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Was IBM, "The Solutions Company," partly responsible for the Final Solution? That's the question raised by Edwin Black's IBM and the Holocaust, the most controversial book on the subject since Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners. Black, a son of Holocaust survivors, is less tendentiously simplistic than Goldhagen, but his thesis is no less provocative: he argues that IBM founder Thomas Watson deserved the Merit Cross (Germany's second-highest honor) awarded him by Hitler, his second-biggest customer on earth. "IBM, primarily through its German subsidiary, made Hitler's program of Jewish destruction a technologic mission the company pursued with chilling success," writes Black. "IBM had almost single-handedly brought modern warfare into the information age [and] virtually put the 'blitz' in the krieg."
The crucial technology was a precursor to the computer, the IBM Hollerith punch card machine, which Black glimpsed on exhibit at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, inspiring his five-year, top-secret book project. The Hollerith was used to tabulate and alphabetize census data. Black says the Hollerith and its punch card data ("hole 3 signified homosexual ... hole 8 designated a Jew") was indispensable in rounding up prisoners, keeping the trains fully packed and on time, tallying the deaths, and organizing the entire war effort. Hitler's regime was fantastically, suicidally chaotic; could IBM have been the cause of its sole competence: mass-murdering civilians? Better scholars than I must sift through and appraise Black's mountainous evidence, but clearly the assessment is overdue.
The moral argument turns on one question: How much did IBM New York know about IBM Germany's work, and when? Black documents a scary game of brinksmanship orchestrated by IBM chief Watson, who walked a fine line between enraging U.S. officials and infuriating Hitler. He shamefully delayed returning the Nazi medal until forced to--and when he did return it, the Nazis almost kicked IBM and its crucial machines out of Germany. (Hitler was prone to self-defeating decisions, as demonstrated in How Hitler Could Have Won World War II.)
Black has created a must-read work of history. But it's also a fascinating business book examining the colliding influences of personality, morality, and cold strategic calculation. --Tim Appelo --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The publisher has ordered a print run of 100,000 copies, indicating that they expect high demand for this contentious expose. The author asserts that a collusion existed between IBM Corporation and the government of the Third Reich, wherein IBM supplied the technology enabling Nazi authorities to systematize their persecution of European Jews. Expect much discussion in the press and on the street about this very controversial book. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
I am astonished that Holocaust research has advanced so far and no one has yet detailed or even mentioned the involvement of IBM in organizing the Holocaust--from identification to... Read morePublished on July 15 2002 by Harry Churchill
The book is very well written and the author obviously did his homework. I think it is a bit wordy and describes events and conversations contributing little to the overall story.Published on May 24 2002 by Spook
The bottom line here is simple. After reading this book, I will never purchase or have any part of an IBM product.
This book is not the best I have ever read. Read more
Edwin Black's book has unveiled a whole new understanding of the Holocaust era. I was alternately driven to rage, tears and appreciation as I read his book. Read morePublished on May 6 2002 by Leona Hyde
This book is one of the most interesting factual books I have ever read. It is worth the read, but not for the assumptions made in it, to say that IBM can be held as a responsible... Read morePublished on April 9 2002
"It was an irony of the war that IBM equipment was used to encode and decode for both sides of the conflict" (p. 344). Read morePublished on Feb. 4 2002 by The BPR Reference Guide
IBM and the Holocaust is not the first Holocaust book I have read--but what an eye-opener. Why has this topic not been covered in any of the thousands of books or papers presented... Read morePublished on Jan. 18 2002 by Sally Ferster