Mediathek Event
Apr 21-22, 2015
100 Years of Chemical Warfare

On April 22, 1915, the German military released 167 tons of chlorine gas at Ypres, Belgium. Carried by a long-awaited wind, the chlorine cloud passed within a few minutes through the British and French trenches, leaving behind at least 1,000 dead and 4,000 injured. This chemical attack, which amounted to the first use of a weapon of mass destruction, marks a turning point in world history. The preparation as well as the execution of the gas attack was orchestrated by Fritz Haber, the director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electrochemistry in Berlin-Dahlem. During World War I, Haber transformed his research institute into a center for the development of chemical weapons (and of the means of protection against them).

The Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society (the successor institution of Haber’s institute) together with the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science have organized an international symposium to commemorate the centenary of the infamous chemical attack. The symposium will examine key aspects of chemical warfare from the first research on and deployment of chemical weapons in WWI to the development and use of chemical warfare during the century hence. The focus will be on ethical, legal, and political issues of chemical weapons research and deployment—including the issue of dual use—as well as the ongoing effort to control the possession of chemical weapons and to ultimately achieve their elimination.

The symposium will culminate in a Public Event that will include a Minute of Silence as well as a lecture on attempts to build a world free of chemical and other weapons.



  • Opening (Martin Wolf)
  • Music composed by Thomas Hennig, to the words of ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ by Wilfred Owen (not included in the Mediathek)
  • Address by Ghislain D’hoop (Ambassador of Belgium)
  • Gerhard Ertl (Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society): Fritz Habers Institute and Chemical Warfare
  • Jürgen Renn (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science): Summary of the Symposiums Talks and Discussions Minute of Silence
  • Excerpts from Benjamin Brittens War Requiem (not included in the Mediathek)
  • Paul Walker (Green Cross): A Century of Chemical Warfare: Building a World Free of Chemical Weapons

Harnack-Haus, Ihnestr. 16-20, 14195 Berlin, Germany

Laue Room

Opening of the Memorial




Fritz Haber’s Institute and Chemical Warfare


Summary of the Symposium’s Talks and Discussions


A Century of Chemical Warfare: Building a World Free of Chemical Weapons