Why didn't the Nazi's use poison gas bombs on London?

During the Blitz, why didn’t the Nazi’s use poison gas in their bombs? If the pupose was to take them out of the war the casualty rate would’ve been far greater, with less bombs than what actually happened and the number of dead would’ve certainly demoralized the general population far more than what happened.
They had the materials and the technology, and they didn’t seem particularly squeamish about mass murder. So why didn’t they?

One very simple reason. Hitler knew that if he did, the British would retaliate with the same. He bombs London, Churchill bombs Berlin.

Exactly. Both sides knew the other had the capability to cause untold retaliatory damage. At the end of the war, Hitler ordered the use of poison gas, but Speer refused.

I once heard on some History Channel type show, that the “terror bombing” in Europe began as a result of a mistake on the part of a German navigator. Initially in the bombing campaign, the Germans only targeted areas of military significance. One German bomber group ended up somewhat lost, so they dropped their bombs on what turned out to be an exclusively civilian populated area. Hitler was none too pleased about the mistake. Churchill, who was furious at this action, ordered a retaliatory strike and thus began the tactic of terror bombing in Europe.

The point being, not only were the Germans not going to use chemical/biological weapons as pointed out, they initially didn’t bomb civilians with conventional weapons.

As I said, I recall this story from a TV show, so take that FWIW.

uh scratch that last line of the first paragraph. It should say “thus began the terror bombing in England”

Scruloose, I don’t doubt that you might have heard it on the History Channel, but it’s utterly preposterous nonetheless. Nobody needed to get lost to drop bombs on civilian areas - it was impossible to target strategic locations in London and elsewhere without hitting housing areas. So the rest of the story cannot make any sense.

It might be nonsense, but it’s fairly widespread. I believe that’s the way it was portrayed in the 1969 movie Battle of Britain.

Heh - I debated whether to post that, so I did a little checking in my copy of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

First, my point was the specific targeting of residential areas with no military value. I understand that civilians will be killed in probably all bombing runs. Anyway, the relevant parts from the book:

In September of 1940, when discussing the possible invasion of Great Britain:
“Jeschonnek of the Air Force begged to be allowed to bomb London’s residential districts, since there was no sign of “mass panic” in London while these areas were being spared. Admiral Raeder enthusiastically supported some terror bombing. Hitler, however, thought concentration on military objectives was more important. ‘Bombing with the object of causing mass panic’, he said, ‘must be left to the last’”
Then, the incident I recall seeing on TV, which was during the Battle of Britain:
“To begin with, there was a minor navigational error by the pilots of a dozen German bombers on the night of August 23. Directed to drop their loads on aircraft factories and oil tanks on the outskirts of London, they missed their mark and dropped bombs on the center of the capital, blowing up some homes and killing some civilians. The British thought it was deliberate and as retaliation bombed Berlin the next morning.”

The British retaliation marked the first time that bombs had fallen on Berlin, and it had a profound effect on German morale.

Possibly you’ve identified an important element of post-war perception. Becuase there was no doubt whatsoever in the late 1930s that civilians were in the front line, with events in Spain merely confirming this. Even the actual evacuation of children from major cities occured before the war began.

In response to Scruloose’s post:

September 1940 places this right at the beginning of ‘the Blitz’ proper. The two quotes you give certainly don’t describe the same situation at all. And whether the British retaliation was directly because of civilians being bombed, or simply because this was by far the worst bombing seen in the war so far, is another question again.

Nor were they meant to. The first quote was merely showing Hitler’s thoughts on bombing civilian areas during the Blitz. He didn’t want to do it. The point being, (as related to the OP) if he didn’t want to target civilians with conventional bombs, he certainly wouldn’t do it with chem/bio weapons.

The second quote is from the Battle of Britain, and is the incident that I had seen on TV. That’s all that’s mentioned in the book of the incident.

OK, fair enough, I guess I didn’t respond at all fairly there!

On re-reading, and on the presumption the book has got everything correct, I see a simple disagreement over tactics. And Hitler’s prevailed, because at that time bombing raids were still directed at strategic locations - of course, these included areas such as railways and dockyards, where millions lived. So there’s no evidence of an accidental mass bombing of an exclusively-residential area. The best example of retaliatory strikes purely targeted at morale are the Baedecker raids.

I think there may have been more to it (the bombing of civilians) than altruism on Hitler’s part. He was still hoping to negotiate a peace deal with England IIRC.

It really does not jibe with German actions in the past (pre-battle of britain), with using air power on civillian targets. I can see some collateral damage happening , with military or logisitcal centers ,and some civillian areas being hit , but coventry , if thats what your talking about , was known to the people reading the enigma traffic , that it was going to be purposely hit.

The condor legion in the spanish civil war laid down the blue prints , and was followed up by bombing warsaw and rotterdam , to name a couple of cities bombed for the sake of terror bombing, during the opening stages of the war.


There’s also a commonly held belief that Hitler was opposed to the use of poison gas* due to his experiences of it due during WWI.

*Yes, the Holocaust seems to put this into doubt.

I read somewhere that Hitler believed that the Allies had Chemical weapons stockpiles much larger then Germany’s. And using that assumption, starting a chemical war would be a very, very bad idea.

But he viewed the British as human beings (Hitler was quite the Anglophile), he viewed Jews, Roma, Slavs, etc as subhuman animals. That what’s disturbing.

In one of my old college texts the reason was “For psychological reasons that are not fully understood.”

Seems to sum it up pretty well.

While Hitler had used terror bombings in other regions, he simply did not (initially) want to use the tactic against against the British. (Of course this happened later) The quote in my previous post from The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich supports that position for the Blitz, and it appears to be the case for the Battle of Britain as well: