 41 -57. doi:10.1068/dst1.

Written on March 13, 2020