I actually heard this panel discussion last night on Lefty News (otherwise known as the PBS Newshour). It's unfortunate that Tablet editors - or the writer, Yair Rosenberg - skewed the headline just a tad for dramatic purpose, because what actually happened was bad enough, it and of itself.
Here are Mearsheimer's exact words:
I would like to point out that all of this discourse about chemical weapons being so special is, I think, wrong. I think it’s, again, regrettable that chemical weapons have been used. But chemical weapons are not weapons of mass destruction, like nuclear weapons are. The reason that chemical weapons were not used in World War II wasn’t because someone like Adolf Hitler was above using them for moral reasons. They weren’t used because they have very little military utility. Anybody who has been in the Army knows that chemical weapons just don’t buy you much on the battlefield…
Even though at the time I was trying to follow the argument Mearsheimer was making - which was to question the greater significance assigned to the Syrian deaths from a chemical attack, over those dead from more "standard" means - his assumption that chemical weapons weren't used in World War II seemed to me to stand out as if written in neon lights. And he wasn't the only one! Omitted from the Tablet article is the fact that another panelist, Ivo Daalder, said basically the same thing when he described chemical weapons as "the kinds of weapons that weren't used in World War because of the horror of their use in World War I."
Two out of three panelists made this outrageous assertion, and no one questioned it. That was even more shocking, and I was left wondering if I had heard everything right. Daalder seemed like he was just there to rubber stamp whatever Pres. Obama had done or said, and pretty much kept to that script; Mearsheimer, on the other hand, was more interested and interesting. We have to wonder though, because such a prominent academic could not possibly have forgotten that millions of Jews were gassed to death with Zyklon-B. He must somehow, in his mind, dissociate the Holocaust from "the battlefield" of World War II -- which is deeply disturbing, even in the context of his proven antisemitism.
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From the statement of Hans Stark, registrar of new arrivals, Auschwitz (Klee, 255):
At another, later gassing -- also in autumn 1941 -- Grabner [Maximillian Grabner, Head of Political Department, Auschwitz] ordered me to pour Zyklon B into the opening because only one medical orderly had shown up. During a gassing Zyklon B had to be poured through both openings of the gas-chamber room at the same time. This gassing was also a transport of 200-250 Jews, once again men, women and children. As the Zyklon B -- as already mentioned -- was in granular form, it trickled down over the people as it was being poured in.
They then started to cry out terribly for they now knew what was happening to them. I did not look through the opening because it had to be closed as soon as the Zyklon B had been poured in. After a few minutes there was silence. After some time had passed, it may have been ten to fifteen minutes, the gas chamber was opened. The dead lay higgledy-piggedly all over the place. It was a dreadful sight.