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IBM and the Holocaust

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IBM & the Holocaust tells of IBM's strategic alliance with Nazi Germany--beginning in 1933 in the 1st weeks that Hitler came to power & continuing well into WWII. As the 3rd Reich embarked upon its plan of conquest & genocide, IBM & its subsidiaries helped create enabling technologies, step-by-step, from the identification & cataloging programs of the 30s to the selections of the 40s. Only after Jews were identified--a massively complex task Hitler wanted done immediately--could they be targeted for efficient asset confiscation, ghettoization, deportation, enslaved labor & annihilation. It was a cross-tabulation & organizational challenge so monumental, it called for a computer. Of course, in the 30s no computer existed. But IBM's Hollerith punch card technology did exist. Aided by the company's custom-designed & constantly updated Hollerith systems, Hitler was able to automate the persecution of the Jews.

Historians were amazed at the speed & accuracy with which the Nazis were able to identify & locate European Jewry. Until now, the pieces of this puzzle have never been fully assembled. The fact is, IBM technology was used to organize nearly everything in Germany & then Nazi Europe, from the identification of the Jews in censuses, registrations & ancestral tracing programs to the running of railroads & organizing of concentration camp slave labor. IBM & its German subsidiary custom-designed complex solutions, anticipating the Reich's needs. They didn't merely sell the machines & walk away. Instead, IBM leased these machines for high fees & became the sole source of the billions of punch cards needed. IBM & the Holocaust details the carefully crafted corporate collusion with the 3rd Reich, as well as the structured deniability of oral agreements, undated letters & the Geneva intermediaries--all undertaken as the newspapers blazed with accounts of persecution & destruction. Just as compelling is the human drama of one of our century's greatest minds, IBM founder Thomas Watson, who cooperated with the Nazis for the sake of profit. Only with IBM's technologic assistance was Hitler able to achieve the staggering numbers of the Holocaust. Edwin Black has now uncovered one of the last great mysteries of Germany's war against the Jews: how Hitler got the names.

710 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1999

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About the author

Edwin Black

32 books117 followers
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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Profile Image for Lewis Weinstein.
Author 9 books485 followers
January 3, 2018
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 have severely disrupted the German military and the operation of the death camps by stopping IBM's support of Nazi data processing systems. He never did that, and it seems the US and Roosevelt never asked him to.

Of course I can't use much of Black's marvelous detail in the sequel I'm writing to A FLOOD OF EVIL. But I can use some, and more important, the understanding I have gained of how the Nazis managed the logistics of mass murder has suggested several powerful plot points for my characters: How did Anna survive at Auschwitz? How did Berthold find her and rescue her?

A few quotes from this remarkable book ...

... after the German invasion, IBM maintained its Polish punch card printing operation using paper brought in from Germany … produced 10 million cards per year

... Dehomag's profits in 1939 doubled the previous year … RM 3.9 million

... records maintained on 2.5 million conscripted and slave laborers … extract list of technicians with particular skills and language abilities … then move where needed

... only IBM could print the cards which were compatible with the IBM sorters and other machines … special presses, paper and storage facilities were needed … any competitors were shut down with court orders … contracts with German clients required use of Hollerith cards printed at IBM owned and operated printing facilities ... billions of cards per year ... each card could be used only once ... production required a sophisticated network of IBM authorized pulp mills, paper suppliers and transporters

... IBM field engineers custom designed every application … beginning with an extensive study to determine data gathering from various sources and multiple card layout requirements … system implementation required a constant interaction between IBM and client personnel … all plug and dial tabulators were set only by IBM systems engineers ... punch cards were custom printed for each application, with column headings, logos, etc ...

... because of its grip on punched cards and spare parts, and its ownership of all machines, IBM exercised control over Nazi Germany's ability to plan and wage war

... even as IBM was supporting Germany's war effort, it was also vitally involved in US and British war projects … including Enigma at Bletchley Park … tracking millions for the draft and captured Axis prisoners … neither side could proceed without IBM's technology, punched cards, and systems support

... every Nazi concentration camp operated a Hollerith Department … at Dachau two dozen sorters, tabulators and printers were installed … other facilities punched cards for transport to central locations

... coordinating the logistics of genocide across dozens of cities in more than 20 countries … including train timetables, locomotives, boxcars ... no delays … precision timing and scheduling … tracking stopped when Jews boarded trains ... no escape was possible, there was no need for further tracking … Jews were no longer worth the price of a single punch card


MAY 21, 2017 ...

This is truly a shocking book, dealing with indisputable facts that IBM (and Tom Watson specifically) knowingly helped Hitler prepare for war and identify Jews for annihilation, in return for enormous profits. These actions will be dealt with in the sequel to A FLOOD OF EVIL. So far, I have read the portion of the book to the year 1937. Much more to follow.

NOTES from IBM and the Holocaust ...

... When Hitler came to power, a central Nazi goal was to identify and destroy Germany's 600,000-member Jewish community. Only after Jews were identified could they be targeted for asset confiscation, ghettoization, deportation, and ultimately extermination. To search generations of communal, church, and governmental records all across Germany— and later throughout Europe— was a monumental cross-indexing task

... IBM Germany, known in those days as Deutsche Hollerith Maschinen Gesellschaft, or Dehomag, did not simply sell the Reich machines and then walk away. IBM's subsidiary, with the knowledge of its New York headquarters, enthusiastically custom-designed the complex devices and specialized applications as an official corporate undertaking. ... IBM NY always understood— from the outset in 1933— that it was courting and doing business with the upper echelon of the Nazi Party. The company leveraged its Nazi Party connections to continuously enhance its business relationship with Hitler's Reich, in Germany and throughout Nazi- dominated Europe.

... Just meters from the Belsen crematorium, off to the left, near the kitchens and the cisterns, down a muddy path, stood the block leader's house. Inmates sometimes called this place "the lion's den." Within "the lion's den" was a room for the Arbeitsdienstfuhrer, the Labor Service Leader. That is where the Hollerith punch cards were processed.

... Watson was awarded Hitler's medal, bestowed by Schacht … he wore it, draped by two swastikas … the ceremony was well recorded by US papers
Profile Image for Erik Graff.
4,984 reviews1,083 followers
September 13, 2013
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 on now, more efficiently. We don't want to think about it, but we must.

Black and his hundreds of research assistants throughout the world, many of them victims of the very IBM technologies which made such suffering possible, have done a very credible job which apparently has successfully resisted a number of lawsuits. They are to be applauded. This book ought be read by everyone.
Profile Image for Kathryn in FL.
716 reviews
February 9, 2022
I read this book when it was published and it haunts me 20 years later. It is very relevant to our lives today!

IBM played an integral role in assisting with the destroying of many lives. At the behest of the Nazi regime, they developed the computer in its most primitive form to keep count and manage the entire operation of the Nazi empire. This computer kept count of machinery, necessities like food and most significantly the counting of prisoners of the state. The numbers on those arms were the "files" that were entered into the computer.

So many disregard the significance of computers in our lives today, yet nearly every thing we do has a computer operating within it. Have a television? It communicates with satellites to give you access to people and other forms of data (movies, sports, Olympics, news) worldwide 24/7. Refrigerator? It has a motherboard that if not monitoring properly will turn that big metal contraption into a storage box. I know my Brand New Whirlpoo (it is a more appropriate name) didn't work after 3 weeks, it took 4 1/2 months for Whirlpoo to send a new mother board, it died after 5 days. I lost $3000 worth of food and had to buy another refrigerator LG. Whirlpoop will never see another penny from me!

That car you drive has a computer that lets it park your car, heat your butt while in the seat, adjust your temperature, defrost your window and stops your car if someone is behind you! Let's not forget that computers monitor traffic signals, tolls, speed of travel, high speed chases, accidents and more.

IBM probably had more impact on the events of the 20th century than any other corporation as we also see the rise in purchases made from mega retailers like Amazon and our personal social lives via various social media platforms, its influence is evident in every aspect of our lives. We realize more is coming, where more and more are choosing to mark their hands to have convenience of opening doors and paying for purchases without carrying anything but that chip...after the vaccine passport, what lies ahead? Will any part of our life be a secret. I find it doubtful.
Profile Image for Muhammad .
141 reviews18 followers
March 26, 2016
"প্রতিটি ঐশ্বর্য্যের পেছনেই রয়েছে একটি বড় অপরাধ"
-অনার দি বালজাক

ইন্টারন্যাশনাল বিজনেস মেশিন (আইবিএম) কর্পোরেশনের নাম শোনেননি এমন মানুষ আজকের দিনে পাওয়া দুষ্কর। আইবিএম পৃথিবীর শীর্ষস্থানীয় প্রযুক্তি উদ্ভাবনকারী প্রতিষ্ঠান। আইবিএম এর মতো অন্য কেউই সম্ভবত পৃথিবীকে প্রযুক্তিগতভাবে এতটা সমৃদ্ধশালী করতে পারেনি। ২০১৩ সাল পর্যন্ত টানা ২২ বছর সবচেয়ে বেশী উদ্ভাবনের প্যাটেন্টের রেকর্ড আইবিএমের দখলে ছিলো। আজকের বহুল প্রচলিত এটিএম মেশিন, হার্ড্ড্রাইভ, সিডি-ডিভিডির পূর্বসুরী ফ্লপি ডিস্ক, ইত্যাদি সবই আইবিএমের অবদান। প্রায় সাড়ে ৪ লক্ষ কর্মী নিয়ে বর্তমানে ১৭০টি দেশে কাজ করছে আইবিএম। বলা বাহুল্য, আইবিএম পৃথিবীর সবচেয়ে সম্পদশালী প্রতিষ্ঠানগুলোর মধ্যে অন্যতম প্রধান। মানবসমাজের প্রভূত উন্নতিসাধনকারী আইবিএমের আগের ইতিহাস কিন্তু অমন মহান কিছু নয়। বরং, আধুনিক সভ্যতার বীভৎসতম হত্যাযজ্ঞটির সাথে ওতপ্রোতভাবে জড়িয়ে আছে আইবিএমের নাম। নাৎজিদের ৬ মিলিয়ন ইহুদী নিধনের প্রধানতম হাতিয়ার নির্মাতা ছিলো আইবিএম। না, কোন বিশেষ বন্দুক, পিস্তল কিংবা আগ্নেয়াস্ত্র বানিয়ে দিয়ে আইবিএম নাৎজিদের সহায়তা করেনি। আইবিএম নাৎজিদের দিয়েছিলো আদমশুমারির যন্ত্র-সর্টিং মেশিন।

‘আইবিএম অ্যান্ড দি হলোকাস্ট’ বইয়ের লেখক এডুইন ব্ল্যাক দ্বিতীয় বিশ্বযুদ্ধের হত্যাযজ্ঞ থেকে বেঁচে ফেরা দুর্লভ এক দম্পতির সন্তান। কনসেন্ট্রেশন ক্যাম্প থেকে পালাবার সময় ব্ল্যাকের মা গুলিবিদ্ধ হন। স্বাভাবিক কারণেই নাৎজি জার্মানী’র প্রতি ব্ল্যাকের প্রচণ্ড ক্ষোভ ছিলো। ‘আইবিএম অ্যান্ড দি হলোকাস্ট’ বইটি পড়তে গেলে আন্দাজ করা যায় ব্ল্যাকের ক্ষোভের পাল্লাটা কত ভারী। বিশ্বের বিভিন্ন প্রান্তের লাইব্রেরি ঘেঁটে প্রচুর তথ্য উপাত্ত সংগ্রহ করে ভয়াবহ নিষ্ঠার সাথে ঘটনাগুলোকে একের পর এক সাজিয়ে ব্ল্যাক লিখেছেন সাড়ে ন’শ পৃষ্ঠার প্রায় পৌনে দু’ কেজি ওজনের বিশাল এক বই। হলোকাস্টে আইবিএম সংক্রান্ত তথ্য যেখানে যা পেয়েছেন, জুড়ে দিয়েছেন। দু’শ পাতা জুড়ে ছড়িয়ে থাকা নির্ঘন্টের তালিকাটা দেখলে বোঝা যায় ব্ল্যাকের নাৎজি বিরোধী ‘প্যাশন’টা কত তীব্র।

জার্মান প্রযুক্তিবিদ হারম্যান হলারিথ ১৮৭৯ সালে আমেরিকার পরিসংখ্যান ব্যুরোতে নিয়োগ পান অ্যাসিস্টেন্ট পদে। সে যুগের আদমশুমারির পরিচালনাটা ছিলো অসম্ভব সময় সাপেক্ষ ও কষ্টকর এক কাজ। সংবিধান অনুযায়ী প্রতি দশ বছর অন্তর অন্তর আদমশুমারি করবার নিয়ম। গৃহযুদ্ধ প��বর্তীকালীন আমেরিকার জনসংখ্যায় বিশাল পরিবর্তন আসে, আসে মানচিত্রেও। এক আদমশুমারির কাজ পুরোপুরি সম্পন্ন হতে না হতেই দশ বছর পরের আরেক আদম���ুমারির সময় চলে আসত। হারম্যান হলারিথ ১৮৯০ সালের আদমশুমারির কাজ দ্রুত সম্পন্ন করবার জন্য তৈরী করেন তাঁর সর্টিং মেশিন-হলারিথ মেশিন (চিত্র)। তখনকার রেলের কনডাক্টররা টিকিটে বিশেষ ছাঁচে ফুটো করে যাত্রীর উচ্চতা, চুলের রং, নাকের আকার, বেশভূষা ইথ্যাদি তথ্যের রেকর্ড রাখতো। ঐ বিশেষ ছাঁচে ফুটো করা টিকেট দেখেই কনডাক্টররা বুঝতো যাত্রী একই টিকিট বারবার ব্যবহার করছে কি না। টিকিটের হিসেব রাখবার এ প���্ধতি দেখেই হলারিথ উদ্ভাবন করেন তাঁর সর্টিং মেশিন। নির্দিষ্ট তথ্য সংবলিত কার্ড মেশিনে দেয়া হতো, মেশিন তার হিসেব নিকেশ করে ফুটোর ছাঁচ অনুযায়ী চাহিদা মাফিক কার্ডগুলোকে আলাদা করে রাখতো। হলারিথের এ উদ্ভাবন ১৮৯০ সালের আদমশুমারিতে মার্কিন সরকারে ৫ মিলিয়ন ডলার বাঁচিয়ে দেয়। এ মেশিন দিয়েই নাৎজিরা আদমশুমারি করে ইহুদীদের তথ্য আলাদা করে ধারণ করতো। আইবিএম নাৎজিদের কাছে এমন দু’হাজারেরও বেশী মেশিন সরবরাহ করে। নাৎজি দখলকৃত ইওরোপে করে আরো কয়েক হাজার।

আইবিএম প্রতিষ্ঠিত হয় ১৯১১ সালে, তবে জার্মানীতে আইবিএম একটি ছোট প্রতিষ্ঠানের মাধ্যমে কার্যক্রম চালাতো, যার নাম ডয়েশ হলারিথ মেশিন্যান গেজেলশাফট বা সংক্ষেপে ডেহোম্যাগ (Deutsch Hollerith Mascinen Gesselschaft) । প্রচুর নথিপত্রের ভিত্তিতে এডুইন ব্ল্যাক দেখিয়েছেন হিটলার যুগের সূচনালগ্ন থেকেই আইবিএম ওরফে ডেহোম্যাগ ভালো করেই জানতো তারা নাৎজি সংস্থার ওপরদিকের চাঁইদের সাথে কাজ করছে, এমনকি, তাদের উদ্দেশ্য সম্পর্কেও ডেহোম্যাগ অনেকটাই ওয়াকিবহাল ছিলো।

হলারিথ মেশিনের মূল ছিলো পাঞ্চিং কার্ড। ৮০টি কলামের এ কার্ডের ফুটোয় ফুটোয় রেকর্ড হয়ে যেতো ৪ কোটি জনসংখ্যার জার্মানীর প্রতিটি নাগরিকের হুলিয়া। নাৎজিদের চোখে ইহুদীরা অপরাধী-ই ছিলো বটে। হলারিথ পাঞ্চিং কার্ডে ১৬ প্রকারের অপরাধী চিহ্নিত করবার ব্যবস্থা ছিল, তৃতীয় ও চতুর্থ কলামের ফুটোর অবস্থান অনুযায়ী (৩য় ফুটোঃ “সমকামী”, ৯ম ফুটোঃ “অসামাজিক”, ১২শ ফুটোঃ “জিপসি”। ইহুদীদের জন্য বরাদ্দ ছিলো ৮ম ফুটো। ৮ নম্বর ফুটো পাঞ্চ করা কার্ড গুলো আলাদা করে নেয়া হতো ইহুদীদের সনাক্ত করবার জন্য।)

আইবিএম এর প্রতিষ্ঠাতা মার্কিন ধনকুবের চার্লস ফ্লিন্ট। কোম্পানিটি তখন পরিচিত ছিলো “Computing-Recording-Tabulating Company (CTRC)” নামে। ইংরেজীতে যাকে বলে Ruthless Businessman, ফ্লিন্ট ছিলেন তাই। CTRC-এর ম্যানেজার পদে ফ্লিন্টের প্রয়োজন ছিলো তার মতোই ধূর্ত, কৌশলী, নীতিহীন আরেকজন ব্যবসাদারকে। ফ্লিন্ট নিয়োগ দেন থমাস জে ওয়াটসনকে। আইবিএম নামটি ওয়াটসনেরই দেয়া। পরবর্তী সময়ে এই ওয়াটসনই আইবিএমের সর্বেসর্বা হয়ে ওঠেন। ইহুদী সনাক্তকরণে নাৎজিদের সর্বোতভাবে সহায়তা করার সিদ্ধান্তটি ওয়াটসনের নিজের। কারণটি সম্পূর্ণই অর্থনৈতিক। নাৎজি জার্মানী ছিলো আইবিএমের দ্বিতীয় বৃহত্তম বাজার। ব্ল্যাক ওয়াটসনকে এ বইয়ে Business Scoundrel অভিহিত করেছেন। মার্কিন সরকারের নিষেধ সত্ত্বেও ওয়াটসন নাৎজিদের সাথে ব্যবসায়িক সম্পর্ক রেখেছেন, জার্মানী গিয়েছেন বারবার। নাৎজিদের সহযোগীতার স্বীকৃতি স্বরূপ ওয়াটসন স্বয়ং হিটলারের কাছ থেকে Merit Cross of the German Eagle with Star মেডেল পান, মর্যাদার দিক থেকে যার অবস্থান সর্বোচ্চ পুরস্কার Hitler’s German Cross এর পরেই।

থমাস জে ওয়াটসন অত্যন্ত সুচতুরভাবে গোটা আইবিএমের ব্যবসা চালিয়েছেন। CTRC’র কর্মীদের ওপরও অসাধারণ প্রভাব ছিলো তাঁর। দৈনন্দিন পারিবারিক সিদ্ধান্ত নেবার আগেও কর্মীরা ওয়াটসন এর অফিসঘরে ধর্ণা দিতেন। ওয়াটসনকে নিয়ে আইবিএম কর্মীদের গানও ছিলো, যাকে দেবপ্রশস্তি বলাই শ্রেয়ঃ
Mister Watson is the man we’re working for
He’s the leader of the C-T-R
He’s the fairest, squarest man we know
Sincere and true
He has shown us how to play the game
And how to make the dough

এহেন ফেয়ারেস্ট, স্কয়ারেস্ট ওয়াটসনের লিভিংরুমে বহু বছর ধরে হিটলারের একান্ত দোসর ফ্যাসিস্ট নেতা মুসৌলিনী’র অটোগ্রাফ সংবলিত ছবিও শোভা পেয়েছে।

“জার্মানীর উন্নতি সাধনে ইহুদী নিধন ছাড়া আর গতি নেই”-এই মন্ত্র হিটলার ও তার নাৎজি বাহিনী এত দৃঢ়ভাবে বিশ্বাস করতো, তার নমুনা দেখে বিস্মিত হতে হয়। ইহুদীদের প্রতি ঘৃণা তারা ধর্মীয় বিশ্বাসের মতোই লালন করতো। “ইহুদীরা নিকৃষ্ট”, “ইহুদীরা দূষিত রক্তের বাহক”-ইত্যাদি সব ভীষণ অবৈজ্ঞানিক অন্ধ বিশ্বাস মারাত্মকভাবে পেয়ে বসেছিলো এমনকি নাৎজি বৈজ্ঞানিক, গণিতবিদ, চিকিৎসকদেরও। ফ্রিডরিখ জান (Friedrich Zahn)-ব্যাভারিয়ান স্ট্যাটিস্টিকস অফিসের প্রেসিডেন্ট-ছিলেন নাৎজিদের ইহুদী সনাক্তকরণের আদমশুমারির অন্যতম পরিচালক। জান তাঁর “Development of German Population Statistics Through Genetic-Biological Stock-Taking” শীর্ষক প্রবন্ধে (শিরোনামটি লক্ষ্য করুন!) লিখেছেন, “জনসংখ্যীয় রাষ্ট্রনীতি প্রতিষ্ঠিত হয়েছে জাতিগত শুদ্ধতার আদর্শে। দুর্বল, হীন একটি জাতির উত্থানের সম্ভাবনা নাকচে এ নীতির বিকল্প নেই। এই নীতির প্রয়োগ নিকৃষ্ট বংশীয় অনার্য্যদের (ইহুদী) বিস্তার রোধ করবে ও উচ্চমান সম্পন্ন আর্য্যবংশসমূহকে সুসংগঠিত করবে। অন্যার্থে, এই নীতির মূলমন্ত্র ‘সুবংশীয় রক্তধারার পালন ও অচ্ছুৎ, অযাচিত জনসংখ্যার বিনাশ’”।

আইবিএমের হলারিথ মেশিন ঘন্টায় ২৫,০০০ কার্ড বাছাই করতে পারতো। মুহূর্তমধ্যে ইহুদীদের ঠিকুজি নাৎজিদের খাতার পাতায় লেখা হয়ে যেতো। আর তারপরেই শুরু হতো তাদের কনসেন্ট্রেশন ক্যাম্পে পাঠানো। বইতে এক চেক মাতা ক্যারেল ল্যাঙ্গারের উল্লেখ আছে। নাৎজি কনসেন্ট্রেশন ক্যাম্পের অত্যাচার এড়াতে সপরিবারে আত্মহত্যা করেন ক্যারেল। প্রথমে তাঁর ৪ ও ৬ বছর বয়েসী দুই সন্তানকে ১৩ তলা থেকে ছুঁড়ে ফেলেন, তারপর নিজে লাফ দিয়ে পড়েন। ক্যারেল একা নন, এমন কয়েকশ ক্যারেল আত্মাহুতি দিয়েছেন নাৎজি আতঙ্কে।

ইহুদী নিধনে নাৎজিদের অসাধারণ শৃঙ্খলার পরিচয় পেলে অবাক বনতে হয়। জার্মান মস্তিষ্কের উদ্ভাবনী ক্ষমতার-বাখ থেকে আইনস্টাইন-সুখ্যাতি দুনিয়াব্যাপী। নাৎজিরাও খুব পিছিয়ে ছিলোনা। অঙ্ক কষে, হিসেব নিকেশ করে তবেই ইহুদী নিধন শুরু হয়। ফ্রিটজ আর্ল্ট, দখলকৃত পোল্যান্ডের আদমশুমারি কার্যালয়ের প্রধান, আঁক কষে জানিয়ে দিয়েছিলেন, ১.৫ মিলিয়ন ইহুদী মারলে পোল্যান্ডের ইহুদী জনসংখ্যা প্রতি বর্গকিলোমিটারে ১১০-এ এসে দাঁড়ায়। যেকোন সমস্যার একটি সাধারণ সমাধানই ছিলো নাৎজিদের, হত্যা। ১৯৪১ সালের অক্টোবরে দখলকৃত ইয়োগোস্লাভিয়ার ৮০০০ বন্দী ইহুদীদের নিয়ে সেখানকার নাৎজি কর্তৃপক্ষ একবার বিপাকে পড়ে। তারা চেয়েছিলো এই ৮০০০ বন্দীকে ট্রেনে করে সার্বিয়া ফেলে আসতে,কিন্তু বার্লিন হেডকোয়ার্টার থেকে কোন অনুমতি আসছিলোনা। শেষ পর্যন্ত লিউটেন্যান্ট কর্নেল অ্যাডলফ আইকমানকে টেলিগ্রাম করা হয় বন্দীদের নিয়ে কি করা হবে তার ‘উপদেশ’ চেয়ে; উত্তর আসে, “Eichmann proposes shooting”-কি অনায়াস, নির্বিকার সে সমাধান! ৮০০০ বন্দীকে সার বেঁধে হাঁটু মুড়িয়ে বসিয়ে একসাথে গুলি করে হত্যা করা হয়।

নাৎজি শাসনামলে ইহুদীদের ওপর চলা এমন অনেক অত্যাচারের টুকরো টুকরো বিবরণী বইয়ের বিভিন্ন অংশে ছড়িয়ে আছে। উল্লেখ আছে ক্রোয়েশিয়ান ফ্যাসিস্ট দল 'উস্তাশি'রও। নাৎজি বাহিনীর সহায়তায় উস্তাশি দমন নিপীড়নের মাধ্যমে ক্রোয়েশিয়ায় ক্ষমতা ধরে রাখে। এডুইন ব্ল্যাক মন্তব্য করেছেন ইহুদীদের অত্যাচার করবার জন্য উস্তাশি'র মতো 'sadistic' পন্থা আর কেউ বার করতে পারেনি। করাত, কুঠার, চাপাতি, পাথর দিয়েই হাজার হাজার ইহুদী নিধন করেছে উস্তাশি। উস্তাশির নেতারা নাকি প্রকাশ্যে গলায় ইহুদী নারী ও শিশুদের কেটে নেয়া জিভ আর উপড়ে নেয়া অক্ষিগোলক এর নেকলেস পরে ঘুরে বেড়াতো। উস্তাশি নেতা আন্তে পাভেলিচ তার বিদেশী রাষ্ট্রীয় অতিথিদের ঝুড়ি ভর্তি ইহুদী অক্ষিগোলক উপহার দিয়ে বরন করতো। ছবিতে আন্তে পাভেলিচ, হিটলারের সাথে করমর্দনরতঃ

নাৎজি কর্মকাণ্ডের প্র��িটি ধাপের সাথেই হলারিথ মেশিন অবিচ্ছিন্নভাবে মিশে গিয়েছিলো। বিমান বাহিনীর প্রতিটি মিশনের রেকর্ড, প্রতিটি বৈমানিকের ব্যক্তিগত তথ্য, প্রতিটি নাৎজি বুলেটের হিসেব, কন্সেন্ট্রেশন ক্যাম্পের ট্রেনের শিডিউল বন্দী সংখ্যা, মৃত্যু সংখ্যা, সব……সব হিসেব নিকেশের হাতিয়ার ছিলো ঐ হলারিথ সর্টিং মেশিন।

যে পাঞ্চিং কার্ড দিয়ে হলারিথ মেশিন তার বাছাই এর কাজ সারতো, তার আইনত একমাত্র প্রস্তুতকারক ছ��লো আইবিএম। অন্য কোন কোম্পানী সে কার্ড প্রস্তুত করতে গেলেই ওয়াটসন মামলা ঠুকে বসতেন। পাঞ্চিং কার্ডের ব্যবসা আইবিএম তথা ওয়াটসনের সোনার ডিম পাড়া হাঁস। ১৯৩৯ সালে আইবিএম ডেনমার্কে বিক্রি করেছে ১৯ লক্ষ কার্ড, ফিনল্যান্ডে ১৩ লক্ষ, নরওয়েতে ৭ লক্ষ, ইয়োগোস্লাভিয়াতে ১০ লক্ষ, স্পেনে ৭ লক্ষ, হাঙ্গেরীতে আড়াই লক্ষ। এ কার্ডের সবই ব্যবহৃত হয়েছে নাৎজিদের কাজে। শুধু ১৯৪৩ সালেই হিটলারের থার্ড রাইখের কাছে আইবিএম বিক্রি করেছে ১৫ কোটি পাঞ্চিং কার্ড।

কন্সেন্ট্রেশন ক্যাম্পগুলোতে মৃত্যুসংখ্যার হিসেব রাখার জন্য কিছু হলারিথ কোড ছিলো, যেমনঃ D-4: মৃত্যুদণ্ড, E-5: আত্মহত্যা, F-6: বিশেষ বিচারে মৃত্যুদণ্ড। C-3: কোড ছিলো স্বাভাবিক মৃত্যুর জন্য। গ্যাস চেম্বারে নিহত লাখ লাখ বন্দী, গার্ডদের স্রেফ আমোদের জন্য পিটিয়ে মেরে ফেলা বৃদ্ধটি, কাজ করতে করতে মুখে ফেনা তুলে মারা যাওয়া রুগ্ন-শীর্ণ যুবকটি….. এরা সবাই C-3: “প্রাকৃতিক কারণজনিত স্বাভাবিক মৃত্যু”।

দ্বিতীয় বিশ্বযুদ্ধের সেই সময়টায় শুধু একা আইবিএম অনৈতিক ও অবৈধভাবে নাৎজিদের সাথে ব্যবসা চালিয়ে টাকা বানায়নি। এমন আরো বহু কোম্পানীই ছিলো। আজ যখন আমেরিকার প্রেসিডেন্ট পদপ্রার্থী ডোনাল্ড ট্রাম্প সদম্ভে ঘোষণা করেন তিনি প্রেসিডেন্ট হয়ে এলে সব আমেরিকান মুসলিমদের ডেটাবেজ বানাবেন, তাদের প্রত্যেকটি পদক্ষেপেরও হিসেব রাখবেন, আমাকে তা হিটলারের কথা মনে করিয়ে দেয়। একই কথা বলে তো হিটলারও ক্ষমতায় এসেছিলো? আজকের আইবিএম ৮০ বছর আগের আইবিএমের চেয়ে কয়েক হাজার গুণ উন্নত। আজকের পৃথিবীতে এমন প্রতিষ্ঠানও আইবিএম একা নয়। ট্রাম্পের সেই ডেটাবেজ বানাবার জন্য প্রচুর প্রতিষ্ঠান সানন্দে এগিয়ে আসবে, বিলিয়ন বিলিয়ন ডলার বানিয়ে নেবে, আর বাগিয়ে নেবে সেই মহান শিরোপা, সমস্ত সম্পদ দিয়েও যা কখনো পাওয়া যায়নাঃ Goodwill।

পুনশ্চঃ দ্বিতীয় বিশ্বযুদ্ধ শেষ হবার পরপরই হলোকাস্টের সাথে জড়িত নাৎজিদের ধরপাকড় ও বিচার শুরু হয় যা ন্যুরেমবার্গ ট্রায়াল নামে পরিচিত। শুনানী শেষে নাৎজিদের ফাঁসিতে ঝুলিয়ে দেয়া হতো। সে বিচারের ফুটেজ আজ পুরো বিশ্বের হাতের নাগালে। ইউটিউব ঘাঁটলেই পাওয়া যায় অ্যাডলফ আইকমানের শুনানি, বিশ্বযুদ্ধের ১৬ বছর পর যাকে আর্জেন্টিনা থেকে অপহরণ করে নিয়ে এসে বিচারকের সামনে দাঁড় করানো হয়। আর আমার দেশে? রাজাকার, যুদ্ধাপরাধীদের বিচা���ের সরাসরি সম্প্রচার? বিচারের ফুটেজ? কোথায়? হা হতোম্মি!
100 reviews4 followers
June 23, 2020
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, realizing that he finally had the answer to the question, "How did they do it?"

The first time I thumbed through the book in a bookstore, I was struck by two things that made me want to read more. One was that the author said in the introduction that the book is a whole work, meant to be read that way, not thumbed through. Read the whole thing or don't read it at all, he advised. What choice did I have but to read the entire book?

The second was that Black acknowledged that the Holocaust would have happened with or without IBM. The ruthless efficiency of the nightmare would have been reduced, of course, but it still would have happened on some level.

This book is chilling. Reading it, one wonders not about the Nazis, whose insane notions of the worth of humanity have been so well documented elsewhere. Rather, I wondered at the strength of the profit motive, the desire to make money that precluded everything, including consideration for human life.

To this day, IBM will not respond to questions about its role in the Holocaust. I can understand that. The company has a lot to be ashamed of. But how much better the world would be if we could all admit our wrongdoings and seek forgiveness.

I realize that no one involved with IBM today had a hand in this sorry tale. But still, the company made a whole lot of money off the Holocaust. That money provided the basis for IBM's future. Current workers and stockholders may not have participated, but they continue to reap the benefits.
Profile Image for Bree.
284 reviews19 followers
July 14, 2008
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 Nazi Germany his number 2) for the love of money and profit is truely sickening to me.

The only thing that made this book a difficult and somewhat slow read was that it is full to briming with technical speak. I understand the need for this, so that the reader can fully understand the technology, but it bogs the book down a tad. Also it is very evident how he thinks of IBM and Tom Watson, he uses very descriptive and what I feel is naturally biased descriptions of him and the evils of Nazism. Again completely understandable..Nazism was evil, but it, in some cases, obviously shows that Black is not a outside neutral writer, but someone who is already biased in a certain dirction. Of course he is writing about an event that is extremely emotional and for most rational people an event that most of us are biased about. The holocaust is one of the worst proofs of our own inhumanity to others. Not that his attitude takes away from the veracity of his claims, but sometimes I felt like he was driven more by his emotions. But again, I felt similarly sickened by Tom Watson's actions, I would have been hard pressed to write a completely neutral expose.

One of the aspects of this book that I particularly liked was that Black intersperses his narrative and vilification of IBM, or in truth Tom Watson, with stories of single men who at the peril of their lives saved hundreds of thousands of people using the same punch card technology. Thereby showing us the great good that could and in some cases did come from the use of this technology, but which because of Tom Watsons greed were instead mainly used to steal the worldly goods, persecute and ulitmately eradicate 6 million men, women and children.
Profile Image for Gabriel Schoenfeld.
Author 3 books1 follower
August 1, 2014
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 about our own highly computerized economy. The book is riddled with similarly worthless assertions.

I reviewed this book at greater length in the Sunday New York Times. My review can be found here:

Profile Image for Natalie.
38 reviews20 followers
April 16, 2010
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 getting through all the dry parts, which constitute most of the middle of the book. You really have to care about what you’re reading to get through this book. It’s very rewarding, but just not for everyone.
This book is dense and packed to the brim with details. It is extremely thorough, and at times comes across as having some unnecessary information. As Black extensively explains in the introduction, this book took an enormous effort to produce. After painstakingly recovering documents from around the world, he was left with an unbelievable amount of notes. My only criticism is that maybe he should have edited a little; some of the information that he gave was unnecessary in relation to the story of IBM and its relation to the Holocaust. TAt one point he goes on for four pages about someone's bonus not being given on time...
On the other hand, this is the first comprehensive work of its kind on IBM and its role in the Holocaust, so perhaps my complaints are unwarranted. Still, to be more accessible to the general public I would have definitely done some editing. The goings-on of the business were necessary to include somewhat, but not so compelling to the extent that Black presented it.
While I do have a greater understanding of how in-depth the Nazis went with finding out just who was Jewish, I can’t help but wonder why there wasn’t more of a silent retaliation. The Nazis researched some information thoroughly, for example, records of Jews who had converted to Christianity (They were not excluded from being targeted.) But other times, the censuses would simply ask questions about an individual’s grandparents for example. In the later years of the 30s, why didn’t people lie? “Census takers were cautioned to overcome any distrust by assuring families that the information would not be released to the financial authorities.” (170) Okay, but it was still released to the Nazis. That’s the main question that I’m left with after reading this book; before the deportations started, when there were definite signs of trouble and Anti-Semitism towards Jews, why didn’t more people lie?
Another element of this book that really troubled me was the author’s often use of the New York Times as proof that America really knew and cared what was happening to the Jews in Europe. Through my own research and videos we’ve watched in class, this simply wasn’t the case. Besides the New York Times hardly ever having said information on the front page, Americans weren’t predominantly concerned with what was happening with the Jews; the issue was the war and the soldiers we were sending to fight in it. Furthermore, America was quite anti-Semitic at the time and if our citizens were given the full information, I wouldn’t have been as big of a priority as it would be today.
Profile Image for Niklas Pivic.
Author 4 books63 followers
October 3, 2011
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, number of children, reason for incarceration, physical characteristics, and work skills. Sixteen coded categories of prisoners were listed in columns 3 and 4, depending upon the hole position: hole 3 signified homosexual, hole 9 for anti-social, hole 12 for Gypsy. Hole 8 designated a Jew. Printouts based on the cards listed the prisoners by personal code number as well.8 Column 34 was labeled "Reason for Departure." Code 2 simply meant transferred to another camp for continuing labor. Natural death was coded 3. Execution was coded 4. Suicide coded 5. The ominous code 6 designated "special handling," the term commonly understood as extermination, either in a gas chamber, by hanging, or by gunshot.

One December morning, even as the numbered man Cheim, in his tattered uniform, stepped quickly toward the Bergen-Belsen Hollerith office to stay warm and to stay alive, another man, this one dressed elegantly in a fine suit and warm overcoat, stepped out of a new chauffeured car at 590 Madison Avenue in New York. He was Thomas J. Watson. His company, IBM—one of the biggest in the world—custom-designed and leased the Hollerith card sorting system to the Third Reich for use at Bergen-Belsen and most of the other concentration camps. International Business Machines also serviced its machines almost monthly, and trained Nazi personnel to use the intricate systems. Duplicate copies of code books were kept in IBM's offices in case field books were lost. What's more, his company was the exclusive source for up to 1.5 billion punch cards the Reich required each year to run its machines.

Even though IBM still, to this day, negate their cooperating with the nazis, evidence stands clear. Thomas Watson received a medal from Hitler in 1937 and the war started in 1939, and despite this IBM still cooperated with the nazis. The pressure on Watson to return the medal didn't stand in the way of American IBM of controlling IBM in every part of Europe in every facet.

It was an irony of the war that IBM equipment was used to encode and decode for both sides of the conflict.

Indeed. Hitler and the Allies came to the same conclusion: they could not be without the machines that IBM owned, the ones that made all the automatic calculations work. All the counting of people, arms, gender, sexual preference, nationality, whether or not the person counted was a jew or not, one-half jew, one-fourth jew, one-sixteenth jew. The statistics collected was staggering and used by the Reich to fast-track The Final Solution.

IBM was in some ways bigger than the war. Both sides could not afford to proceed without the company's all-important technology. Hitler needed IBM. So did the Allies.

IBM was there every step of the way, and their personnel not only serviced the machines that made the punch-cards work, but the machines were leased - not sold - to the Reich, so that IBM could make as much money as possible. And traipsed along with IBM across Europe as the nazis exploded their boundaries and willen.

Fascism is good business, as the book says.

Watson and his international cohorts went to great lengths not only to help kill anybody to make a buck, but also to secure as many patents as possible to eliminate their competition likewise. And then, ultimately, tried to murder any trail that was left after their doings with Hitler as they realised the nazis were in fact going to lose the war. Of course, that was in the pipes from the start. IBM was, after all, a self-professed "solutions company".

The Final Solution.

Which is merely one - albeit the biggest cog, of sorts - of the many bits of the war and the book that exposes the far-reaching, blood-curdling operation that IBM ran, but chilling precision:

After nearly a decade of incremental solutions the Third Reich was ready to launch the last stage. In January 1942, a conference was held in Wannsee outside Berlin. This conference, supported by Reich statisticians and Hollerith experts, would outline the Final Solution of the Jewish problem in Europe. Once more, Holleriths would be used, but this time the Jews would not be sent away from their offices or congregated into ghettos. Germany was now ready for mass shooting pits, gas chambers, crematoria, and an ambitious Hollerith-driven program known as "extermination by labor" where Jews were systematically worked to death like spent matches. For the Jews of Europe, it was their final encounter with German automation.

And, as stated, there was The End of WWII:

In many instances, elaborate document trails in Europe were fabricated to demonstrate compliance when the opposite was true. Nonetheless, the true record would be permanently obscured. During the war years, IBM's own internal reviews conceded that correspondence about its European business primarily through its Geneva office was often faked. Dates were falsified. Revised contract provisions were proffered to hide the true facts. Misleading logs and chronologies were kept.

In the years that followed, IBM's worldwide stature became even more of a beacon to the cause of progress. It adopted a corporate motto: "The Solutions Company." Whatever the impossible task, IBM technology could find a solution. The men who headed up the IBM enterprise in Nazi Europe and America became revered giants within the corporation's global community. Chauncey became chairman of the IBM World Trade Corporation, and the European subsidiary managers were rewarded for their loyalty with top jobs. Their exploits during the Nazi era were lionized with amazing specificity in a promotional book entitled The History of Computing in Europe, published in 1967 by IBM itself. However, an internal IBM review decided to immediately withdraw the book from the market. It is no longer available in any publicly accessible library anywhere in the world.

More information also surfaced about IBM president Thomas J. Watson's involvement in Germany. A former IBM employee, now in New York State, discovered a pamphlet in his basement and sent me a copy. It was the commemorative program of a luncheon held in Watson's honor just before Watson received Hitler's medal during the 1937 Berlin International Chamber of Commerce festivities. The program includes a picture of Watson surrounded by grateful Hitler Youth, and the text of toasts by Nazi finance wizard Hjalmar Schacht appealing to Watson to help stop the anti-Nazi boycott.

All in all, this tome is extremely well-researched and well-written. I'm just waiting for a newer edition with even more information that's come up since 2003. And there's www.edwinblack.com.
Profile Image for Bettie.
9,988 reviews15 followers
March 6, 2014
"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.


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

ISBN: 0609607995


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, the most controversial book on the subject since Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners. Black, a son of Holocaust survivors, is less tendentiously simplistic than Goldhagen, but his thesis is no less provocative: he argues that IBM founder Thomas Watson deserved the Merit Cross (Germany's second-highest honor) awarded him by Hitler, his second-biggest customer on earth. "IBM, primarily through its German subsidiary, made Hitler's program of Jewish destruction a technologic mission the company pursued with chilling success," writes Black. "IBM had almost single-handedly brought modern warfare into the information age [and:] virtually put the 'blitz' in the krieg."

The crucial technology was a precursor to the computer, the IBM Hollerith punch card machine, which Black glimpsed on exhibit at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, inspiring his five-year, top-secret book project. The Hollerith was used to tabulate and alphabetize census data. Black says the Hollerith and its punch card data ("hole 3 signified homosexual ... hole 8 designated a Jew") was indispensable in rounding up prisoners, keeping the trains fully packed and on time, tallying the deaths, and organizing the entire war effort. Hitler's regime was fantastically, suicidally chaotic; could IBM have been the cause of its sole competence: mass-murdering civilians? Better scholars than I must sift through and appraise Black's mountainous evidence, but clearly the assessment is overdue.

The moral argument turns on one question: How much did IBM New York know about IBM Germany's work, and when? Black documents a scary game of brinksmanship orchestrated by IBM chief Watson, who walked a fine line between enraging U.S. officials and infuriating Hitler. He shamefully delayed returning the Nazi medal until forced to--and when he did return it, the Nazis almost kicked IBM and its crucial machines out of Germany. (Hitler was prone to self-defeating decisions, as demonstrated in How Hitler Could Have Won World War II.)

Black has created a must-read work of history. But it's also a fascinating business book examining the colliding influences of personality, morality, and cold strategic calculation.
--Tim Appelo

Profile Image for Paul.
103 reviews28 followers
August 26, 2014
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-opener. From beginning to end, the meticulously detailed and documented account of IBM’s greedy involvement in the war (sometimes a bit too detailed and even at times slightly repetitious), and IBM's eager contribution to the Nazi Wehrmacht, is astounding. The lengths that IBM had to go to in order to keep the Nazi machine well-oiled and their own pockets well-lined was truly despicable—even manipulating the U.S. government at various steps along the way! (And I am still reeling from the revelation that IBM actually had technicians *in the concentration camps* to service the equipment!)

It begs the hypothetical question of what would have happened had IBM not been able to get away with what they did? How far would Hitler have been able to advance—both in military conquest and in mass murder—had he not had IBM’s technology at their disposal? While I’m sure Hitler would still have done quite a lot of damage, this book really shows IBM as the perfect catalyst that Hitler needed. Without this technology, Jews could not have been identified nearly as thoroughly, could not have been rounded up nearly as efficiently, and could not have been logistically shuttled through the camp system to their deaths nearly as quickly.

The silence resulting from IBM's determined efforts to cover up this ugly stain on their history speaks volumes, loudly and clearly. And the fact that Edwin Black was still able to produce such a damning accumulation of evidence despite IBM's lack of cooperation is a testament to Black’s dedication and thoroughness.
17 reviews2 followers
November 11, 2018
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 happening concurrently, before, or after the things described in the previous section. In many places, people, companies or other actors from hundreds of pages back are brought to the forefront again and the reader is just expected to remember exactly who this person or company is that they read about months ago. Its challenging to pick up and put down and remember what is going on.

However, this book is a masterpiece of meticulous research. Near each line is cited with a resource.
Every surprising statement about IBM's conduct is supported by documents, letters, people's testimony's and more.
The information here is frankly astounding and will make you think twice about IBM in future, even if you don't manage to get through it all!
Profile Image for Jessie.
Author 5 books16 followers
July 27, 2011
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 someone like me, who rarely reads nonfiction, but it was an eye-opener. I had never thought to ask how the Nazis knew whom to ghettoize or kill.
Profile Image for Chad.
272 reviews16 followers
March 1, 2018
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!
361 reviews67 followers
March 1, 2011
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 of the German census, and the German government contracted with IBM's German subsidiary "Deheomog" to manage the census.

In a "punch card" system for population management, each person is represented by a punch card - it's equal to a database record. The Nazi punch cards contained fields for:
- ethnicity
- languages spoken
- birth place of mom, dad, grandparents

The Nazi's would then feed the completed cards through the punch card sorting system, and based on the number of cards found, they would know how many Jewish people had been selected by their criteria. The Nazi's had a target for the percent of the population they wanted to eliminate, so they could reclassify "Jewishness" via different sorts until they came up with the right number.

Then the could sort those punch cards by region, and have the local police in each area go out and capture the named jewish citizens.

Additionally, Dehomag had lots of German military contracts, and even worked for the prisons department which managed the internment camps. The entire system was extremely efficient, just like the Nazi "blitzkrieg" on the battlefield. Unfortunately that efficiency was to facilitate genocide.

Moral of the story I suppose is to be careful what information you supply to any government - as Jews who avoided the census could also have avoid capture.

IBM had excellent political connections in the US and in Germany, in fact most customers were governments in the early days --- IBM carefully avoided connection with and responsibility for Dehomog due to leveraging gov't relationships, for example instead of "communicating with the enemy" IBM used the State Dept to pass messages, and therefore keep their hands clean.

The CEO of IBM, Watson, was a very interesting character and a powerful motivator and manager. Should read more about him.

All over IBM he wrote one word, on doorways, in halls, on paper, everywhere. He wrote this to inspire troops to keep and open mind, know exactly what they were doing, be cautious, and avoid mistakes. That one word: THINK.

Would be interesting to do the same thing for O8, but use the Latin or Greek version of the word:
Greek: SKEFTOME (Σκέφτομαι)
Profile Image for Emily.
685 reviews614 followers
January 3, 2019
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 professional historians who have had decades to let their subject crystallize in their own minds, this book presents a huge quantity of undigested detail along with the narrative flourishes of a journalist. If the goal is to present every detail that might damn IBM, it succeeds, but the case is no longer news 17 years after the book was first published (which means it was successful, but not necessarily that I should finish reading it). If the goal is to offer some deeper insight into the role of information and informatics in the Holocaust, I didn't get there.

Once again, I'm not saying I'm going to stop reading this, but even my lavish 9-month library loan period may end before I finish.
Profile Image for Kirk Smith.
234 reviews73 followers
December 20, 2016
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.
Profile Image for David Buccola.
91 reviews11 followers
January 12, 2014
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, Watson and a slew of American capitalists loved Fascism because it's a pro-business ideology that destroys labor unions and protects private property.

That naiveté also extends to Black's portrayal of Thomas Watson as someone who was only interested in market share and money. George Carlin once quipped that Germany lost the second World War and fascism won; this book does a pretty solid job of making that point, though unintentionally. Watson clearly understood what Hitler was doing and made every attempt to help him carry out his goals. It was clearly about more than money since the money being generated by the Third Reich was in blocked accounts that Watson had no guarantee of ever seeing.

Nevertheless, despite Black's liberal naiveté, it's a riveting good read filled with tons of information.
Profile Image for Fiona.
503 reviews62 followers
January 3, 2018
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 the Holocaust” gives a very detailed answer to this question. You can tell by his emphasizing that the author has a personal interest in this topic. He did a lot of research and gives a wide overview of how IBM was managing their subsidiaries in Europe – with focus on Germany and occupied territories. Sometimes it’s êven a bit too detailed, e.g. when the amount of various machines is listed.
I was more than onces “shocked” about how unscrupulous IBM leader Watson was, but not like he was a bad person (maybe he was anyway, can’t judge) – but so ecomically focused, so efficient. Kind of impressive. But only from economical perspective. Even though they called themselves the “IBM family”, humanity was only important when it helped the company.
I recommend this book to everyone interested in corporate history and /or accounting of the holocaust.
43 reviews3 followers
July 2, 2018
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. Capitalism was glad to deal with Nazi Germany, but many American companies were investigated or charged during & after the war for their complicity in Nazi crimes. But IBM managed to escape these charges. IBM managed to use the US state department for their goals. Watson was friends with President Roosevelt. IBM has never been charged, never apologized, and deliberately hidden many of their files on this topic. The epilogue of this edition shows how the IBM of today attempted to smear the book, prevent information from being released, and still refuses to apologize.

IBM technology what made the 'trains run on time'. IBM technology produced the lists used by Nazis to find and murder Jews. If we really care about reparations and justice for the Holocaust, IBM can't be ignored
Profile Image for Raven.
370 reviews4 followers
March 22, 2016
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, not only complicit, but responsible for architecting the decisions and solutions that the Reich implemented. There can be no effective denial of that, despite the company's also-deliberate attempts to obscure its actions for the historical record. This is an important read for students of history and politics, but more so, it's an important read for people working in technological and engineering fields today. Being a good company employee isn't always the right thing to do. Hats off to the author and his research team for producing such a powerful, disturbing book.
Profile Image for Dan Sharber.
226 reviews72 followers
November 11, 2013
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 sheer terror of the speed at which the nazis murdered millions is mindnumbing and would've been impossible without ibm. it is this sort of technological aspect of fascism that specifically leads to orwell writing 1984. ww2 ushered in a new era of tracking and automation - not just mass murder. it is this aspect that is most terrifying to me.
49 reviews13 followers
August 23, 2015
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 Hitler's empires. Again, while this is interesting, thanks to the author's attention to detail, whole book is waaay too long and contains too many details as for casual nonfiction book.

Would love to read condensed version of this one with a little more focus on technical part of the IBM's business.
Profile Image for David Corleto-Bales.
993 reviews59 followers
February 24, 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 the president of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace. This was no oversight: I.B.M. executives knew exactly what the tabulation machines were being used for, and covered it all up at the end of the war. A very striking example of corporate immorality, still relevant today.
6 reviews2 followers
May 2, 2007
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 machinations and methodologies (not to mention the logistics) of actually making a civilian database. Lot of work. Lot of crummy people involved.
Profile Image for Gina.
Author 5 books22 followers
February 15, 2020
"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 a camp and the passengers being dead within an hour, but that was a thing that happened. We joke about trains running on time. We know lists would be published of names to report, because that is what sent Anne Frank's family into the attic, but not how they had the information.

Black's book explains and fills in a lot, incorporating a stunning amount of research and detail, and a far larger picture of how the gears of the Holocaust ground than I think has ever happened before.

It is hard not to wonder whether the role of IBM has previously been largely passed over is related to IBM also being the company that managed and coordinated the translation of Nazi-related documents.

It is disturbing in this age of rising fascism and widespread surveillance to see how much the Hollerith machines and punch cards allowed personal details to be known and used, for efficient and evil ends. It is disturbing to think of how Thomas Watson of IBM is still revered there, and to know more about the kind of person he was.

And here is an important thing; Watson did not specifically want Jews murdered, but he sure loved the profits that his company could make by assisting the Reich.

Corporate greed is a familiar threat, though it is worth reflecting on how that affects the development of technology. We may learn more from looking at Bulgaria.

Bulgaria's Jewish residents were well-integrated, and they did not want to give their people up. They had reluctantly joined the Axis for support in keeping Macedonia and Thrace. They did end up being willing to give up the Jewish people there.

There are stories of integrity and heroism too, often ending up in death. Maybe it's not encouraging, but maybe we are not so far along yet that it can't be put right.

And if the only hope is that you can try and do what's right and die honorably, rather than participate in mass murder, it's could to know that there are people who will be brave to the end.
Profile Image for Erik.
32 reviews2 followers
November 22, 2020
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 world), but it also has me reflect on how unbridled corporations may respond to atrocity. The word "salivate" comes to mind.
58 reviews1 follower
September 22, 2021
Transnational corporations answer to the dollar and the shareholder, not necessarily to the people they serve through the market place. The danger of such companies running a country was clearly shown by William Dalrymple in The Anarchy. A related, not widely know corporate geopolitical travesty, was the role played by IBM in supporting the Nazi war machine through the provision, customization, training, and servicing of their Hollerith Punch Card tabulating machine (the forerunner to the modern computer). The way IMB, through it's iconic CEO Thomas Watson, played off the governments of the US and Nazi Germany is, quite frankly, hard to believe. But believe I do after reading this incredibly well detailed book. The level of detail, while necessary for this work to serve as irrefutable evidence of what happened between IBM and the Nazis, makes for some slow reading in parts of the book. However, in the end it is worth sticking with it, making this a very worthy read. This book bears witness and serves as a cautionary tale of unscrupulous capitalistic corporate malfeasance, for which IBM has never been held accountable. The relevance to today is direct (Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc), and awareness is the first step in making sure that it never happens again...
Profile Image for Chris.
418 reviews
September 4, 2015
I am finally, finally, *finally* done reading this darn book. After years of it sitting on my "currently reading" shelf, half read, I decided to make a big push and finish it. And I did. And boy, did I remember why I put it down in the first place. I firmly believe that the only way you can read this book is to read it for a few hours every single day until you're done. Otherwise you'll put it down and never pick it up again.

This author completely lost the forest for the trees. I mean, he decided to categorize and label each tree so carefully (almost like an IBM employee!) that he got lost in the forest--and his main goal in the first place had been to create an accurate portrait of a forest.

In other words, this book is filled with minutiae, details, and lots, and lots of carefully cited facts. That's good. Accusing a major international corporation of corporate malfeasance on this scale--that should be very carefully documents. He did that. Good job.

However, this author's issue was NOT the research. It wasn't the topic. It wasn't the timing, or the history, or any of that. The author's issue was that he simply didn't know how to translate these details into a readable format. This book was a slog. It was very difficult to read. Frankly, it was boring at time. There were many places where examples could have been trimmed and the writing simply made more accessible. Each sentence on its own was fine. Taken together... sheesh, you need a lot of coffee and an awful lot of determination to make it through this book.

I suspect many readers did not make it through this book. When I had only about a hundred pages left earlier this week, I started looking at some of the reviews on Goodreads. A lot of people, especially those with not-positive reviews, were quoting lines from the first couple chapters. Not that many from later chapters. I found that telling.

Okay, writing style aside. The content was important. I am very glad that I did, in fact, finish the book. It tells a very, very important chapter from our recent world history, a chapter that we would all do well to learn from. Sometimes, censuses are terrifying things, and in the wrong hands, they can lead to disastrous consequences. Corporations need to have morals, too.

My favorite chapter of this book was "France and Holland", a later chapter that explained how IBM functioned in occupied Holland v. occupied and Vichy France. Essentially, Holland's bureaucratic systems had already fully integrated IBM into their own population census bureaus, their railway systems, their transport and police and army. The Reich also appointed an exceptionally dedicated, enthusiastic, and organized public servant to organize the gathering of data on the Jews and their transport to the camps in Holland. In contrast, in France, there was little prior dependence on IBM's or any other punch card technology, it was sporadically used and often not used at all, with much bureaucratic resistance to punch-card technology. Also, the person the Reich appointed to run France's data gathering and transport of the Jews was a man, who, it turns out, was very high up in the French Resistance and actively sabotaged whenever possible. Holland managed to murder some 75% of its Jewish population. France: 25%. The story of those two occupied territories juxtaposed was one of the most moving and interesting chapters in the entire book.

The author made an excellent point in this foreword: the Holocaust would have happened regardless of IBM. That is true, undoubtedly. Genocide happened in Rwanda fifty years later with machetes. However. The Holland/France chapter made it clear that without IBM's assistance, the Reich would have had a dramatically lower "success rate" in their genocide.

It was a slog of a book written about an exceptionally interesting and important topic. I would not proactively recommend it to anyone based on its inaccessible language, but I also wouldn't tell someone NOT to read it. However, if you can find a really good summary of it, you should read that.
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