IBM and the Holocaust Banner

Reviews - Asia

BLOOD AND TEARS. Some years back, while browsing through the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC, I was struck by one exhibit that somehow stood out from the macabre exhibits of mutilated bodies, mass graves, firing squads, and gas chambers. It was a computer machine with the name so familiar in the modern business world, yet totally unexpected to be associated with the Nazi era: IBM. As an IT professional, it was quite disturbing to see that one of the earliest and most "effective" IT applications was used as a key component in the torture and murder of six million innocent people. ... Computer technology may be a trillion dollar industry. It may make people rich beyond their wildest dreams. But when it comes to IT and integrity, we need to ask ourselves one hard question: Do we want to get rich by having our names and our companies' names forever written in blood and tears for generations to see? It was a question that Thomas John Watson Sr apparently never asked himself.
TERRIFYING. His exhaustive mapping of IBM's corporate intrigues is sufficiently damning that one cannot find fault with Black's argument that Dehomag "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"...Black is scrupulously exact in building his case. More than 60 pages of footnotes and source listings...Black's book becomes truly terrifying in its implications. It demonstrates, with chilling clarity, the ease with which a multinational company's reach supersedes even a national government. This book not only unearths an important part of history, but it also makes every thinking reader reconsider seriously the ominous undertones... of the multinational behemoths.
IBM WAS INDISPENSIBLE. The Hollerith practically played a thousand and one uses for Nazi Germany. And for 12 years of Hitler, IBM facilitated in the identification and roundup of millions of Jews. Hollerith was more than just a punch card and tabulating machine. Its other critical functions: facilitating the first racial census to purify the "master race;" and helping to organize deportations and concentration camps. Black accused Watson of having been aware that IBM's technology was in effect making it easy for Hitler to carry on his campaign of "ethnic cleansing." IBM's know-how was indispensable in such efforts as social expulsion and expropriation, directing trains to run on time from one city to another, and to concentration camps.
PROFOUND. Edwin Black's book is both a vista to a nauseating past and a profound eye-opener for the future inhabitants of the planet that inculcating zero tolerance for genocide is simply not enough. What is also needed is zero tolerance for the technology of genocide.
A MAJOR SERVICE. IBM's development of automated punch card technology was tailor-made for the Nazis, bent as the latter were on hunting down both religious and so-called "ancestral" Jews as well as other "undesirables." ...Black has done a major service to the history of this awful period. What it tells us about the amorality of one of America's major players in the darkest episode in modern history and the way it has finally been uncovered is, in my view at least, yet another argument for the free flow of information.