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IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation [Paperback]

Edwin Black
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 16 2012 0914153277 978-0914153276 Expanded Edition
IBM and the Holocaust is the award-winning, New York Times bestselling shocker--a million copies in print--detailing IBM's conscious co-planning and co-organizing of the Holocaust for the Nazis, all micromanaged by its president Thomas J Watson from New York and Paris. This Expanded Edition offers 37 pages of previous unpublished documents, pictures, internal company correspondence, and other archival materials to produce an even more explosive volume. Originally published to extraordinary praise in 2001, this provocative, award-winning international bestseller has stood the test of time as it chronicles the story of IBM's strategic alliance with Nazi Germany. IBM and the Holocaust provides nothing less than a chilling investigation into corporate complicity. Edwin Black's monumental research exposes how IBM and its subsidiaries helped create enabling technologies for the Nazis, step-by-step, from the identification and cataloging programs of the 1930s to the selections of the 1940s.

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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.

From Booklist

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.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Who would have anticipated that a speedy card-sorter, the Hollerith machine, would evolve into a tool of one of the most evil schemes of all time? Yet, this patented machine, devised by a little-known man of German descent, made it possible to conduct a census in a short time period, and turned counting into a tool useful on a mass scale. Black's book is a page-burner, containing information that will surprise the reader paragraph by paragraph. In my generation, the "Do Not Spindle, Fold, or Mutilate" written on each IBM punchcard was the introduction to the computer and information age (and often the butt of jokes). A scant 25 to 30 years earlier, similar punch cards became the currency on which the Holocaust was based. A truly groundbreaking piece of research that, fortunately, has already appeared in German translation. In the days where vast amounts of personal information are being reduced to a series of ones and zeros carried electronically and stored digitally, this saga may be the harbinger of horrors much worse than were conceived by the progenitors of the 1000-year Reich. We should pay close attention to the uses of such personal information, lest humans lose complete control of their humanity. Here we find a true fable (that's an oxymoron) with much more to teach than Aesop could have imagined.
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By John Kwok TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
To what end should profit be more important than morality? This is the main question readers should ask after reading Edwin Black's thoughtful, thorough look at IBM's economic history with Nazi Germany before - and especially, during - World War II. Although Black is not the most lyrical of writers, he does make a very persuasive case for IBM's primary role in mechanizing Hitler's Holocaust agains the Jews, Gypsies and other racial, religious and sexual minorities in Nazi-occupied Europe. One important unanswered question from World War II has been the extent of IBM's involvement in Nazi genocide; judging from Black's evidence that involvement was substantial, to say the least. Indeed, it is Black's premise that IBM's counting machines made it possible for Germany to perfect the crime of genocide as a mere matter of industrial mechanization. Black shows how IBM's Hollerith counting machines were used to identify, round up, and then deport hundreds of thousands of Jews from Poland to Holland into the Nazi regime's nightmarish network of labor and death camps.
Black's book is also a fascinating look into corporate politics. One wonders how much IBM's New York office knew of its German affiliate's activities. Without gaining access to IBM's archives, Black shows that IBM was aware and choose not to know, concerning itself only with the profits earned by Dehomag, its German affiliate, throughout Nazi-occupied Europe.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Banality of Evil Given a New Face April 2 2002
Format:Paperback
For a scholar of Nazi Germany, there is an unending series disquieting relizations when yet another horrifying fact becomes crystal clear. I had thought that there was little that could truely shock me anymore, after seeing hours of footage from the camps, or walking through railroad cars which still reak of death more than a half century later.
Nothing can compare however, to what this book forces one to see.
No one is claiming, not even the author, that the holocaust would not have happened without the efforts of IBM's German branches, but the facts remain. The transport and tracking of millions of people across Europe is normally attributed to tutonic efficiency. The tatooing of numbers is similarly attributed to simple dehumanization. It is Black who paints a picture of the wonderously nerdish enthusastic joy for solving a problem which I have always associated with Big Blue as the true face of evil.
The bureaucray of the Final Solution ran on IBM punch cards. Just as a tatooed number is seen as a universal symbol of the concentration camps, it is the punch card that can and should be viewed with new eyes, not only as harbinger of a new computer age, but convayer of death.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Crushing Indictment Against Corporate America Jan. 20 2002
Format:Hardcover
While reading this book, I shared it with co-workers.
I'm amazed that two people's first reaction was to ask me
"Sure, IBM helped Hitler build his Nazi war machine, but IBM didn't really know what he was doing to the Jews, did they?"
It angers me when this generation actually makes excuses for America's past financial plundering of the world. What's even harder for people to accept today, is that IBM got help from the U.S. State Department. This book is a tour de force of research. If you've never opened your eyes to the reality of financial exploitation that war brings, this will snap you out of your slumber. "Plausible Deniability" is the term used by bureaucrats to describe the lengths taken to cover up government, corporate and personal wrong doing. Relating to this book, I flatly call it wholesale murder. Hitler never would have achieved the numbers he did while decimating not only Jews, but Europe itself. IBM's technology was THE sole driving force that allowed Nazi Germany to build, organize and maintain it's war machine. The sad reality is, an unknowing American public thought IBM's president and owner was a hero. Quite simply, IBM prostituted it's technology to Germany, 6 million Jews perished, and an American corporation made millions of dollars in profit. The author is the son of Holocaust survivors. This book deserves nothing less than top shelf treatment in your collection.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, Chilling Documentation IBM Complicity
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 more
Published on July 15 2002 by Harry Churchill
4.0 out of 5 stars Makes me UNproud to be former IBM employee
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
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the WHOLE Truth,
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
Published on May 14 2002 by Patrick Graham
5.0 out of 5 stars IBM Should Come Clean
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 more
Published on May 6 2002 by Leona Hyde
4.0 out of 5 stars IBM and the Holocaust
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 more
Published on April 9 2002
2.0 out of 5 stars A one-sided account
"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 more
Published on Feb. 4 2002 by The BPR Reference Guide
5.0 out of 5 stars Passionate Turning Point Revelation
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 more
Published on Jan. 18 2002 by Sally Ferster
5.0 out of 5 stars This Book Rocks
I have just completed the reading of this book and I have only one word to say-----WOW!!!!!!!!!!!! This is a must read for every child, student, adult, businessperson, and all... Read more
Published on Dec 20 2001 by Maggie MacWilliams
3.0 out of 5 stars More a diatribe than a book
Historians should argue their positions with passion, but they should not let that passion override their entire work. Read more
Published on Dec 19 2001 by Frank J. Konopka
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