Substance isn't sinister

March 17, 2011

In his article about whether or not Alfred Toepfer was a Nazi advocate ("Tainted money", 10 March), Richard Evans reports that "(Michael) Pinto-Duschinsky notes that a subsidiary of the Toepfer business supplied slaked lime to the German ghetto administration in Lódz, and that slaked lime is 'used among other things to cover cadavers'".

It seems Pinto-Duschinsky is unaware of the difference between "slaked lime" - calcium hydroxide, or Ca(OH)2 - and the relatively dangerous "quicklime" - calcium oxide, or CaO. Quicklime is used primarily because of its great affinity for water and its consequent corrosive effect on organic matter, in order to avoid putrefying smells and the attention of scavengers when deep burial is not possible.

The former, as its name suggests, is what results from "slaking" quicklime with water. It is in no sense to condone the actions of the Nazis to point out that slaked lime is an innocuous substance, the supply of which seems unlikely to be evidence of evil intent.

Paul G. Ellis, Management Science and Operations, London Business School

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