We all know the famous quote of Sean Spicer:

"You had someone who is despicable as Hitler who didn't even sink to using chemical weapons."

He later tried to excuse it using this sentence:

"But in the way that Assad used them, where he went into towns and dropped them down to innocent in the middle of towns,"

So it leaves me with the question:

Did Hitler use chemical weapons on the battlefield? If so when and where?


Have there been german casualties - civilian/military - due to chemical weapons employed by german troops on the battlefield?

  • 4
    Hitler had been subject to a gas attack while he was a soldier in WW1. Consequently, he denied all requests to use chemical weapons on the battlefield as too horrible to be used against soldiers, even enemies. Of course, the Nazis made extensive use of chemical weapons in another capacity... but never on the battlefield, at the explicit orders of Hitler. BTW: his signature postage stamp mustache was trimmed to that size so it would fit in a gas mask.
    – tj1000
    Commented Jul 22, 2017 at 21:23
  • And of course there's no evidence Assad used them on civilians, or at all. In fact all available evidence indicates the opposite, that any chemical weapons use in Syria has been by IS and other rebel groups, set up to make it appear government forces used them.
    – jwenting
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 6:39
  • @jwenting It wasn't my question whether Spicer is telling the truth. And I think this is a bad place to discuss such a controversial subject. Thanks anyway for pointing this out. Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 6:40
  • @tj1000 The moustache thing sounds like a brilliant anecdote, do you have a source for it?
    – fgysin
    Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 12:06

2 Answers 2


The principal reason that Hitler did not use chemical weapons on any large scale on the battlefield was deterrence. By the time he accepted that Germany was losing the war, the Western Allies had air dominance over Germany, and could have attacked German cities with gas. They had the weapons available, were prepared to use them in response to German chemical attacks, and this was known to Hitler and the OKW.

By this stage, in late 1944, the Luftwaffe could not effectively resist the bomber fleets, and had no ability to attack Great Britain with gas in response. The V-2 wasn't suitable for gas warheads, simply because it lacked a proximity fuse.

Further, the Germans assumed that the Western Allies had discovered the family of organophosphorus nerve agents that includes sarin, tabun, etc. This was actually incorrect, but was perfectly plausible: they'd been discovered by the German chemical industry during insecticide research, and they knew the USA and UK had worked on that.

Source: Germany and the Second World War, Volume V/IIB, pp760-772.

There had been German military casualties from German use of gas during WWI -- with the limited protective equipment of the time, a few were inevitable.

  • and we can probably assume the Germans were aware of the allied research into biological weapons, including but not limited to Anthrax, which would have had horrendous results if employed on the German population. Hitler and the OKW were probably more concerned at that stage with the way in which the people died than them actually dying, they fully assumed and were aiming at the extermination of the "German race" rather than letting them live in servitude like after WW1.
    – jwenting
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 6:43

Snopes has a short summary of the topic:

Sarin gas was developed under Hitler’s government and Nazi Gen. Hermann Ochsner, who led the German Army Weapons Office, called for it to be deployed via airstrikes, arguing: “There is no doubt that a city like London would be plunged into a state of unbearable turmoil that would bring enormous pressure to bear on the enemy government.” Nazis did not use chemical weapons against American and British troops in the field, though they reportedly employed them against Russian forces at various points. Snopes: Adolf Hitler Never Used Chemical Weapons?

Wikipedia has a short summary of reported cases where chemical weapons were used in battle:

The Nazis did use chemical weapons in combat on several occasions along the Black Sea, notably in Sevastopol, where they used toxic smoke to force Russian resistance fighters out of caverns below the city, in violation of the 1925 Geneva Protocol.[61] The Nazis also used asphyxiating gas in the catacombs of Odessa in November 1941, following their capture of the city, and in late May 1942 during the Battle of the Kerch Peninsula in eastern Crimea.[62] [...] After the battle in mid-May 1942, roughly 3,000 Red Army soldiers and Soviet civilians not evacuated by sea were besieged in a series of caves and tunnels in the nearby Adzhimuskai quarry. After holding out for approximately three months, "poison gas was released into the tunnels, killing all but a few score of the Soviet defenders."[63]Wikipedia: Chemical Warfare

To summarize, Germany did produce large quantities of chemical weapons, but largely decided not to use them in battle - with a few exceptions.

Your last question is more a question of definition. If you consider disabled people, Jews, Roma, and others who were murdered via gas "his own people", then yes, otherwise no.

  • No I did not mean holocaust victims! I tried to put this more precise, please have a look on my edit. Just wanted to make this clear :)
    – Felix.C
    Commented Jul 23, 2017 at 6:58
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    "toxic smoke" was not a chemical weapon, it's just a result of explosives, fuel, hydraulic fluid, and other stuff burning as a result of shelling and bombardment.
    – jwenting
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 6:44
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    according to German wikipedia, poison gas was used in combat by the Germans against the Warsaw Ghetto uprising (de.wikipedia.org/wiki/…)
    – mart
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 8:51
  • The question here is if this very tactical use of a chemical weapon (if you call it that) was approved at the Hitler level, or if it was a low-level tactical decision. The distinction is important, as it distinguishes between the official policy (which I think is the point of the OP) versus a few events that occurred in the field.
    – Smith
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 16:48
  • @mart that was probably an extension of using it on the same people at a later date once they were rounded up and shipped to the camps rather than a solely military consideration.
    – jwenting
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 7:44

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