ICE Issue 9

30 The Israel Chemist and Chemical Engineer Issue 9 · January 2023 · Tevet 5783 History of Chemistry Articles My parents lived before WWII in the small town of Chust in Ruthenia, which is known as the Carpathian Ukraine, at that time Czechoslovakia. Following German occupation of Czechia in 1939, Czechoslovakia was dismembered and Ruthenia with over 100,000 Jews, 14% of the population, was annexed to Hungary. The Hungarian Jews, although persecuted, were saved from the Holocaust until March 1944, when Germany occupied Hungary. My family was transported to Auschwitz on the festival of Shavuot, June 1944. When my parents, among the few that survived, were liberated, they had the choice of returning home to Ruthenia, which was now annexed to the Soviet Union, or remaining in Czechoslovakia. The Jews who decided to stay were relocated to the Sudetes region (north-west Bohemia, near the German border), which was half-empty, after the transfer of more than three million Germans to Germany. My parents were accommodated in an apartment left by Germans, and I was born there. Three years later, when we moved to Prague, my with attenuated total reflectance (ATR) diamond accessory (Thermo Nicolet iS5 with iD5) allows a non-destructive measurement of the IR spectra of solids. The software includes a library of reference spectra that can be used to identify compounds. The library includes a large number of polymers, so I thought it should be simple to identify the material from which my chess set is made. I brought chess pieces of both colors to the lab, and we made several measurements. The result was shocking: the library search determined with the highest probability that the figurines are made of human skin [see Figures 2(a – c)]. The ATR accessory measures a very thin layer, just about 1 micron (one thousandth of a millimeter) thin, so there was the possibility that what we measured was epithelial cells from our fingers. We therefore washed the figurines thoroughly, but the result gave an even higher probability that they were made of human skin. Figure 2. (a) FTIR spectra of several chess pieces, (b,c) typical library search, (d) PMF spectrum with highly conserved keratin ions indicated. (a) (b) (c) (d)