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IBM and the Holocaust : The Strategic Allianc… (Paperback)
by Edwin Black
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Book Description
Publication Date: April 20, 2008
Published to extraordinary praise, this provocative international bestseller details the story of IBM’s strategic alliance with Nazi Germany. IBM and the Holocaust provides a chilling investigation into corporate complicity, and the atrocities witnessed raise startling questions that throw IBM’s wartime ethics into serious doubt. Edwin Black’s monumental research exposes how IBM and its subsidiaries helped create enablling technologies for the Nazis, step-by-step, from the identification and cataloging programs of the 1930s to the selections of the 1940s.
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IBM and the Holocaust : The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation + Nazi Nexus: America’s Corporate Connections to Hitler’s Holocaust + War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race
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Editorial Reviews Review
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 –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Booklist
The publisher has ordered a print run of 100,000 copies, indicating that they expect high demand for this contentious expose. The author asserts that a collusion existed between IBM Corporation and the government of the Third Reich, wherein IBM supplied the technology enabling Nazi authorities to systematize their persecution of European Jews. Expect much discussion in the press and on the street about this very controversial book. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

* Paperback: 560 pages
* Publisher: Dialog Press; 1 edition (April 20, 2008)
* Language: English
* ISBN-10: 0914153102
* ISBN-13: 978-0914153108
* Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6 x 1.6 inches
* Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
* Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
* Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #129,380 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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143 of 157 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Important Questions Unraised Before Now, March 16, 2001
Donald Mitchell “Jesus Loves You!” (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 109,000 Helpful Votes Globally) – See all my reviews
This review is from: IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation (Hardcover)
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 who ignored these reports just didn’t want to know.

Second, the book makes many connections between Thomas Watson, Sr. and Nazi Germany. Many things surprised me about this. One, he was there once or twice a year until just before World War II began. The horrible human abuses were probably observed first hand by him then. Two, he had friends who were victimized by the Nazis. Three, he accepted a very prestigious medal from Hitler in 1937 (which he returned in June 1940). Four, he spoke in favor of making U.S. policy pro-German until just before the United States entered World War II. Five, it appeared that he had a lot more concern about IBM’s profits and machines in Europe than about any people there.

Third, although I was very familiar with the improvements in industrial and transportation effectiveness in Germany during the Nazi years, I did not realize that IBM’s design of Hollerith machines for card tabulation was a breakthrough technology that enabled this progress.

Fourth, I had always been amazed that the Nazis had such detailed records of the geneologies of European Jews. What I did not realize was that much of this information was provided by Jewish citizens in government censuses, and was quickly processed into records used by oppressors on Hollerith machines leased from IBM or its subsidiaries.

In France, where the use of these machines was subverted by the Resistance, the percentage rate of Jewish deaths was one-third of what occurred in Holland where this technology was well applied. It is hard to avoid the feeling that millions of people died because these machines were available and kept supplied with parts and punch cards for the Nazis.

One cannot help but draw the comparison between this historical example and the companies and countries (including, apparently, the United States) that have more recently allowed critical nuclear, rocket, and satellite technology to become available to repressive regimes. It seems that by not asking questions about IBM and the Holocaust, we may be continuing to make many of the same mistakes today.

I salute the incredible imagination and back-breaking effort that went into assembling this astonishing set of documents and perspectives. I hope that many people will read the book, that scholars will look for more information to expand our understanding, and that the fundamental questions raised by this book will be debated wherever free people live.

Remember: Your freedom is only as good as that of the least free person, who is most vulnerable.

“Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars IBM and the Holocaust, December 7, 2006
Nancyrae Kjelgaard (Tallahassee, FL) – See all my reviews
This review is from: IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation (Paperback)
I did not want to read this book.

My grandfather worked for International Time Recording (ITR) in Endicott, NY before IBM was formed and Mr. Watson came on board. My father’s first job, at the age of seventeen, was caretaker of the Watson Homestead. My family has had a hand in virtually every product that issued from the IBM manufacturing effort since its inception in 1924. I have deep affection for the company my family labored to build.

I approached “IBM and the Holocaust” with a high degree of skepticism. The book sat on my nightstand for two months before I opened it. Finally picked it up for the sake of completing my 14-book IBM historical reading cycle.

This book is astounding. It is impeccably researched, artfully written, highly detailed, painstakingly documented, remarkably objective and thoroughly engaging.

“IBM and the Holocaust” has finally exposed the undeniable truth: IBM became the world’s most powerful corporation largely because it assisted in identifying, cataloging and exterminating millions of innocent people for Hitler. The evil that lurks in IBM history was not exposed previously only because IBM management was smart enough and powerful enough to “hide its tracks” in Nuremburg. No investigator has ever dug deeper into IBM history than Edwin Black.

A close reading of the book makes it absolutely clear that Mr. Watson (IBM CEO) knew the exact purpose, goal and expected outcome of the IBM solution in Europe. The book details the fact that unlike previous IBM engagements for the Third Reich that were completed by Dehomag (IBM’s German subsidiary), the engagement in Romania (1941) was conducted directly under the management of IBM New York. That engagement resulted in the swift identification, transportation and extermination of hundreds of thousands of innocent Jews. All in the name of “IBM.”

As a result of reading “IBM and the Holocaust”, I no longer view Mr. Watson as the glamorous benevolent industrial icon depicted in hollywoood newsreels. Though the affectionate “shop talk” tossed through the air when I was young still captures my imagination, Mr. Watson is no longer the focus of my unqualified admiration.

Watson, for me, now stands beside Carnegie, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Mellon, Jeffrey Skilling, Kenneth Lay and all the other American Industrialists throughout history who had many fine qualities yet are outrageously flawed–so good yet so very, very bad.

This book is remarkable. Have since read “Internal Combustion”, Banking on Baghdad” and “War Against the Weak.”

Edwin Black is “the bomb.”

If you have an interest in history, corporations, corruption, good, bad, evil or fine nonfiction; you will appreciate the works of Edwin Black.

NancyRae Kjelgaard
Tallahassee, FL
December 7, 2006

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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Story from the Past and a Tech Warning for the Future, September 4, 2001
Linda Marinus (Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH) – See all my reviews
This review is from: IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation (Hardcover)
I just came upon this book this past week, but I have read research on the Holocaust for over 30 years and always wondered how the Nazis could be so efficient in rounding up people, how they could exactly know so much as they took over Poland and France, etc., etc., Now I think I know and the knowledge is most disturbing.
Reading this book made me stop and think about where technology is going today in our world where all the bits of information about everybody are carefully stored, collated, and applied to “appropriate” use. I think there is a warning from the book about having too much data about individuals. I for one will never answer census questions completely again, certainly not the petty questions that inquire into the specifics of my personal life.
A few months ago, I watched the HBO Movie Conspiracy which was an exact dramatization of the Wannesee Conference in 1942 in Berlin. The script was based on the sole transcript of that meeting found after the war and belonging to one of the attendees. As I was watching the movie and later when I poured over the actual transcript which I found on the net, I wondered, “How did they have such exact figures for each country and group? So exact that the numbers were down to the single digits. How did they find these people?” It puzzled me. In reading IBM and the Holocaust, I found my answer.
History has an ostentatous way of rationalizing what actually happened to fit current viewpoints that are acceptable to people and institutions. We don’t want to think that a company like IBM could be so dreadful for profit or that our Government refused to bomb camps or take in refugees when they knew horror was happening. There was a rationalization that there ” must have been other circumstances”, mitigating circumstances, and today simply bad historical recollection. It is much easier to go forward and forget and rationalize and look for “reasonable” solutions, that is, until it all happens again and we have to say once more, “but that simply couldn’t be possible.”
A n important and courageous book that every young person especially should read as the years pass and the witnesses of that time leave us.