Friday, January 06, 2012 by: J. D. Heyes
Edwin Black, who’s groundbreaking work, “IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation” (Crown Books, 2001, and Three Rivers Press, 2002), has just re-released this powerful book of a decade ago in paperback. In the original version, Black says Hitler’s Nazi regime developed an “alliance” with IBM that helped the 20th century’s most notorious dictator “to accelerate and in many ways automate key aspects of his persecution of Jews, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others the Nazis considered enemies.”
Black says, based on his research, the alliance, which he says was engineered by IBM’s president, Thomas J. Watson saw the transfer of technology that enabled Hitler to create the world’s most sophisticated killing apparatus. It involved the use of special IBM punch cards which were developed and utilized by the Nazi regime to help “organize and manage the initial identification and social expulsion of Jews and others, the confiscation of their property, their ghettoization, their deportation, and, ultimately, even their extermination.”
He went onto say the technology was provided through a special wartime Polish subsidiary that reported to IBM New York, “mainly to its headquarters at 590 Madison Avenue.” During the war years, and even after reports surfaced that Hitler’s Nazi Germany was engaged in mass extermination of Jews and other undesirables, “not a single sentence written by IBM personnel has been discovered in any of the documents questioning the morality of automating the Third Reich,” Black wrote.
According to his research, Black wrote that Thomas traveled regularly to Germany between 1933 and 1939, as Hitler rose to power and the Nazis began to threaten the stability of Europe, to personally supervise building the relationship. “For deniability,” Thomas said, Watson “insisted on making direct verbal instructions to his German managers the rule rather than exception – even in place of major contracts.”
When Germany invaded Poland Sept. 1, 1939, which marked the official start of World War II in Europe, the “savaging” of the country “was no secret to IBM executives,” Black asserts. He added that until the U.S. finally entered the war in 1941, it remained completely legal for IBM to continue to do business with Nazi Germany. As early as Sept. 13, 1939 “The New York Times reported the Reich’s determination to make Polish Jewry disappear.” In the days since IBM built this odious relationship, details have been hard to come by, Black writes.
“Since the war, IBM, having left Madison Avenue for new headquarters in suburban Armonk, it has obstructed, or refused to cooperate with, virtually every major independent author writing about its history, according to numerous published introductions, prefaces, and acknowledgments,” he wrote. “But silence cannot alter the historical documentation. A tangle of subsidiaries throughout Europe helped IBM reap the benefits of its partnership with Nazi Germany. After all, business was IBM’s middle name.”