It’s not a big secret these days that Adolf Hitler rose to power with financial support from big business in Germany and the United States. Henry Ford is on record as being an enthusiastic supporter of the German dictator and his ethnic purification programme. The IBM connection, however, was news to me. Read on . . . And think that this was happening while my father and his generation were fighting for freedom and democracy. And if corporate America could do that then, what are they doing NOW?
IBM’s secret Nazi shame, by Frank Walker
Today, IBM (International Business Machines) is a massive New York based multinational technology corporation with operations around the world. It has annual revenue of US$81 billion ($107.8b) and 380,000 employees. Finance magazines Barron’s and Fortune dub IBM the world’s most respected and admired company. However, the huge corporation has a dark, secret past it doesn’t tell you about in its glossy brochures listing Nobel prize winners and technological breakthroughs. What they don’t tell you is that in the 1930s IBM was instrumental in providing groundbreaking technology that assisted the Nazi regime in identifying and tracking down Jews for its methodical program of genocide.
One of the machines is displayed in a place of prominence at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC. The IBM badge can be clearly seen. It was a technical marvel of its time, the forerunner of today’s computers. The complex-looking machine was a punch card and card-sorting system initially built to assist the collation of vast amounts of information gathered in a census.
In the 1930s, IBM was one of the largest firms in the world, a true multinational conglomerate, with its headquarters in New York.
Oddly, IBM has Germanic origins. Herman Hollerith was the son of German immigrants. Working in the US Census Bureau, he was still in his twenties when he devised a machine using punch cards to tabulate the 1890 census. A smart businessman, he didn’t sell the machines or the punch cards but only leased them to whoever needed work done. It was a formula that kept the money rolling in.
His machines were used in censuses around the world, as well as for major operations such as railways and shipping.
Hollerith set up a subsidiary in Germany called Deutsche Hollerith Maschinen Gesellschaft – Dehomag for short – and assigned it all of his patents. In 1911 Hollerith sold his firm to financier Charles Flint, who put tough and ambitious salesman Thomas Watson in charge. The name was changed to International Business Machines, IBM for short, and the company grew and grew.
In 1924 IBM owned eighty-four per cent of Dehomag, and the firm’s New York headquarters kept a close eye on all that its German subsidiary did throughout the war.
American investigative author Edwin Black was deeply shocked when he saw the IBM – Dehomag machine in Washington’s Holocaust Museum. The museum said on the display that IBM was responsible for organising the German census of 1933, which for the first time identified all Jews in the German population. Black was mystified how an iconic American corporation could be involved in the Holocaust, the most evil act of the twentieth century. He then spent decades digging up the links between IBM America and the Nazi genocide of millions of Jews and other inmates of the concentration camps. He said IBM tried to block his access to the firm’s records at every turn. But from archives around the world, and some files from IBM, he managed to assemble 20,000 documents that revealed IBM’s horrific role in the war, and in 2001 Black published his groundbreaking findings in “IBM and the Holocaust”.
It was shocking. Black wrote that IBM headquarters in New York knew all about its German subsidiary designing and supplying indispensable technological equipment that allowed the Nazis to achieve what had never been done before – “the automation of human destruction”. Buried deep in the files of the IBM company and German archives, Black alleged he discovered IBM boss Thomas Watson was an enthusiastic supporter of the Nazis from the very early years of the rise of Hitler.
“IBM NY always understood from the outset in 1933 that it was courting and doing business with the upper echelon of the Nazi Party,” Black wrote.
Watson was obsequious in pandering to the Nazi hierarchy, writing a grovelling letter in 1937 to Nazi Economics Minister Hjalmer Schacht declaring that the world must extend “a sympathetic understanding to the German people and their aims under the leadership of Adolf Hitler”.
To show his gratitude to Watson and the support of IBM, Hitler personally bestowed on Watson a special swastika-bedecked medal to honour his unique service to the Reich – the Order of the German Eagle with Star. Black writes that in June 1940 Watson was forced to return the medal after public outrage that such a prominent American business leader would be in possession of a Nazi medal while Nazi troops occupied Paris.
And more if you have time: http://www.ibmandtheholocaust.com/