12 February 2001

IBM and the Holocaust

Talked about on KXAM Straus' Place show today was this story regarding the role IBM played in aiding Nazi Germany's evil reign - Writer Edwin Black claims to have roughly 20,000 pages of documentation proving that American-as-apple-pie tech behemoth IBM embraced and advanced the twisted dreams of der Führer by supplying crucial technology to the Nazis in a book entitled IBM and the Holocaust ... Virtually all the logistics of the Nazi rat-bastard programme -- certainly the best publicised if not the most extensive of mankind's frequent genocidal enterprises -- can be credited to IBM technology, we are told. ... "IBM did not invent Germany's anti-Semitism, but when Germany wanted to identify Jews by name, IBM showed it how. When the Reich wanted to use that information to launch programmes of social expulsion and expropriation, IBM provided the means. When the trains had to run on time between concentration camps, IBM offered the solution.".

Available online also are excerpt chapters (courtesy of UK Times) for anyone interested in reading more.

If the charges are true, it is no doubt reprehensible conduct with no valid excuse. But on the other hand, the Americans imported many German scientists and rewarded them handsomely for knowledge obtained from hideous experimental treatment and torturing, and they were just as responsible for the gruesome killings of innocent citizens as a guard or officer in a concentration camp would be - the same flimsy excuse that they were just following orders doesn't justify acts of extreme immoral behavoir.

Here are some blurbs from the actual book, talking about Tom Watson , head of IBM at the time who transformed IBM into a global giant behemoth - Watson was no fascist. But the accretion of wealth by, and for, the state under a strong autocratic leader fortified by nationalism and hero worship was appealing to him. His own workers wore IBM uniforms, sang IBM songs and were expected to display unquestioning loyalty. ... In 1937 he met Hitler over tea in the Reich chancellery, was feted at a banquet by Hermann Göring and other top Nazis, and was decorated with the Merit Cross of the German Eagle with Star - the highest medal Hitler could bestow on a non-German. ... The outbreak of war in September 1939 brought a boom in profits thanks to the German war machine's use of IBM technology. IBM executives in New York marvelled as the numbers rose, notably in December 1939 as SS squads armed with Hollerith lists rounded up Jews in Poland.

The author, Edwin Black, admits bias, as his parents were Holocaust survivors, uprooted from their homes in Poland.