How IBM Helped Hitler in WW2

Computers & Technology

  • Author Josiah Eloy
  • Published December 30, 2022
  • Word count 876

An advertisement touting IBMs technology to Nazi Germany said, "See it all with a Hollerith punch card from Herman". This article examines the strategy of U.S.-owned IBM, then the maker of punch cards, in Nazi Germany prior to 1937. IBM Chief Executive Officer Thomas J. Watson met with Adolf Hitler while he was serving as president of the International Chamber of Commerce. Edwin Black further alleges that Thomas J. Watson, Chairman of IBM from 1915-1956, and other high-ranking IBM executives in New York, deliberately allowed the Third Reich to exploit IBMs technologies in order to protect IBMs profits.

The Holocaust, as Edwin Black alleges, would have occurred regardless of whether Holleriths punch-card and tally machines were loaned by its German subsidiaries to the Nazi government. Yet, with the assistance of over one hundred researchers working at archives in the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, and Israel, Edwin Black has documented the dirty dealings between the nations most powerful corporation and the Third Reich, one that extended well into the war years. Recently discovered Nazi documents and Polish eyewitness testimony clearly show that IBMs alliance with Nazi Germany extended well beyond its German subsidiaries.

Soon after Hitler took power, Nazi Germany became Americas most important corporate customer outside of the United States. IBMs German subsidiary was Deutsche Hollerith Machine Gesellschaft, known by its initials, Dehomag. Americas Most Powerful Corporations involvement with Nazi-occupied Poland continued, but now through a New York-controlled, specialized subsidiary known as Watson Business Machines, which was recently located in the Kruetz 23 building in Warsaw. The special new subsidiary was established by IBM New York after the invasion in Poland, in order to provide profitable services for the plundering and ethnic cleansing programs of Nazi Germany.

As part of this strategic alliance, the nations most powerful corporation and the Nazis co-designed, with IBM solely producing, the technical solutions that enabled Hitler to speed up, and in many ways automate, the major aspects of Hitler's persecution of Jews--from the initial identity and social expulsion, through the confiscation and ghettoization, through deportation, and finally, the extermination. Certainly, the dynamics and the backdrop for a singular American corporate alliance with the Reich changed over the course of the Holocaust...Make no mistake. A single American company has refused to answer charges dating back to the initial simultaneous revelations across 40 countries on Feb. 11, 2001, that IBM deliberately codified Adolf Hitler's persecution and extermination of European Jewry, both directly from New York City and via its subsidiaries throughout Germany-dominated Europe, coordinated via its Swiss operations.

The computer corporation IBM has not denied its subsidiaries role in assisting Nazis management of the Holocaust, choosing instead to assume it must bear no responsibility for the actions of companies over which Nazis had taken control. The suit also claims that IBM has failed to provide historians with access to IBMs archived records, which, according to Hausfeld, would show the company played an active role in helping the Third Reich. The suit repeats this argument, claiming IBM helped design the custom-made push-card ethnicity tracking method for the Germans, as well as providing maintenance of machines to the Nazis throughout the war years.

In an earlier version of Blakes book, the link between the firms New York headquarters and the European operations of the computer firm IBM was sketchier, tracing machine deliveries to a German branch seized by the Nazis. Black also refers to documents regarding a secret agreement made between Heidinger and Watson on the latters visit to Germany, allowing the commercial authority of Dehomag to extend beyond Germany, thus allowing the now-Nazified firm to bypass and displace several domestic subsidiaries and licensees, soliciting and shipping the Punch Card Solution Technology directly to IBM customers in these territories. Black told Reuters evidence has emerged since the books publication about the role of an ad-hoc IBM wartime subsidiary known as IBM Watson Business Machines, reporting directly to IBMs Geneva headquarters.

The new book takes the case against Watson and IBM much further, arguing that the specially built IBM technology helped to foment the Holocaust, enabling Hitler's automated persecution of the Jews, and creating lists of groups slated for deportation to Nazi death camps. The new book recounts how, after IBM lost control over its German operations in 1941, and after Watson returned Watson, IBMs custom-built technology was used at Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps to register prisoners and monitor slave labor. Despite the fiery spirit of the person named Edwin Black, his painstaking research has unearthed tens of thousands of documents, collected from all across Europe, which carefully reveal how IBM did not simply supply the technology to Hitler's Germany - IBM helped deploy and support it, for whatever purposes Hitler's Germany demanded.

Historians have since documented how IBMs punch-card technology, the predecessor to the computer, did everything from helping German trains run on time, to aiding in Hitler's rearmament plans, to tabulating census data, a crucial element of Nazi leaders murderous racial policies. In fact, the IBM Hollerith Machine, a tabulating machine running on punch cards, was a crucial tool in the execution of the logistical challenges of Jewish extermination in Hitler's Germany, in the pre-computer era. In fact, IBMs technology helped Nazis conduct the holocaust during the middle of the 20th century.

Josiah Eloy, Journalist for Trends/Business/Economy

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