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IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  1,477 ratings  ·  200 reviews
IBM and the Holocaust sparked a media frenzy and became an immediate New York Times bestseller when it appeared on bookshelves in hardcover (more than 100,000 copies sold). Now in paperback, here is the shocking, impeccably researched, and incredibly detailed story of IBM's strategic alliance with Nazi Germany. Edwin Black's chilling investigation into corporate complicity ...more
Paperback, 560 pages
Published March 26th 2002 by Three Rivers Press (first published 1999)
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Lewis Weinstein
UPDATE Jan 3, 2018

This book is a mine of details, not only what was done but how. The IBM machines and the systems engineering process described in the book was still essentially utilized in the early 1960's when I began my career as a junior systems designer with an accounting firm in Philadelphia, so I can relate personally to much of what Black describes.

It is stunning to realize that IBM under Thomas Watson's direction gained monumental profits from both Hitler and the Allies. Watson could h
...more
Erik Graff
Mar 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone!
Recommended to Erik by: Erik Flindt Badger
Shelves: history
This was not a fun book. Following the substantiation of the claim that IBM and subsidiaries knowingly facilitated the murder of millions of Jews, Socialists, Communists, pacifists, prisoners of war, gypsies, homosexuals and other "deviants" as part of their normal business practices is almost too much to take--not because it is difficult or because the proofs are obscure--they are not, but because this is too much the way of the corporate world, our American world. Similar practices are going o ...more
Siobhan
May 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The first time I visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, I was struck by an IBM tabulating machine. So that's how they did it, I thought. That's how they kept track of everyone.

Edwin Black visited the same museum, stood before the display of the same machine, and did a very different thing: he used that incident to write this book. As the son of Holocaust survivors, it's not surprising that Black's reaction was strong. He recalled standing in front of the display for quite a long time,
...more
Bree
Jun 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone especially those with an interest in the holocaust
omg i might never buy another IBM product again...truely terrifying and appalling.

This book actually made me physically ill. The thought that the Nazi extermination machine was powered by one of the most influential men of that era, not only in the US but abroad, by a man who not just communicated and recieved a medal from Hilter but also supported the Nazi (German ppl)regime and knew what was going on to the Jewish people, played both sides of the ocean (American being his number 1 customer and
...more
Natalie
Jan 29, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is incredibly important as the first comprehensive work on the subject of IBM and its unfortunate involvement in the Holocaust.
In the introduction to the novel, Black warns us that, “Skipping around in this book will only lead to flawed and erroneous conclusions. So if you intend to skim, or rely on selected sections, please do not read the book at all.” (11) This is good advice in an ideal world. However, it would take a normal person such a very long time to read this, and that’s get
...more
Gabriel Schoenfeld
Edwin Black greatly exaggerates the significance of I.B.M.'s contribution to the Holocaust. A case in point: he asserts that, as World War II progressed, "eventually, every Nazi combat order, bullet and troop movement was tracked on an I.B.M. punch card system." Every bullet? It is, moreover, simply not meaningful to declare, as Black does, that by 1939 or thereabouts, Germany, using IBM's Hollerith machines, ''had automated virtually its entire economy.'' One would not say such a thing even abo ...more
Niklas Pivic
From the beginning of this book, two paragraphs spring to mind to not only contrast the mind of what I deem as the psychopathology behind major corporations, but what also separates murderous decisions from having to be the one at the end of the whip, so to speak:

Quickly, Cheim learned the method. Every day, transports of slave laborers were received. Prisoners were identified by descriptive Hollerith cards, each with columns and punched holes detailing nationality, date of birth, marital status
...more
Bettie
Mar 01, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"In using statistics [the punch cards:] the government now has the road map from information to deed."

Overwritten and fanatically read this is nevertheless chilling stuff.

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IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation

ISBN: 0609607995

http://www.amazon.com/IBM-Holocaust-S...

From Amazon.com - Was IBM, "The Solutions Company," partly responsible for the Final Solution? That's the question raised by Edwin Black's IBM and the Holocaust, t
...more
Jessie
Jul 27, 2011 added it
How did the Nazis know where to go to find the Jews? It wasn’t luck—it was technology. IBM provided the technology that enabled the Nazi regime to slaughter millions of people. Would the Holocaust still have happened if IBM hadn’t provided their tabulators to the Third Reich? Certainly. But to such a massive scale? Maybe. If the trains had not been so impeccably scheduled, and the minorities so rapidly censused and processed, the Nazis might have been slowed down a bit. This was a heavy read for ...more
Chad
I'mma let you finish, Facebook helping to facilitate chaos in the 2016 election, but IBM facilitating the Holocaust is the worst example of a global tech behemoth's power run amok of all time! ...more
Samathy Barratt
Nov 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After a year, I finally finished IBM and the Holocaust. A pretty big book, which made a pretty big impact on how I think about business' conduct during the Holocaust. Its well worth a read if you're interested in WW2 history, IBM corporate history and/or the history of computing.

This book is not an easy read, parts of it read like a list of people, dates and occurrences. The book bounces about the timeline like a frog with each section not following on from the last but rather explaining things
...more
Erwin
Mar 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
IBM and the Hollocast

Very interesting story. I would not typically choose to read something that sounds so sensationalized, and though there are some overly dramatic sections, it is a very interesting read.

IBMs first large customer was the US census - IBM supplied "Hollerith" punch card reading/sorting machines to the census bureau.

During the holocaust, the Nazi's would walk into a town and know the names of all the Jewish people they were supposed to intern. The names came from various versions
...more
Paul
Aug 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve always heard all the accounts of those famous corporate behemoths that have been around forever, and that have profited from the Holocaust—companies like BMW, Kodak, IG Farben/Bayer, and our own American company, Ford. To this day, there are still many people who boycott those companies for their part in what is probably the most heinous chapter in the history of humanity.

One company, though, that I’ve never associated with that list was IBM. Reading this book was, therefore, quite the eye
...more
David Buccola
Nov 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating book on so many levels. It has long been known that IBM and many other American companies did business with the NAZIS. But I had no idea they were so instrumental in providing the technology needed to carry out the Holocaust. Edwin Black does a superb job of weaving this tale.

My biggest problem with the book is Black's naiveté. At one point he writes, "Ironically, Hitler's fascism resonated with men of great vision, such as Henry Ford." There was nothing ironic here. Ford,
...more
Fiona
Apr 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was recommended to me back at university from my teacher in corporate history. I already knew from our lecture some of the key facts and was really interested as IBM has become such a big company and I also know that they were the ones building the first simultaneous translation units and providing them for free for the Nuremberg Trials. So how can it be that a company involved in the holocaust helps to sentence others for their crimes instead of being in the dock themselves?
“IBM and t
...more
Ariel
This book is an extremely important text that outlines IBMs connection with Nazi Germany. It shows the rise of Nazism & Nazi ideology. It details many genocidal acts and crimes done by the Nazis & their allies. IBMs leader Thomas Watson was there, micro-managing details down to the floor plans of new factories. IBM created a complex international system to hide responsibility of it's ongoing business with Nazi Germany and reap as much profit as possible. Their goal was money and nothing else. Ca ...more
Emily
This is another book I have been mired in for many months. The topic should certainly be interesting. How did early computer technology fuel the Holocaust? Unfortunately the author is not really interested in technology; he is interested in the corporate history of IBM. Further, he has done his research in a strange way, by mustering over 100 volunteers who helped with the language barrier and the sheer volume of primary documents. Unlike the majority of history books I read, which are by profes ...more
Raven
Mar 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An incredibly well documented, intensively footnoted condemnation of IBM's rise as a multinational conglomerate right before World War II, and the cascading effects of their prioritization of profits. Chilling to reflect on what "don't ask, don't tell" can get you in the use of technology... I'm sure many of the IBM worker bees of the era were unaware of the human cost being paid by the victims of the Holocaust for their delivered efficiency, but many of the IBM employees were not only involved, ...more
Dan Sharber
Feb 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this book was written for skeptics. because of that it is meticulously documented and everything down to personal correspondence is painstakingly recreated. and if you are a skeptic, you should be convinced. if you already believed though and were not at all surprised that corporations made money with the nazis then this book can become tedious. to me what was most interesting was not that ibm colluded with the nazis but rather that high tech was used in the total destruction of a people. the sh ...more
David Corleto-Bales
Feb 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
A rather chilling and exahaustingly-researched book about how I.B.M. aided the Nazi regime in Germany from 1933 on, reaping gigantic profits from its sale of tabulation machines and cardboard punch cards that were used in everything from racial censuses to coordinating the movements and whereabouts of millions of prisoners in the concentration camp system. After 1941, I.B.M.'s German subsidiaries funnelled the proftis to the corporation via Switzerland, all the while I.B.M.'s chairman served as ...more
aaron
Another fun one. Amazing amount of research, and while it certainly criticizes IBM, the presentation is more historical than political or emotional.

I *did* leave this book convinced that IBM had a dark, dirty beginning, which only played into my generally negative view of most multinational corporations, and my disappointment and the crap people will do for money. Nevertheless, it's a really fascinating book; one way in particular being just getting a really detailed description of the machinat
...more
Benjamin baschinsky
A masterpiece, how author Edwin Black links the Corp giant with the Nazi's. ...more
Kirk Smith
Mind blowing historical information delivered in the most belabored and tedious fashion. The Goodreads review has the entire story in a nutshell. Punch card computing! Bloody fucking efficiencies.
Gina
Feb 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The dawn of the Information Age began at the sunset of human decency."

Probably about 2001 (when this book was written) I remember reading some other books about WWII and realizing how much there is to know about it. There is still a lot that we kind of know but don't really understand. We can picture emaciated inmates at concentration camps, and know there were gas chambers and crematoria, especially because Auschwitz had all of those things. We don't have that same image of a train arriving at
...more
Erik
Nov 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an important book detailing the amoral pursuit of success by IBM throughout the Nazi regime. My ranking of it is not to diminish its importance, for that it deserves full credit. I only rank it as a 4/5 for how it reads. The structure of the book is a thesis followed by hundreds of pages of undeniable proof--and to prove such a thesis, such proof is necessary.

After reading, it certainly makes me reconsider any use of IBM products (however possible that is in such a corporately-powered w
...more
Mark
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, judaica
Thomas Watson, as the CEO of IBM, and the majority shareholder of IBM’s German subsidiary Dehomag, paid little or no attention to the plight of Germany’s Jews and accepted the Merit Cross of the German Eagle with Star from Hitler himself in 1937. The award was for the company’s work in supplying Germany with IBM punch card reading machines - the computers of the day. The machines were used throughout the German government, including the Reichsbahn, the Luftwaffe, the Wehrmacht, the concentration ...more
Karen
This is another hard read from Edwin Black, but it is a very important topic. It is a troubling topic in so many ways. First and formost, to know that corporations you grew up with aided the Nazi extermination of Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses, Gypsies, and others borders on the unfathomable. To see such raw greed, with a complete lack of any moral fiber, is alarming.
Thomas Watson was such a person. He was the president of IBM, and continued operations in Nazi Germany, throughout the war, using decep
...more
Marek
Oct 04, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It took me almost a year to go through about 500 (e-)pages.

Topic of the book got my attention straight away. How one of the biggest IT services companies indirectly helped Nazis in exterminating the Jews through World War I I. What's even more interesting is how Holleriths machines helped to form and grow early use of machines in statistics and analytics.

While this is interesting and indeed discussed in the book, 95% content of the book is dedicated to business operations of Watson's and Hitle
...more
Melita
It is important that this book was written so that the truth about IBM's actions in Nazi Germany are revealed. However, the book veered into dangerous territory when it tried to make eugenics look like a Nazi Germany phenomenon when it was in fact a significant movement in various other countries too. ...more
Nerio
Very sad true about how the most powerful American corporation contributed to the plans of a sicko only for a profit....
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Is an American syndicated columnist and journalist. He specializes in human rights, the historical interplay between economics and politics in the Middle East, petroleum policy, the abuses practiced by corporations, and the financial underpinnings of Nazi Germany.

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