Author says IBM executives aided Hitler

By : |February 12, 2001 0

Eric Auchard

NEW YORK: Top US executives have been strongly implicated in supplying
technology that was used by Hitler to run his killing machine. Those implicated
include IBM’s German corporate underlings, according to author Edwin Black in a
new book that was published on Monday.

Black, the author of IBM and the Holocaust and a five-time Pulitzer
nominee, said in an interview on Monday that he and his team of 100 researchers
had found extensive evidence of complicity at IBM’s US corporate headquarters.
"There would have always been a Holocaust, with or without IBM," Black
told Reuters in an interview.

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Hollerith machines used by the Nazis were IBM’s core products, for
alphabetizing and tabulating punch-card dynamos of the pre-computer age. While
his 500-page book, studded with 1,500 footnotes, includes whole chapters showing
the murderous uses to which IBM tabulators were put, the evidence remains
sketchy as to what IBM officials knew of their equipment’s final uses.

"I think it was quite clear that IBM was monitoring and micro-managing
its German subsidiary, Dehomag, on an hour-to-hour basis," Black said.
Dehomag was the name of IBM’s subsidiary in Germany at that time. But he added:
"The record is not complete anywhere, in any archive."

In a letter on Friday to more than 307,000 employees, IBM said it was
horrified by the Holocaust. "As with hundreds of foreign-owned companies
that did business in Germany at that time, Dehomag came under the control of
Nazi authorities prior to and during World War II," it said.

Black, the child of Polish Holocaust survivors, said his work drew on more
than 20,000 documents from archives around the world. "The evidence is just
shards of glass. Most of these facts you might find will seem innocuous when
taken in isolation," he said.

Black’s book offers elaborate evidence to show how IBM rapidly shifted some
of its advanced tabulating equipment from occupied Poland to Romania in order to
identify Jews in a census, a prelude to their transportation to death camps.
Black located correspondence between various layers of IBM in Europe and the US
management. He found documents showing how German intelligence agencies worked
with local secret services and statistical offices to target Jews. The material
came in a mix of languages, complicating the task.

But he acknowledges there is no "smoking gun" showing IBM
executives knew there were 24 IBM Hollerith machines in Dachau, or showing that
most major death camps operated Hollerith Departments to track the mounting
trail of death. Black’s book has been criticized by some Holocaust scholars who
object to the secrecy shrouding his research project and the sudden
media-grabbing headlines during the launch of the book

One objection voiced by historians was that the book might overstate the
importance of technology in helping Hitler carry out his extermination policies.
Mobile death squads followed in the footsteps of the German army, they noted.

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