Jewish community sues US state to prohibit use of Zyklon B gas for executions

“It’s a very painful way to kill a person and it’s fundamentally inhumane.”

By World Israel News Staff

The local Jewish community is suing the state of Arizona in an effort to prevent capital punishment by the same lethal gas used to exterminate Jews at the Auschwitz death camp, the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix and Northern Arizona reports.

“We are not arguing the merits of the death penalty, nor the guilt or innocence of the defendants – simply that because of our tragic history we have a unique lens to declare that the use of Zyklon B is a cruel and barbarous practice whose usage has no place in modern society,” Paul Rockower, executive director of the JCRC and one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement.

Janice Friebaum, former vice president and spokesperson for the Phoenix Holocaust Association, said that Holocaust survivors and their descendants were horrified, according to the weekly paper.

“It’s a very painful way to kill a person and it’s fundamentally inhumane. To think that it was done to millions of people during the Holocaust is horrific enough, but to think that 70 to 80 years later we’re thinking of using it as a method of capital punishment is mindboggling,” Friebaum said, according to the report.

“There are clearly other more humane methods available for the state to consider,” she said.

“Also, the use of this poison for mass extermination of human beings was essentially an innovation of the Nazis. So, if the state of Arizona is considering mimicking that, we, the survivors and their descendants, see that as tantamount to approving of what the Nazis did.”

“Under no circumstances should the same method of execution used to murder over one million people, including Jews, during the Holocaust be used in the execution of people on death row,” said Jared Keenan, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Arizona, the paper reported.

“Arizona has acknowledged the horrors of cyanide gas as a method of execution and eliminated it in all but a narrow set of cases – it’s time the court eliminates the use of cyanide gas for execution once and for all. Regardless of where people stand on the matter of capital punishment, it’s clear that use of this barbaric practice is cruel and must be abolished.”

A hearing is scheduled for March 7.

Tim Eckstein, chairman of the JCRC board, said painful punishments such as the use of lethal gas go against Jewish values.

“Thousands of years ago, Jews shunned mutilation, burning at the stake, and throwing the condemned into a funeral pyre – common practices in other cultures,” he said, the weekly reported.

“Today, those same moral and ethical values require us to take a stand against a practice that we know, from very recent history, is cruel, inhumane and will highly likely cause severe pain and suffering.”