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The Role Of Ibm In The Nazi Holocaust

On 31 January 2002, the Geneva based group Gypsy International Recognition and Compensation Action (GIRCA) filed a lawsuit against International Business Machines (IBM) on behalf of five Gypsies (Roma). The five Roma were orphaned when their families were murdered in the Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

The Roma were seeking financial compensation from IBM for alleged complicity in the Nazi atrocities. During the Second World War, IBM's European Headquarters were based in Geneva and the lawsuit was arousing strong feeling, May Bittel, spokesperson for GIRCA, defended the action saying, "Swiss law is clear - selling goods and services destined to be used in crime is itself criminal".

GIRCA had decided to initiate the lawsuit, largely, as a consequence of evidence cited against IBM in Edward Black's book 'IBM and the Holocaust'. The book, published in 2001, alleges complicity between IBM and the Nazis before and during World War II. In April 2001, a similar class lawsuit was issued, in New York, against IBM by Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. It was later dropped, as lawyers feared it would slow down payments from the German Holocaust Fund as German companies had many years before negotiated guarantees against future legal action before paying any money into this fund.

The "selling of goods and services destined to be used in crime" refers to the sale of the IBM's Hollerith machines to Nazi Germany. In the US, in the 1880s, Herman Hollerith had designed and patented an electronic tabulating machine using punch cards to carry out calculations. Using this technology the Hollerith machine, in a pre computer age, was able to carry out complex accounting functions in a fraction of the time previously needed. Hollerith's invention laid the basis for the foundation of IBM, which was to become one of the most profitable multinational corporations of the 20th Century. By the 1930s, IBM had become a leading US corporation under its Chief Executive, Thomas J. Watson, who was an open sympathizer of both Hitler and Mussolini. After Hitler came to power in 1933, Watson strove to build a strong commercial relationship between IBM and Nazi Germany. Through Dehomag, (IBM's German subsidiary) IBM equipped Nazi Germany with Hollerith machines for numerous financial and statistical purposes.

One use of the Hollerith machine was to compile data on German Jews - who they were and where they lived. The anti - semitism of the Nazis was clear from the outset with the adoption of discriminatory laws against German Jews throughout the 1930s. None of this appeared to trouble the conscience of the IBM executives, in fact, so close had the commercial relationship grown between IBM and the Nazis, that Hitler awarded a special medal to Watson in Berlin in 1937.

The actions of Watson and IBM during, or even before this period, were far from unique amongst US capitalists and the corporations they owned and controlled. Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, was an outspoken anti - semite, who, allegedly, gave financial support to the Nazi Party in the early 1920s. Hitler was certainly an admirer of Ford and even borrowed passages from Ford's book 'The International Jew' to use in Mein Kampf. In 1922, The New York Times reported that Hitler kept a large picture of Ford in his private office, as well as books written and published by Ford. Once in power, Hitler was to decorate Ford with the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, Nazi Germany's highest award to foreigners.

A much lesser known US friend of the Nazis, than either Thomas J. Watson or Henry Ford, was Prescott Bush. In 1942, Bush was a director and shareholder of, the New York based, Union Banking Corporation when the US government under the 'Trading with the Enemy Act' seized the company's shares. Hitler had declared war on the US, after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbour, and the Act allowed the US federal government to seize control of companies who were, or who were deemed, to be under enemy control during wartime. The federal government justified the seizure of Union Banking because it was a front in the USA for the commercial activities of leading German industrialist, Fritz Thyssen. Fritz Thyssen was no ordinary German industrialist, he had been a major financial supporter of the Nazi Party and had even written a book 'I Paid Hitler' describing his own role in helping to finance Hitler's rise to power. The name and activities of Prescott Bush would probably have faded into obscurity a long time ago were it not for the fact he was to become the father and grandfather of two future US Presidents - George Bush and the current President, George W. Bush. Control and ownership of Union Banking was returned to its shareholders after the end of World War II and the company was wound up in 1951. But there is a twist to the tale, Prescott Bush and his father in law, George Herbert Walker, each received $750,000 as shareholders from the dissolution of Union Banking and this $1.5 million formed the seed money for the current Bush financial empire. An empire that had helped propel George senior and, now, George W. Bush into the US Presidency.

Nazi Germany similarly seized the assets of US controlled companies in Germany, this included Dehomag, IBM's German subsidiary. Despite this Edwin Black alleges, in his book, that IBM still exercised real control over Dehemog via the Geneva headquarters of its Swiss subsidiary. The relevance in relation to the millions who died in the concentration camps is that records kept using IBM's Hollerith machines allowed the Nazis in Germany, and throughout Europe, to keep detailed profiles of each individual, including their national or racial origin.

Relatively accurate records of the numbers and locations of Jews and Gypsies in the Nazi Empire during World War II were maintained and there is little doubt this facilitated the Final Solution. To this day IBM strenuously denies that it exercised any control over its German subsidiary ? Dehomag - during the time the US was at war with Nazi Germany. Whether or not this is true the fact remains that after World War II ownership of Dehomag was returned to IBM and by definition therefore the profits the company had made during and from the war.

The question is not about the guilt or innocence of IBM but rather the extent of guilt. IBM was the ultimate benefactor from the profits made by Dehomag under Nazi rule from 1941 to 1945 irrespective of the issue of whether or not it had control of the company during those years.

Submitted by:

Indiann Davinos

I work for the ethical directory which sells fairtrade shoes plus we have Ethical Company articles for you to read or publish.




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