m-a-c: PDE: American History (1900-2000)

The American Century (1900 - 2000)

IBM, DEHOMAG, and Thomas J. Watson, Sr.

"IBM and the Holocaust", by Edwin Black, published by Crown Publishers, 2001. ISBN 0-609-60799-5.
Under the x-ray like eye a card image over-shadows a home. And the caption in German:  See everything with Hollerith Punch Cards
On edge of our consciousness there are always feelings of dread like there is some horrible truth buried just beneath the surface, just out of reach.
A sample card, direct from IBM in the USA -- complete with the SS logo!
More info on the Card format Exhaustively researched and documented, and yet very readible and literate, this work brings into the total light of day the exact role that IBM played in helping the NAZI's count and identify every Jew -- even down to those that were 1/16 Jewish. Even if 130 years before the family had converted to Christianity (Protestant or Catholic), the records from every church, bank, public records office -- all were encoded into the literally BILLIONS of punched cards that were fed into the thousands of sorting machines that the NAZI's used to accomplish the holocaust.
The card sorting machine that made it all possible.  The pre-cursor to the modern computer.  It was able to identify and obliterate over 6,000,000 people and prolonged a war that killed another 6,000,000
And it wasn't as if Watson (the ruthless entrepreneur and man personally in charge of the United States' most powerful company) was un-aware of this. He visited germany several times each year in the 1930's to make sure that IBM was receiving its profits. To the point of fanaticism he excercised complete and daily control over the carefully disguised German company DEHOMAG -- there was much of the boycotting of German products and imports. And despite the fact that Watson & IBM owned a 90% share of DEHOMAG the guise of an independent German compnay was maintained. And yet, the computer cards which had to be produced to exacting standards could (and did) only come from one place: The United States of America. In the book and documentary film, The Ascent of Man, Jacob Bronowski gathers up mud from Auschwitz and says: "This is where people were de-humanized, this was where people were turned into numbers". THE Hollerith Punched Card System supplied the numbers. All that was needed then was to suspend the humanity of people that allowed them-selves to believe in lies.

Links on the web

Edwin Black -- Intro to the book Great pictures and info: http://www.nd.edu/~jmoody/dhm/ AusThink.Org's superb review of IBM's involvement: INTERNATIONAL BLOODY MURDER here A some-what scathing review of the book: by Tom Sullivan (Mr. Sullivan some-what naively says: "It is also unclear what would have happened if the Germans had not had IBM technology and equipment at their disposal. In Rwanda not long ago, nearly a million people were massacred with hoes and similar tools, so probably some version of the Holocaust would have taken place regardless of the sophistication of available technology." Hmm, in Rwanda the fight was between a darker skinned and a lighter skinned tribe. It's easy to descern such things (even in dim light). But. To ascertain who is 1/16th Jewish. This takes technology. It takes numbers. It took IBM. A some-what more favorable review by Frederick E. Allen: http://www.americanheritage.com/AMHER/2001/05/cutedge.shtml However in a seemingly appologist mode, Mr. Allen concludes with this paragraph: "Watson and IBM certainly did not behave in exemplary fashion in the years leading to war, but the evidence suggests that they did no worse than countless other multinational corporations. And once America was in the war, they gave enormously to the Allied cause. What was the role, ultimately, of IBMís punch-card technology itself? It served both sides, of course, and served them powerfully - which illustrates a truth about technology that was eloquently summed up by the historian Melvin Kranzberg: "Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral." The fruits of human inventiveness - whether punch-card machines, miracle drugs, atom bombs, or plowshares - contain no morality whatever in themselves, but how they are used is absolutely always a moral matter. It is a tragedy that Watson didnít find a way to prevent the immoral use of his companyís machines, even if he was far from the active collaborator Black tries to suggest he was. Hmmm, I think its more of a travesty that Watson participated at all since he was again and again confronted with the fact that his machines were being used to obliterate "un-desirables" -- this is the point that Edwin Black makes by quoting the New York Times - THE PAPER -- of New York where Watson lived. Watson could hardly have been blind to it. He just chose to care more about his bottom line than his conscience. Or perhaps like Henry Ford he was just a bigot. [It will be recalled that it was Ford who paid to have the encyclopedic work: The International Jewish Conspiracy" published. Hitler had it translated into German, and awarded Ford the Iron Cross; they routinely exchanged Christmas and birthday greetings.] Perhaps some future biographer will clarify this controversy concerning Thomas J. Watson, Sr's conscience. For the present, I remain humbly yours, (and still with hope for our small blue-green world), Pizo (still your full-time hippy/tree-hugging liberal).

The One Shine-ing Moment in the Whole mess

(Without the IBM punched-card counters and sorter the NAZI's would never have have been able to identify all of the Jews. They even went so far as to find those that were 1/16 Jewisth -- ie, to the great, great grand mother/father stage! There was one hero in all of the things Rene Carmille who was a French military commander in Southern France (called the Vichie section) and was essentially un-occupied since they surrendered to Germany almost immediately. Rene was allowed to keep the Hollerith (IBM) tabulators since he "promised to deliver exact lists of all of the Jews". Mean-while in northern France, almost all of the tabulators had been shipped back to Germany to help with war production, etc). As it turned out Rene NEVER punched a single card identifying the Jews!!! He was in fact working for the French Underground and had programmed the card sorters to help identify the soldiers (some of whom were now shop keepers, day laborers, etc) with the necessary skills for fighting back. The first revolt came in French Algeria (which was under NAZI occupation). This allowed the Allies to win there, and from there begin the invasion into southern Europe (freeing Italy, and then later in 1944/1945 Southern France). Even though he was torturted for two solid days by "The Butcher of Lyon" --- Klause Barbie, he never cracked and was sent to the concentration camp at Dauchau, where he died just a few months before the allies freed the remaining prisoners there. In France, many of the churches (Protestant & Catholic) continued preaching against the NAZI's, and many non-jews went to register as Jews --- trying to flood the NAZI prison's with so many people that they couldn't handle them all. The French philosopher Henri Bergson (an existentialist and pre-cursor of Albert Camus (pronounced Camoo) & Jean-Paul Sartre) registered as a Jew just 3 days before he died and urged everyone in Paris to do the same.

Mean-while, business as usual

All the time the head of IBM, Thomas R. Watson, Sr. who was a ruthless American businessman living in New York City, continued to make money by selling to both the NAZI's and the Allies. He knew what was happening, but didn't care as long as he made money. The ironic thing was that at the time he was officially on the Carnegie Foundation for Peace! After America entered the War, Watson still played both sides against each other, finally put-ing more effort into the American side; apparently, playing the winner, and hope-ing to retake control of all of the European subsidiaries of IBM after the war. Back to Am-History: 1900 - 2000 Back to the PDE Return to the m-a-c page Return to the HOME page

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