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

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

by Edwin Black

Paperback(Expanded Edition)

$19.08 $27.00 Save 29% Current price is $19.08, Original price is $27. You Save 29%.
View All Available Formats & Editions

Temporarily Out of Stock Online

Eligible for FREE SHIPPING

Overview

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

IBM and the Holocaust is the award-winning, New York Times bestselling shocker—a million copies in print—detailing IBM's conscious co-planning and co-organizing of the Holocaust for the Nazis, all micromanaged by its president Thomas J Watson from New York and Paris. This Expanded Edition offers 37 pages of previous unpublished documents, pictures, internal company correspondence, and other archival materials to produce an even more explosive volume. Originally published to extraordinary praise in 2001, this provocative, award-winning international bestseller has stood the test of time as it chronicles the story of IBM's strategic alliance with Nazi Germany. IBM and the Holocaust provides nothing less than a chilling investigation into corporate complicity. Edwin Black's monumental research exposes how IBM and its subsidiaries helped create enabling technologies for the Nazis, step-by-step, from the identification and cataloging programs of the 1930s to the selections of the 1940s.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780914153276
Publisher: Dialog Press
Publication date: 02/16/2012
Edition description: Expanded Edition
Pages: 592
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.70(d)
Age Range: 13 Years

About the Author

Edwin Black is the award-winning, New York Times and international investigative author of 80 bestselling editions in 14 languages in 61 countries, as well as scores of newspaper and magazine articles in the leading publications of the United States, Europe and Israel. With a million books in print, his work focuses on genocide and hate, corporate criminality and corruption, governmental misconduct, academic fraud, philanthropy abuse, oil addiction, alternative energy and historical investigation. Editors have submitted Black's work nine times for Pulitzer Prize nomination, and in recent years he has been the recipient of a series of top editorial awards. He has also contributed to a number of anthologies worldwide. For his work, Black has been interviewed on hundreds of network broadcasts from Oprah, the Today Show, CNN Wolf Blitzer Reports and NBC Dateline in the US to the leading networks of Europe and Latin American. His works have been the subject of numerous documentaries, here and abroad. All of his books have been optioned by Hollywood for film, with three in active production. His latest film is the screen adaptation War Against the Weak, based on his book of the same name. Black's speaking tours include hundreds of events in dozens of cities each year, appearing at prestigious venues from the Library of Congress in Washington to the Simon Wiesenthal Institute in Los Angeles in America, and in Europe from London's British War Museum and Amsterdam's Institute for War Documentation to Munich's Carl Orff Hall. He is the editor of The Cutting Edge News, which receives more than 1.5 million visits monthly.

Black's ten award-winning bestselling books are IBM and the Holocaust (2001), British Petroleum and the Redline Agreement (2011), The Farhud (2010), Nazi Nexus (2009), The Plan (2008), Internal Combustion (2006), Banking on Baghdad (2004), War Against the Weak (2003), The Transfer Agreement (1984), and a 1999 novel, Format C:. His enterprise and investigative writings have appeared in scores of newspapers from the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune to the Sunday Times of London, Frankfurter Zeitung and the Jerusalem Post, as well as scores of magazines as diverse as Playboy, Sports Illustrated, Reform Judaism, Der Spiegel, L'Express, BusinessWeek and American Bar Association Journal. Black's articles are syndicated worldwide by Los Angeles Times Syndicate International, Los Angeles Times-Washington Post Syndicate, JTA and Feature Group News Service.

Read an Excerpt

Introduction
This book will be profoundly uncomfortable to read. It was profoundly uncomfortable to write. It tells the story of IBM's conscious involvement--directly and through its subsidiaries--in the Holocaust, as well as its involvement in the Nazi war machine that murdered millions of others throughout Europe.
Mankind barely noticed when the concept of massively organized information quietly emerged to become a means of social control, a weapon of war, and a roadmap for group destruction. The unique igniting event was the most fateful day of the last century, January 30, 1933, the day Adolf Hitler came to power. Hitler and his hatred of the Jews was the ironic driving force behind this intellectual turning point. But his quest was greatly enhanced and energized by the ingenuity and craving for profit of a single American company and its legendary, autocratic chairman. That company was International Business Machines, and its chairman was Thomas J. Watson.
Der Führer's obsession with Jewish destruction was hardly original. There had been czars and tyrants before him. But for the first time in history, an anti-Semite had automation on his side. Hitler didn't do it alone. He had help.
In the upside-down world of the Holocaust, dignified professionals were Hitler's advance troops. Police officials disregarded their duty in favor of protecting villains and persecuting victims. Lawyers perverted concepts of justice to create anti-Jewish laws. Doctors defiled the art of medicine to perpetrate ghastly experiments and even choose who was healthy enough to be worked to death--and who could be cost-effectively sent to the gas chamber. Scientists and engineersdebased their higher calling to devise the instruments and rationales of destruction. And statisticians used their little known but powerful discipline to identify the victims, project and rationalize the benefits of their destruction, organize their persecution, and even audit the efficiency of genocide. Enter IBM and its overseas subsidiaries.
Solipsistic and dazzled by its own swirling universe of technical possibilities, IBM was self-gripped by a special amoral corporate mantra: if it can be done, it should be done. To the blind technocrat, the means were more important than the ends. The destruction of the Jewish people became even less important because the invigorating nature of IBM's technical achievement was only heightened by the fantastical profits to be made at a time when bread lines stretched across the world.
So how did it work?
When Hitler came to power, a central Nazi goal was to identify and destroy Germany's 600,000 Jews. To Nazis, Jews were not just those who practiced Judaism, but those of Jewish blood, regardless of their assimilation, intermarriage, religious activity, or even conversion to Christianity. 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 cross-indexing task so monumental, it called for a computer. But in 1933, no computer existed.
When the Reich needed to mount a systematic campaign of Jewish economic disenfranchisement and later began the massive movement of European Jews out of their homes and into ghettos, once again, the task was so prodigious it called for a computer. But in 1933, no computer existed.
When the Final Solution sought to efficiently transport Jews out of European ghettos along railroad lines and into death camps, with timing so precise the victims were able to walk right out of the boxcar and into a waiting gas chamber, the coordination was so complex a task, this too called for a computer. But in 1933, no computer existed.
However, another invention did exist: the IBM punch card and card sorting system--a precursor to the computer. IBM, primarily through its German subsidiary, made Hitler's program of Jewish destruction a technologic mission the company pursued with chilling success. IBM Germany, using its own staff and equipment, designed, executed, and supplied the indispensable technologic assistance Hitler's Third Reich needed to accomplish what had never been done before--the automation of human destruction. More than 2,000 such multi-machine sets were dispatched throughout Germany, and thousands more throughout German-dominated Europe. Card sorting operations were established in every major concentration camp. People were moved from place to place, systematically worked to death, and their remains cataloged with icy automation.
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. Dehomag's top management was comprised of openly rabid Nazis who were arrested after the war for their Party affiliation. 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.
Dehomag and other IBM subsidiaries custom-designed the applications. Its technicians sent mock-ups of punch cards back and forth to Reich offices until the data columns were acceptable, much as any software designer would today. Punch cards could only be designed, printed, and purchased from one source: IBM. The machines were not sold, they were leased, and regularly maintained and upgraded by only one source: IBM. IBM subsidiaries trained the Nazi officers and their surrogates throughout Europe, set up branch offices and local dealerships throughout Nazi Europe staffed by a revolving door of IBM employees, and scoured paper mills to produce as many as 1.5 billion punch cards a year in Germany alone. Moreover, the fragile machines were serviced on site about once per month, even when that site was in or near a concentration camp. IBM Germany's headquarters in Berlin maintained duplicates of many code books, much as any IBM service bureau today would maintain data backups for computers.
I was haunted by a question whose answer has long eluded historians. The Germans always had the lists of Jewish names. Suddenly, a squadron of grim-faced SS would burst into a city square and post a notice demanding those listed assemble the next day at the train station for deportation to the East. But how did the Nazis get the lists? For decades, no one has known. Few have asked.
The answer: IBM Germany's census operations and similar advanced people counting and registration technologies. IBM was founded in 1898 by German inventor Herman Hollerith as a census tabulating company. Census was its business. But when IBM Germany formed its philosophical and technologic alliance with Nazi Germany, census and registration took on a new mission. IBM Germany invented the racial census--listing not just religious affiliation, but bloodline going back generations. This was the Nazi data lust. Not just to count the Jews--but to identify them.
People and asset registration was only one of the many uses Nazi Germany found for high-speed data sorters. Food allocation was organized around databases, allowing Germany to starve the Jews. Slave labor was identified, tracked, and managed largely through punch cards. Punch cards even made the trains run on time and cataloged their human cargo. German Railway, the Reichsbahn, Dehomag's biggest customer, dealt directly with senior management in Berlin. Dehomag maintained punch card installations at train depots across Germany, and eventually across all Europe.
How much did IBM know? Some of it IBM knew on a daily basis throughout the 12-year Reich. The worst of it IBM preferred not to know--"don't ask, don't tell" was the order of the day. Yet IBM NY officials, and frequently Watson's personal representatives, Harrison Chauncey and Werner Lier, were almost constantly in Berlin or Geneva, monitoring activities, ensuring that the parent company in New York was not cut out of any of the profits or business opportunities Nazism presented. When U.S. law made such direct contact illegal, IBM's Swiss office became the nexus, providing the New York office continuous information and credible deniability.
Certainly, the dynamics and context of IBM's alliance with Nazi Germany changed throughout the twelve-year Reich. I want the full story understood in context. Skipping around in the 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. Make no mistake. The Holocaust would still have occurred without IBM. To think otherwise is more than wrong. The Holocaust would have proceeded--and often did proceed--with simple bullets, death marches, and massacres based on pen and paper persecution. But there is reason to examine the fantastical numbers Hitler achieved in murdering so many millions so swiftly, and identify the crucial role of automation and technology. Accountability is needed.
What made me demand answers to the unasked questions about IBM and the Holocaust? I confronted the reality of IBM's involvement one day in 1993 in Washington at the United States Holocaust Museum. There, in the very first exhibit, an IBM Hollerith D-11 card sorting machine--riddled with circuits, slots, and wires--was prominently displayed. Clearly affixed to the machine's front panel glistened an IBM nameplate. It has since been replaced with a smaller IBM machine because so many people congregated around it, creating a bottleneck. The exhibit explained little more than that IBM was responsible for organizing the census of 1933 that first identified the Jews. IBM had been tight-lipped about its involvement with Nazi Germany. So although 15 million people, including most major Holocaust experts, have seen the display, and in spite of the best efforts of leading Museum historians, little more was understood about this provocative display other than the brief curator's description at the exhibit and a few pages of supportive research.
I still remember the moment, staring at the machine for an hour. I turned to my mother and father who accompanied me to the museum that day and promised I would discover more.
My parents are Holocaust survivors, uprooted from their homes in Poland. My mother escaped from a boxcar en route to Treblinka, was shot, and then buried in a shallow mass grave. My father had already run away from a guarded line of Jews and discovered her leg protruding from the snow. By moonlight and by courage, these two escapees survived against the cold, the hunger, and the Reich. Standing next to me five decades later, their image within the reflection of the exhibit glass, shrapnel and bullet fragments permanently embedded in their bodies, my parents could only express confusion.
But I had other questions. The Nazis had my parents' names. How?
What was the connection of this gleaming black, beige and silver machine, squatting silently in this dimly lit museum, to the millions of Jews and other Europeans who were murdered--and murdered not just in a chaotic split-second as a casualty of war, but in a grotesque and protracted twelve-year campaign of highly organized humiliation, dehumanization, and then ultimately extermination.
For years after that chance discovery, I was shadowed by the realization that IBM was somehow involved in the Holocaust in technologic ways that had not yet been pieced together. Dots were everywhere. The dots needed to be connected.
Knowing that International Business Machines has always billed itself as a "solutions" company, I understood that IBM does not merely wait for governmental customers to call. IBM has amassed its fortune and reputation precisely because it generally anticipates governmental and corporate needs even before they develop, and then offers, designs, and delivers customized solutions--even if it must execute those technologic solutions with its own staff and equipment. IBM has done so for countless government agencies, corporate giants, and industrial associations.
For years I promised myself I would one day answer the question: how many solutions did IBM provide to Nazi Germany? I knew about the initial solution: the census. Just how far did the solutions go?
In 1998, I began an obsessive quest for answers. Proceeding without any foundation funds, organizational grants, or publisher dollars behind me, I began recruiting a team of researchers, interns, translators and assistants, all on my own dime.
Soon a network developed throughout the United States, as well as in Germany, Israel, England, Holland, Poland, and France. This network continued to grow as time went on. Holocaust survivors, children of survivors, retirees, and students with no connection to the Holocaust--as well as professional researchers, distinguished archivists and historians, and even former Nuremberg Trial investigators--all began a search for documentation. Ultimately, more than 100 people participated, some for months at a time, some for just a few hours searching obscure Polish documents for key phrases. Not knowing the story, they searched for key words: census, statistics, lists, registrations, railroads, punch cards, and a roster of other topics. When they found them, the material was copied and sent. For many weeks, documents were flowing in at the rate of 100 per day.
Most of my team was volunteers. All of them were sworn to secrecy. Each was shocked and saddened by the implications of the project and intensely motivated. A few said they could not sleep well for days after learning of the connection. I was often sustained by their words of encouragement.
Ultimately, I assembled more than 20,000 pages of documentation from 50 archives, library manuscript collections, museum files, and other repositories. In the process, I accessed thousands of formerly classified State Department, OSS, or other previously restricted government papers. Other obscure documents from European holdings had never been translated or connected to such an inquiry. All these were organized in my own central archive mirroring the original archival source files. We also scanned and translated more than 50 general books and memoirs, as well as contemporary technical and scientific journals covering punch cards and statistics, Nazi publications, and newspapers of the era. All of this material--primary documents, journal articles, newsclips, and book extracts--were cross-indexed by month. We created one manila folder for every month from 1933 to 1950. If a document referred to numerous dates, it was cross-filed in the numerous monthly folders. Then all contents of monthly folders were further cross-indexed into narrow topic threads, such as Warsaw Ghetto, German Census, Bulgarian Railroads, Watson in Germany, Auschwitz, and so on.
Stacks of documents organized into topics were arrayed across my basement floor. As many as six people at a time busily shuttled copies of documents from one topic stack to another from morning until midnight. One document might be copied into five or six topic stacks. A high-speed copier with a 20-bin sorter was installed. Just moving from place to place in the basement involved hopscotching around document piles.
None of the 20,000 documents were flash cards. It was much more complex. Examined singly, none revealed their story. Indeed, most of them were profoundly misleading as standalone papers. They only assumed their true meaning when juxtaposed with numerous other related documents, often from totally unrelated sources. In other words, the documents were all puzzle pieces--the picture could not be constructed until all the fragments were put together. For example, one IBM report fleetingly referred to a "Mr. Hendricks" as fetching an IBM machine from Dachau. Not until I juxtaposed that document with an obscure military statistics report discovered at the Public Record Office in London did I learn who Sgt. Hendricks really was.
Complicating the task, many of the IBM papers and notes were unsigned or undated carbons, employing deliberate vagueness, code words, catch phrases, or transient corporate short hand. I had to learn the contemporaneous lexicon of the company to decipher their content. I would study and stare at some individual documents for months until their meaning finally became clear through some other discovered document. For example, I encountered an IBM reference to accumulating "points." Eventually, I discovered that "points" referred to making sales quotas for inclusion in IBM's Hundred Percent Club. IBM maintained sales quotas for all its subsidiaries during the Hitler-era.
Sometimes a key revelation did not occur until we tracked a source back three and four stages. For example, I reviewed the English version of the well-known volume Destruction of the Dutch Jews by Jacob Presser. I found nothing on my subject. I then asked my researchers in Holland to check the Dutch edition. They found a single unfootnoted reference to a punch card system. Only by checking Presser's original typescript did we discover a marginal notation that referenced a Dutch archival document that led to a cascade of information on the Netherlands. In reviewing the Romanian census, I commissioned the translation of a German statistician's 20-page memoir to discover a single sentence confirming that punch cards were used in Romania. That information was juxtaposed against an IBM letter confirming the company was moving machinery from war-torn Poland into Romania to aid Romanian census operations.
In the truest sense, the story of IBM and the Holocaust has been shattered into thousands of shards. Only by piecing them all together did I erect a towering picture window permitting me to view what really occurred. That verified account is retold in this book.
In my pursuit, I received extraordinary cooperation from every private, public, and governmental source in every country. Sadly, the only refusal came from IBM itself, which rebuffed my requests for access to documents and interviews. I was not alone. Since WWII, the company has steadfastly refused to cooperate with outside authors. Virtually every recent book on IBM, whether written by esteemed business historians or ex-IBM employees, includes a reference to the company's refusal to cooperate with the author in any way. Ultimately, I was able to arrange proper access. Hundreds of IBM documents were placed at my disposal. I read them all.
Behind every text footnote is a file folder with all the hardcopy documentation needed to document every sentence in this book at a moment's notice. Moreover, I assembled a team of hair-splitting, nitpicking, adversarial researchers and archivists to review each and every sentence, collectively ensuring that each fact and fragment of a fact was backed up with the necessary black and white documents.
In reconstructing the facts, I was guided on every page by two principles: context and consequences. For instance, although I enjoyed access to volumes of diplomatic and intelligence information, I was careful to concentrate on what was known publicly in the media about atrocities and anti-Jewish conditions in Europe. For this reason, readers will notice an extraordinary reliance on articles in the New York Times. I quote the New York Times not because it was the newspaper of record in America, but because IBM executives, including Thomas Watson, were headquartered in New York. Had they lived in Chicago, I would have quoted the Chicago Tribune. Had they lived in Cleveland, I would have quoted the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Readers will also notice that I frequently relied upon reproducing the exact words the principals themselves used in telegrams, letters, or telephone transcripts. Readers can judge for themselves exactly what was said in what context.
With few exceptions (see Bibliographical Note), the Holocaust literature is virtually devoid of mention of the Hollerith machines--in spite of its high profile display at the United States Holocaust Museum. Historians should not be defensive about the absence of even a mention. The public documents were all there, but there are literally millions of frames and pages of Holocaust documents in the leading archives of the world. Many of these materials had simply never been accessed, many have not been available, and some are based on false chronologies or appear to be corporate minutia. Others were well known, such as Heydrich's 1939 instruction on concentrating Jewish communities near railroad tracks, but the repeated references to census operations were simply overlooked.
More than the obscurity of the documents, such an investigation would require expertise in the history of the Holocaust before and after the war began, the history of post-Industrial Revolution mechanization, the history of technology, and more specifically the archaic punch card system, as well as an understanding of Reich economics, multi-national corporations, and a grasp of financial collusion. In addition, one would need to juxtapose the information for numerous countries before assembling the complete picture. Just as important is the fact that until I examined the IBM documents, that half of the screen was totally obscured. Again, the documents do not speak by themselves, only in ensemble. I was fortunate to have an understanding of Reich economics and multinational commerce from my earlier book, The Transfer Agreement, as well as a background in the computer industry, and years of experience as an investigative journalist specializing in corporate misconduct. I approached this project as a typical if not grandiose investigation of corporate conduct with one dramatic difference: the conduct impacted on the lives and deaths of millions.
Gathering my pre-publication expert reviewers was a process in itself. I sought not only the leading historians of the Holocaust, but niche experts on such topics as Vichy France, Romania, and census and persecution. But I also consulted business historians, technical specialists, accountants, legal sources on reparations and corporate war crimes, an investigator from the original Nuremberg prosecution team, a wartime military intelligence technology expert, and even an ex-FBI special agent with expertise in financial crimes. I wanted the prismatic view of all.
Changing perspective was perhaps the dominant reason why the relationship between IBM and the Holocaust has never been explored. When I first wrote The Transfer Agreement in 1984, no one wanted to focus on assets. Now everyone talks about the assets. The formative years for most Holocaust scholarship was before the computer age, and well before the Age of Information. Everyone now possesses an understanding of how technology can be utilized in the affairs of war and peace. We can now go back and look at the same documentation in a new light.
Many of us have become enraptured by the Age of Computerization and the Age of Information. I know I have. But now I am consumed with a new awareness that, for me, as the son of Holocaust survivors, brings me to a whole new consciousness. I call it the Age of Realization, as we look back and examine technology's wake. Unless we understand how the Nazis acquired the names, more lists will be compiled against more people.
The story of IBM and the Holocaust is just a beginning. I could have written 20 books with the documents I uncovered, one for every country in Europe. I estimate there are 100,000 more documents scattered in basements and corporate archives around the United States and Europe. Corporate archivists should take note: these documents are related to a crime and must not be moved, tampered with, or destroyed. They must be transferred to those appropriate archival institutions that can assure immediate and undelayed access to scholars and war crimes prosecutors so the accountability process can continue (see Note on Sources).
Only through exposing and examining what really occurred can the world of technology finally adopt the well-worn motto: Never Again.
Edwin Black
Washington DC
October 2000
From the Hardcover edition.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments1
Introduction7
Part 1
INumbered People19
IIThe IBM-Hitler Intersection23
IIIIdentifying the Jews52
IVThe IBM-Nazi Alliance75
VA Nazi Medal for Watson105
Part 2
VIWar Cards137
VIIDeadly Count169
VIIIWith Blitzkrieg Efficiency199
IXThe Dehomag Revolt218
Part 3
XThe Struggle to Stay in the Axis269
XIFrance and Holland292
XIIIBM and the War333
XIIIExtermination351
XIVThe Spoils of Genocide375
XVThe Spoils of Genocide, II398
Notes427
Major Sources489
Index501

What People are Saying About This

Abraham Peck

Edwin Black has given Holocaust history an extraordinary new dimension. Clearly, the destruction of six million Jewish lives, and countless non-Jews, could not have been possible without IBM's Hollerith machines. Nor could the Third Reich have perfected the roundup of Jews throughout Europe, their deportation to concentration camps, and the statistics that measured their final agonies in the Final Solution without custom-designed IBM equipment. These revelations are troubling enough, but Black has crafted a monumental history that goes beyond such horrific revelations. He has discovered the enormous corruptive power of an international enterprise that saw itself above the laws of man and God.
— (Abraham Peck, director of research, American Jewish Historical Society)

William Seltzer

In this carefully researched, yet chilling book, Edwin Black relates step-by-step how the corporate and technological zeal of IBM, and its CEO, Thomas J. Watson Sr., contributed to Nazi power and advanced the Holocaust. This book is an awesome warning for the future.
— (William Seltzer, author of Population Statistics and the Holocaust, and former director, UN Office of Statistics)

Robert Wolfe

IBM and the Holocaust is a tremendous, timely work. Neglected for more than 50 years, the sordid records disclosing the global conglomerate IBM's collaboration with the Nazi regime, in pursuit of market monopoly, have now been exhumed by Edwin Black. His comprehensive and detailed account shows how the blessings of punch card technology can become a curse to human rights, as it did in enabling the Holocaust.
— (Robert Wolfe, former chief National Archives expert for captured German records and Nuremberg documentation)

Reading Group Guide

1. As president of the International Chamber of Commerce, highly visible big business guru, social luminary, and personal chum of President Roosevelt and Secretary of State Cordell Hull, Watson had a newsworthy face. How did his honorary decoration by Hitler fly below the radar at a time when Nazi collaboration was considered both subversive and un-American? What other amazing feats of invisibility did the influential, temperamental Watson seem to pull off effortlessly? How?

2. Referring to IBM’s constantly growing, solutions-based technology, Black writes: “Like any technologic evolution, each new solution powered a new level of sinister expectation and cruel capability.” Do you agree with his view of technology? What recent technological advances do you think carry the potential for “a new level of sinister expectation and cruel capability?”

3. In his introduction to IBM and the Holocaust, Edwin Black makes much of the fact that every sentence in the book can be backed up by “hardcopy documentation…at a moment’s notice, ” and that he quotes very exactly the words from telegrams, letters, and telephone transcripts. Why do you think he adopts this stance so particularly? How did it affect your reading of the book?

4. In describing the increasingly tense partnership between Watson in New York and Willy Heidinger in Germany, Black writes: “each man had to cooperate in an international campaign of corporate schizophrenia designed to achieve maximum deniability for both Dehomag and IBM.” Describe this “schizophrenia.” Which man was more successful at it? The book includes detailedportraits of both Watson and Heidinger, including fragments of correspondence that illuminate their larger-than-life personalities. To what extent is IBM and the Holocaust a story of corrupt individuals, and to what extent is it about the corrupting machinery of capitalism?

5. Black makes it clear that from Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 to Germany’s surrender in 1945, the horrifying situation of Europe’s Jews was writ large in every major newspaper in the Western world. Other recent books on the Holocaust have stressed the same point: that from the New York Times to local papers in small German hamlets, news publications did not veil the increasingly dire climate radiating outward from Germany. Why do you think a common perception that non-Jewish citizens in Europe and the United States were ignorant of Nazi activity lingers?

6. It could be argued that Watson and his company had the power to create and provide jobs to countless Americans who were struggling during the wartime effort. Instead, he continued to build his overseas empire, to disastrous results. What, if any, is a corporation’s patriotic responsibility? Is it different during peacetime than during a war? Do you think the historic events of September 11, 2001, will impact the attitudes of American corporations today?

7. What do you make of Black’s assertion that “to a supranational company, making money is equal parts commercial Darwinism, corporate ecclesiastics, dynastic chauvinism, and solipsistic greed?”

8. Once the United States had entered the war, why was Watson unfazed by the threat of a hostile German takeover of IBM’s subsidiaries in Germany? Why was Germany’s Alien Property Custodian Law actually financially advantageous for Watson?

9. To what extent is IBM and the Holocaust a cautionary tale about unchecked technology wed to greed? Black writes: “Unless we understand how the Nazis acquired the names, more lists will be compiled against more people.” Do you think the dissemination of knowledge about history is an effective deterrent of future human rights disasters?

10. By 1940, IBM subsidiaries in Europe had gained insider access to sensitive German military information which enabled IBM’s engineers to design punch card applications tailored for war use. That year, J. W. Schotte, IBM’s general manager for Europe, dispatched a report to senior IBM executives in New York in which he drew “a fine theoretical distinction, ” as Black describes it, “between IBM possessing specific knowledge of the facts about a military operation, such as the number of people to be counted or a list of German bombing raids, and the actions themselves.” Discuss this theoretical distinction. Can you think of any current or recent world events in which a similar distinction has been drawn by either world leaders or the media?

11. How did the business principles Watson formed during his National Cash Register days inform his response to the Dehomag revolt of 1940? What aspects of the Hollerith technology did he control even after the machines themselves were out of his grasp and the entire Dehomag board of directors had been replaced against his wishes? How was the revolt resolved?

12. Why did Holland and France each provide a unique problem for the Third Reich? How did the response of their citizenry to the Nazi takeover differ from that in other European countries? What do the final Jewish death tolls in these two nations reveal about IBM’s role in the roundup?

13. In what ways did IBM have help in reclaiming its property in Europe after the war? To what do you attribute the loyalty and zeal of latecomers Fellinger, Garbrecht, and Kuczek in facilitating IBM’s smooth operation and ongoing productivity, at times even against the wishes of the Reich? Why did Watson welcome the help of these foreign custodians, while finding the similar zeal of IBM soldier Lt. Col. Lawrence G. Flick, an American, a case of “interference?”

14. What was the Roosevelt administration’s General Ruling 11, and why did it slow down IBM? Why did it fail to grind IBM to a halt altogether?

15. What role did IBM play in American war reparations, corporate trials, and military analysis after 1946? What did the United States’ War Department conclude about Hollerith machinery at the end of the war?

16. Should IBM be held accountable today for its vital role in the Holocaust? How should it be penalized? What would it take to investigate what reperations would be appropriate?

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is well researched exhaustively detailed account of how IBM actively and willingly participated in the clockword precision of Third Reich as it attempted what most would have thought an impossible task the elimination of all European Jewry. this is must reading for any intelligent person who has the slightest interest in History or technology. It is an important book a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat that will alternately horrify and rivet you from the first page to the last. We all owe much to this dedicated and hard working author for his long hours of hard work
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was declined for further employment by IBM, and in my tiring search for future employment elsewhere, I decided to again pick up one of my so called habits again, and that was to read. While visiting Barnes & Noble, I fell upon this book! I have this on my list as a high priority to read thoroughly. I brisked through it, and am excited to read it in completion. Thank you for revealing this to us, Mr. Black. Here is a very good incident where America needs to wake up!! I cannot believe it, all these years, and never knowing, and now I wonder with real curiosity how much more is out there that we Americans do not know!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Our understanding of the Holocaust will never be the same after this book. Edwin Black writes passionately and with proof of IBM and Watson's twelve-year business relationship with Nazi Germany. That relationship ignored every newspaper headline and newsreel depicting the persectution and destruction of the Jews. Instead the company raced forward with punch card solutions that expedited the Reich's war against the Jews and against all of mankind. The fact that IBM refuses to rebut any of the assertions in this book only demonstrates how rock-solid the proof is.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book brings to mind the old saying, 'The road to hell is paved with good intentions.' It opens your eyes and mind to realize that any invention, no matter how great, is a power. Just as fire, guns, and the atom were all designed with good intentions, without the proper controls these powers have caused as much destruction as they have done good. Reading this book will make you learn the importance of the question, 'Why?'.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Reading Mr. Black's book, I was shocked as much by his revelations of IBM's voluntary complicity in the murder of six million Jews as the fact that in the hundreds of thousands of book on the Holocaust, this topic has never been mentioned.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mr. Black's gripping book uses IBM's own records to prove the case that the company collaborated with Adolf Hitler both in the destruction of the Jews and the conquest of Europe. Even after the war, IBM waged another struggle to recapture all its profits. The IBM empire of today was built on its black legacy of aiding and abetting genocide as well as aggression against all humanity. How can the company remain silent? Every MBA should read this book as a guide for future conduct. And they should watch IBM's actions today as a lesson in how not to respond.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Who ever worked with Hitler should roll over in thier grave if they heard about this book. Im in high school and the holocaust fascinates me. This book escalated my facination with the genocide of 6 million innocent people. Mr. Black has shed light on the evils of American corporation. This book should be read by every person at IBM. IBM should be shamed for making a deal with the devil to make a profit. Mr. Black has given us a insight into the greed and corruption of IBM then, and the makings of a deal that killed 6 million people. Infinite number of thumbs up for Mr. Black
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found IBM and the Holocaust a book I could not put down. IBM and its preisdent T. J. Watson understood everything their punch card solutions were doing for Germany's campaign of persecution and extermination. The documentation and the detail are compelling. The book reads like a thriller. Yet IBM remains silent about all the reveals.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading this well-documented and shocking tale of Big Blue's greed while millions of Jews were being persecuted and then slaughtered, I ask why it has taken so long for the story to be exposed? The author is to be commended for his detailed documentation showing how IBM created system after system for Germany designed to destroy Jewish people. This book is must reading for every student of the Holocaust, every employee of IBM, and every war crimes prosecutor. Is accessory to genocide on the books? It should be.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Edwin Black's IBM and the HOLOCAUST a must read for anyone interested in issues of morality, responsibility,and accountability in the world of business & technology and its global implications. The silence emanating from IBM headquarters worldwide and its PR spin doctors speak volumes to their guilt!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Edwin Black has constructed a powerful indictment of IBM's dealings with Hitler, an arrangement that clearly intensified the killing rate. As one who has read numerous Holocaust books--I find Black's book an extraordinary accomplishment on any level.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author and the book had the courage to take on the most powerful corporation of all time, unmasking its conscious involvement with the Hitler regime. I was gripped by the tense storyline and the detail as IBM willing provides Nazi Germany with darker and darker solutions. Clearly, it only begins with census. Eventually, even the Auschwitz tattoo was an IBM-compatible number. This book is a must for those who want to go beyond the atrocities and understand the bureaucratic solutions that made the Final Solution the efficient crime that it was.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Of late, my library has been richly enhanced with new works dealing with the Holocaust. Everything from 'Hitler's Willing Executioners' to 'The Witness' a poignant anthology of personal experiences, brings to the modern reader the overwhelming humanity / inhumanity of the attempted genocide. Some readers point to a single-sided slant presented by Mr. Black in his new book, 'IBM and the Holocaust.' I think, given he is the son of surviving victims and likely related to many murdered ones, we can let slide any bias presented. Mr. Black has put much at stake to take on one of the industries that has played an integral part in making America the power she is. If the mysteries of the Holocaust are of any importance, then this book provides a 'bay window' into the gear box of Nazi success in so quickly amassing 6 million people of basically a single ethnic group. Fifty-something years after the fact, this new title (copyright 2001) is on display in major bookstores all over the country. The ball has been squarely served onto IBM's court. We shall now see how IBM attempts to balance human morality and 'the bottom line.' Mr. Black has turned the attention of the world on one of America's most esteemed corporations. Who shoulders the most weight within IBM, Public Relations or Accounting? And how will that be presented to the world, as well as to millions of Edwin Black(s)--people who have felt every punch in Mr. Hollerith's cards?
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is the most important new work on the Nazi era in the last two decades. The book is even more significant for the questions it raises about what the purpose of a corporation is and should be, what role companies and governments should play in directing cutting edge technology, and the danger that misuses of advanced information technology bring to individuals. The core of the story is how a key IBM technology, the Hollerith-based card tabulating machines, became available for the Nazi war and Holocaust efforts. Although the details are murky (and may remain so), it is fairly clear that the use of this technology was sustained during the war years in part by shipments of customized (for each end user) tabulating cards from IBM in neutral countries for everything from blitzkriegs to slave camp scheduling to transportation to the death camps. There was not enough paper capacity to make the cards in Europe (that the Nazi and IBM records show were used), and there is no evidence that Nazis created substitutes for these essential supplies. As Mr. Black warns, 'This book will be profoundly uncomfortable to read.' I agree. My sleep will not be the same for some time after experiencing this powerful story. Mr. Black makes an even stronger statement. 'So if you intend to skim, or rely on selected sections, do not read the book at all.' I took him at his word, and did not even read the book quickly. I also arranged to read it in several sittings, so I could think about what I had read in between. I recommend that you do the same. The reason for my recommendation is that your thinking will change very fundamentally through reading the book. Having read dozens of books by fine historians about the Nazi period, and knowing a great deal about the history of data processing, I assumed that there would be little new to the story here. But the title intrigued me. By the fourth time I saw the book, I could no longer resist it. What I found inside the book surprised, shocked, and amazed me. First, many authors claim that it was not clear in the United States that Jews were losing their lives in Europe during the Nazi years until just before the end of the war. This book documents many articles that appeared in the New York Times that certainly seemed to be saying that this systematic killing was going on from very near the time when it began. Anyone w
Guest More than 1 year ago
An exceptional book!!! Hidden profits, endless patent infringement litigation, inappropriate dealings with government officials, and ultimate re-assimilation of subsidiaries and their blood-tainted earnings from blocked accounts all combine to portray a company that not only destroyed its competition, but actively assisted the Nazis in automating their establishments (census bureaus, railroads, SS offices, and concentration camps, to name a few) which colluded in the extermination of millions of Jews, gypsies, and social undesirables. Moreover, unlike such companies as Ford and Standard Oil that simply sold a product, IBM leased its Holleriths and had a vested interest in keeping the equipment functioning and the royalties flowing, providing the Nazis with on-site service and maintenance visits as well as specially-tailored punch card supplies via their Swiss and Swedish subsidiaries throughout much of the war. A must read for anyone who is interested in the tragic consequences that occur when corporate and national self-interest collide.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Edwin Black's IBM and the Holocaust is a meticulously researched indictment of corporate greed. His ability to synthesize scattered bits of data buried in archives and repositories on both sides of the Atlantic, and bring them into a unified focus, makes this masterful study a new standard for Holocaust scholarship. Indeed, this bone-chilling account, which reads like a murder mystery, has raised the bar for what will be expected in the future for this kind of research. This book's appearance is especially timely, given the current climate that both entertains Holocaust denial and yet delights in having more and more information about the complicity of major corporations in Nazi-era slave labor and the reluctance of Swiss banks to redress their patent profiteering of seized Jewish assets. This book will be a bane to those who persist in attempting to deny or minimize the horror of the Sho'ah. More significantly, it will be among the most important contributions to the search for truth about the abusive human rights record of IBM and other multinational corporations. IBM will be dogged by this book for as long as it remains a corporate presence. There may still be those who naively advocate an untrammeled free market system, who idealize a laissez-faire approach to business. No one who reads this book will ever be comfortable again with an economic system that revels in the myth of an invisible hand that guides the market with equity. IBM and the Holocaust constitutes a classic case study of corporate social irresponsibility, and reckless pursuit of profits with no regard for human consequences. Edwin Black has given us cause to speculate whether or not the most egregious war criminals were ever prosecuted. The evidence for all this is, of course, circumstantial. There is no smoking gun. Nevertheless, Edwin Black has amassed a formidable mountain of coherent evidence that argues convincingly for IBM's complicity in the Holocaust. This book begins in 1993, when the author took his parents on a tour of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. His parents were Holocaust survivors, and he wondered how it was that they were identified as Jews with such precision. The first exhibit was a Hollerith punch-card data processing machine, with an IBM label. Edwin Black pondered the connection between the powerful corporation and the destruction of millions of Jews. Since then, over 16 million people have visited the Holocaust Museum and seen the IBM machine there. Surely some have raised the same question: How could this prestigious corporation possibly be linked to such a heinous stain on human history? With empirical evidence, Edwin Black has supplied the answer. IBM and the Holocaust makes an empirical statement. Like all empirical statements, it has the qualities of verifiability and falsifiability. Edwin Black has made his case. It would seem that the burden of proof, in the form of any attempt at deniability, now lies with IBM.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As I sit and type this on my IBM computer, I cannot help but feel a little sad. However if I were to really thing about it, the things I buy everyday probably have some adverse effect on peoples lives. So I did not find this to be as troblesome to the soul as some may have, but it was a great historical detective work. Excellent Job!
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a serious academic scholar of the Holocaust, I find that Black's book posts many potential problems for IBM. True, IBM was not at the Wannsee conference that organized the Final Solution, but the Hollerith machines did exist at the camps, with the German subsidiaries name printed on the electronic punchcard. At Mauthausen, they were called 'Haeftlingkarten', or prisoner cards. IBM main tried to buy out Dehomag because they were making money hand over fist, but that is not the crime. The crime exists when Dehomag WENT TO THE CAMPS TO SERVICE THE MACHINES AND DELIVER MORE PUNCHCARDS. There is no way not to know what is going on in a concentration camp that is fully operational. The stench of burning bodies is a bit difficult to miss. No, IBM is probably not criminally liable for participating in the murder of Jews and others, but like other companies that worked with the German government (such as Ford, Bayer, Krupp, Daimler-Benz and Volkswagen)that used forced labor they surely profited off of the treatment of enemies of the Reich. Yes, IBM knew what was going on, but they were making too much money, yet they didnt want to cause trouble with the Americans or the Nazis by saying something. It was simply convenient for them to continue to sell millions of punchcards to the German government, and not ask what they were used for, knowing fully well what they used them for when they saw the same cards when the technicians serviced the Hollerith machines at the camps. Black goes a bit far in trying to prove that IBM was a willing participant in the murder of the Jews. We can not look back and say that IBM knew what would happen when they introduced this technology. But they did produce it for the German government in fast order, and they chose to be silent when they found out what it was being used for....because it was financially worth it to be silent. IBM did not create the gun, but they created the better ammunition that helped to make a system of killing more efficient. If you doubt this, research IBM in Europe from 1900-present, as virtually every book that discusses it does not talk at all about the war years.....IBM has done well in wiping out that part of its history. Black has documented his information thoroughly, but IBM is not as guilty of murder, but they are accomplices to the crime. Oh, and by the way to the earlier reviewer that finds this a bit of a stretch that we cant blame Ford for drunk drivers....The OWNER of Ford kept a picture of Adolf Hitler on his desk, passed out copies of the anti-Semitic work The International Jew through his dealerships, and used forced labor at its German plants. IBM chose to work for Hitler, not the other way around.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great and shocking book. But what other companies were involved? It is widely know that Henry Ford was a virulent anti-Semite. Was there a Ford connection to the Nazis too? I don¿t know, but a visit to the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan shocked me. The Henry Ford Museum in Michigan displays some of the technology and history of the U.S. including that of the Ford Motor Company. One display consisted of an oven/kiln used to make Ford auto parts. When I saw the device, I immediately thought of the ovens in the nazi crematoriums. The Ford device was a dead ringer! It was shaped the same way, and one could slide a body right into it. ¿Very Creepy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Isnt is ever amazing how coincidences occur in this world that show there is something out there watching each and every move every one of us makes and how everything is somehow interconnected.. With all the hell that has existed and does exist in the world, the fact that THIS book is coming out now could not be more timely. If any US citizen truly cared what will be the future of all of us, they will play close attention to the contents of 'IBM and the Holocaust' and more importantly (but quite related to this book's general warning) what is CURRENTLY being discussed in Congress in relation to YOUR general/medical privacy laws, electronic privacy laws, and genetic testing and data---all affecting us as free human beings and citizens. You need to care and pay attention or noone will. This book serves notice. Just in the past week medical/personal record privacy, electronic privacy, and genetic privacy issues have been discussed in major national papers. This book should serve as great warning to the citizens of this country and others as to what could occur in our US and int'l societies-- and on a far bigger scale than what happenned in the 30's/40's as covered by this book. Too many think it cant happen. Ignorance, stupidity, and arrogance as well as lack of vigilance lead to mankind constantly repeating history over and over with evil, death, pain, sufferring and anguish affecting our world as a result. These days, with the incredible computers of today making the hellerith punch card system of IBM back then look like a Stoneman's pick---and with an ever so common corporate greed of many companies today, that will do anything at any cost for profit, monopolistic gain, or power (many of which make IBM of the past look like a walk in the park)--the combination should frighten us all to the bones. Mega-Computers of today, your very personal info, and corporations/gov't---as well as new genetic data as well ---the combination is not for a conspiracy theorist--it's reality folks. Look at the past for evil possibilities going back 6500 yrs. When you finish 'IBM and the Holocaust' and you are angry and shaking, ask yourself---who is trying to stop YOUR general, medical, electronic privacy laws from being enacted and to stop mandatory genetic testing and data gathering nightmarish futures that affects YOU AND YOUR FAMILY. And find out who are they lobbying in both the executive branch (your President)or in Congress? Become informed--this is not a party issue--this is a deadly serious issue for all. Read this impeccable book from Mr Black and understand it may be you, your family, or this world one day. And this is coming from a very cynical person who is not impressed with the voracity or documentation of most books. This guy did it all and checkmated them with his research of incredible depth. And dont be too arrogant to think the unimaginable cant happen. Take a close look at the world around you and answer that question. Isnt is amazing how documents suddenly appear, people come across certain things 50 yrs later, and people start talking about things near the very end of their life that they kept in for so long. There's a reason this revolting. appalling example of human and corporate evil, immorality and corruption that got buried for 50 years all of a sudden got exhumed at conveniently the same time our country is grappling with the biggest citizen privacy law and electronic privacy battle in history. Because a lot is at stake folks and we need to wake up. Today, people (YOU, YOUR PARENTS,YOUR CHILDREN) and their freedom and rights are pitted vs profit, corporations, insurance companies, banks, internet companies, the gov't etc. Things happen for a reason and there's something out there watching every move we make. This book appearing now is a godsend if only there are people smart enough to understand it, and act on it. Hoepfully we won't be stupid again. Buy this book and more importantly call your Congressman and your Presi
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book answered a question I don't think many of us have ever considered: how exactly did Hitler round up so many Jews, so quickly and efficiently? It turns out he went to the 'Solution Company'--IBM--to create, customize, and maintain machines that made the job infinitely easier. Since I finished reading IBM and the Holocaust, I've been walking around in a bit of a daze--it's as if I've been punched in the stomach. Corporate greed is an accepted fact of life in America, but Ed Black proves here that Watson, the head of IBM, absolutely knew what his machines were being used for--the tracking, deportation, and murder of millions of jews and other 'undesirables.' Not only did he know, but he also went to some lengths to hide IBM's continued business dealings with the Nazis after the US joined the war, when it was illegal for US companies to have business ties to Nazi Germany. It's truly frightening to read this book, both for the irrefutable, black-and-white proof that all Americans weren't necessarily the good guys, and for the notion that as technology becomes ever more refined, such a thing could happen on an even larger scale today. I urge you to read it.
bensbec More than 1 year ago
IBM and the Holocaust, written by Edwin Black, author of Nazi Nexus, The Farhud, and many other books about the Holocaust, the Nazis, Hitler and the Third Reich, is a deeply researched and terrifying revelation of the technology IBM employed using the Hollerith punched card machine, and how the Nazis used it to keep track of, and murder six million Jews. This books tells in frightening detail of how the Hollerith machine enabled the Nazis to achieve the efficiency they demanded both in its rearmament program and its war against the Jews. Black shows how IBM and its CEO, Thomas J. Watson, walked away from the war much richer and without consequence for providing the Nazis with the way to track down each and every Jew, deport them on trains that ran on time, thanks to IBM technology, and deliver them straight to the crematoriums by the millions. Being the head of a major corporation, Watson saw himself as just a business man fulfilling a demand of his product, along everything that went with it, to a customer, who just happened to be Hitler and the Third Reich. He considered himself above any laws or even any moral standards and obligations when he aided the enemy that the U.S. was at war with, and who was annihilating every Jew in Europe. Watson, like Henry Ford and others, received the Merit Cross of the German Eagle from Hitler for their help. For Watson, it was not about anti-Semetism, as with Ford, but for him, it was all about money and nothing else. Edwin Black has spent his life researching the Holocaust, and IBM is a horrifying example of a U.S. corporation getting rich from dealing with an enemy of our country, and not having to pay the consequences, unlike others who were involved in the Holocaust and were brought to trial for their crimes against humanity and the Jews. IBM's technology is even now able to keep track of each and every one of us, knowing more about us than we do ourselves, and if they were able to do what they did back then, what are they capable of now?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ccsemick More than 1 year ago
My Hands Shake as I Read This Book I'm only a few chapters into this incredible tome, but I am so impressed with how thorough each sentence was researched and cited. I can't read too long at a time, though, because I still can't get my head around how punch cards were used to identify "undesirables" for extermination. I used to play with punch cards when I was kid--my mother brought them home from work as scrap paper and I was so intrigued by them. Now I will never think of punch cards again without this heinous picture of how they were used to slaughter innocents. Bravo to the Edwin Black's bravery to pursue this investigation and to his parents for their bravery to survive the Nazi hell! Death could not keep them in the grave!
cbeach0 More than 1 year ago
I originally read an excerpt of this book in Friedman's 'Secret Histories' about a year ago, and I was blown away. This is one of those books that everyone should read if they're up to it. I think some people would like to stay in la-la land about subjects like this, but if you've ever been interested in alternative history that hasn't been generalized into a meta-narrative...here ya go. I'd also recommend Friedman's 'Secret Histories' for more excerpts and books to look into.