[Marxism] IBM at Auschwitz, New Documents

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Mar 2 07:58:43 MST 2012


IBM at Auschwitz, New Documents
Edwin Black, Reader Supported News
28 February 12

Newly-released documents expose more explicitly the details of 
IBM's pivotal role in the Holocaust - all six phases: 
identification, expulsion from society, confiscation, 
ghettoization, deportation, and even extermination. Moreover, the 
documents portray with crystal clarity the personal involvement 
and micro-management of IBM president Thomas J. Watson in the 
company's co-planning and co-organizing of Hitler's campaign to 
destroy the Jews.

IBM's twelve-year alliance with the Third Reich was first revealed 
in my book IBM and the Holocaust, published simultaneously in 40 
countries in February 2001. It was based on some 20,000 documents 
drawn from archives in seven countries. IBM never denied any of 
the information in the book; and despite thousands of media and 
communal requests, as well as published articles, the company has 
remained silent.

The new "expanded edition" contains 32 pages of 
never-before-published internal IBM correspondence, State 
Department and Justice Department memos, and concentration camp 
documents that graphically chronicle IBM's actions and what they 
knew during the 12-year Hitler regime. On the anniversary of the 
release of the original book, the new edition was released on 
February 26, 2012 at a special live global streaming event at 
Yeshiva University's Furst Hall, sponsored by the American 
Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists together with a 
coalition of other groups.

Among the newly-released documents and archival materials are 
secret 1941 correspondence setting up the Dutch subsidiary of IBM 
to work in tandem with the Nazis, company President Thomas 
Watson's personal approval for the 1939 release of special IBM 
alphabetizing machines to help organize the rape of Poland and the 
deportation of Polish Jews, as well as the IBM Concentration Camp 
Codes including IBM's code for death by Gas Chamber. Among the 
newly published photos of the punch cards is the one developed for 
the statistician who reported directly to Himmler and Eichmann.

The significance of the incriminating documents requires context.

Punch cards, also called Hollerith cards after IBM founder Herman 
Hollerith, were the forerunner of the computers that IBM is famous 
for today. These cards stored information in holes punched in the 
rows and columns, which were then "read" by a tabulating machine. 
The system worked like a player piano - but this one was devoted 
to the devil's music. First designed to track people and organize 
a census, the Hollerith system was later adapted to any tabulation 
or information task.

 From the first moments of the Hitler regime in 1933, IBM used its 
exclusive punch card technology and its global monopoly on 
information technology to organize, systematize, and accelerate 
Hitler's anti-Jewish program, step by step facilitating the 
tightening noose. The punch cards, machinery, training, servicing, 
and special project work, such as population census and 
identification, was managed directly by IBM headquarters in New 
York, and later through its subsidiaries in Germany, known as 
Deutsche Hollerith-Maschinen Gesellschaft (DEHOMAG), Poland, 
Holland, France, Switzerland, and other European countries.

Among the punch cards published are two for the SS, including one 
for the SS Rassenamt, or Race Office, which specialized in racial 
selections and coordinated with many other Reich offices. A third 
card was custom-crafted by IBM for Richard Korherr, a top Nazi 
statistician and expert in Jewish demographics who reported 
directly to Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler and who also worked with 
Adolf Eichmann. Himmler and Eichmann were architects of the 
extermination phase of the Holocaust. All three punch cards bear 
the proud indicia of IBM's German subsidiary, DEHOMAG. They 
illustrate the nature of the end users who relied upon IBM's 
information technology.

In 1937, with war looming and the world shocked at the 
increasingly merciless Nazi persecution of the Jews, Hitler 
bestowed upon Watson a special award - created specifically for 
the occasion - to honor extraordinary service by a foreigner to 
the Third Reich. The medal, the Order of the German Eagle with 
Star, bedecked with swastikas, was to be worn on a sash over the 
heart. Watson returned the medal years later in June 1940 as a 
reaction to public outrage about the medal during the bombing of 
Paris. The return of this medal has been used by IBM apologists to 
show Watson had second thoughts about his alliance with the Reich. 
But a newly released copy of a subsequent letter dated June 10, 
1941, drafted by IBM's New York office, confirms that IBM 
headquarters personally directed the activities of its Dutch 
subsidiary set up in 1940 to identify and liquidate the Jews of 
Holland. Hence, while IBM engaged in the public relations maneuver 
of returning the medal, the company was actually quietly expanding 
its role in Hitler's Holocaust. Similar subsidiaries, sometimes 
named as a variant of "Watson Business Machines," were set up in 
Poland, Vichy France, and elsewhere on the Continent in cadence 
with the Nazi takeover of Europe.

Particularly powerful are the newly-released copies of the IBM 
concentration camp codes. IBM maintained a customer site, known as 
the Hollerith Department, in virtually every concentration camp to 
sort or process punch cards and track prisoners. The codes show 
IBM's numerical designation for various camps. Auschwitz was 001, 
Buchenwald was 002; Dachau was 003, and so on. Various prisoner 
types were reduced to IBM numbers, with 3 signifying homosexual, 9 
for anti-social, and 12 for Gypsy. The IBM number 8 designated a 
Jew. Inmate death was also reduced to an IBM digit: 3 represented 
death by natural causes, 4 by execution, 5 by suicide, and code 6 
designated "special treatment" in gas chambers. IBM engineers had 
to create Hollerith codes to differentiate between a Jew who had 
been worked to death and one who had been gassed, then print the 
cards, configure the machines, train the staff, and continuously 
maintain the fragile systems every two weeks on site in the 
concentration camps.

Newly-released photographs show the Hollerith Bunker at Dachau. It 
housed at least two dozen machines, mainly controlled by the SS. 
The foreboding concrete Hollerith blockhouse, constructed of 
reinforced concrete and steel, was designed to withstand the most 
intense Allied aerial bombardment. Those familiar with Nazi 
bomb-proof shelters will recognize the advanced square-cornered 
pillbox design reserved for the Reich's most precious buildings 
and operations. IBM equipment was among the Reich's most important 
weapons, not only in its war against the Jews, but in its general 
military campaigns and control of railway traffic. Watson 
personally approved expenditures to add bomb shelters to DEHOMAG 
installations because the cost was born by the company. Such costs 
cut into IBM's profit margin. Watson's approval was required 
because he received a one-percent commission on all Nazi business 

Two telling U.S. government memos, now published, are remarkable 
for their telling irony. The first is a State Department memo, 
dated December 3, 1941, just four days before the attack on Pearl 
Harbor and as the Nazis were being openly accused of genocide in 
Europe. On that day in 1941, IBM's top attorney, Harrison 
Chauncey, visited the State Department to express qualms about the 
company's extensive involvement with Hitler. The State Department 
memo recorded that Chauncey feared "that his company may some day 
be blamed for cooperating with the Germans."

The second is a Justice Department memo generated during a federal 
investigation of IBM for trading with the enemy. Economic Warfare 
Section chief investigator Howard J. Carter prepared the memo for 
his supervisors describing the company's collusion with the Hitler 
regime. Carter wrote: "What Hitler has done to us through his 
economic warfare, one of our own American corporations has also 
done ... Hence IBM is in a class with the Nazis." He ended his 
memo: "The entire world citizenry is hampered by an international 

At a time when the Watson name and the IBM image is being 
laundered by whiz computers that can answer questions on TV game 
shows, it is important to remember that Thomas Watson and his 
corporate behemoth were guilty of genocide. The Treaty on 
Genocide, Article 2, defines genocide as "acts committed with 
intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, 
racial, or religious group." In Article 3, the treaty states that 
among the "acts [that] shall be punishable," are the ones in 
subsection (e), that is "complicity in genocide." As for who shall 
be punished, the Treaty specifies the perpetrators in Article 4: 
"Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated 
in Article 3 shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally 
responsible rulers, public officials, or private individuals."

International Business Machines, and its president Thomas J. 
Watson, committed genocide by any standard. It was never about the 
antisemitism. It was never about the National Socialism. It was 
always about the money. Business was their middle name.

Edwin Black is the author of IBM and the Holocaust, The Strategic 
Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful 
Corporation, newly released in the Expanded Edition.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. 
Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link 
back to Reader Supported News.

More information about the Marxism mailing list