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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars IBM and the Holocaust by Edwin Black
Edwin Black's book on IBM and the Holocaust is a monument to thorough, historical research and documented fact-finding. He left no stone unturned. I tried to get IBM to dispute any part of it and they did not do so. Investigative journalism at its best.
Published on Dec 3 2001 by marvin j. migdol

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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. That is the glaring fault I found in this otherwise well-done work. The author is so caught up in proving the essential "evilness" of IBM and its chairman, Thomas Watson, that he overreaches himself, at one point comparing IBM employees to...
Published on Dec 19 2001 by Frank J. Konopka


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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More a diatribe than a book, Dec 19 2001
By 
Frank J. Konopka (Shamokin, PA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Historians should argue their positions with passion, but they should not let that passion override their entire work. That is the glaring fault I found in this otherwise well-done work. The author is so caught up in proving the essential "evilness" of IBM and its chairman, Thomas Watson, that he overreaches himself, at one point comparing IBM employees to Hitler's Brownshirts. Once he did that, he started losing me. From beginning to end there is a snide and not so subtle painting of everything IBM did as inherently evil, and condoning of the Nazi regime. If this is correct, many many companies and organizations (not to mention entire governments) from that time were complicit in the same situations. There's just too much of the "evil corporation" style of writing contained in this book to enable the unbiased reader make his or her own judgments about the evidence presented. When an author tries too hard to convince the reader, it tends to get my back up, and that's what happened here. He may be quite correct, for all I know, but his style just put me off.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars IBM and the Holocaust by Edwin Black, Dec 3 2001
Edwin Black's book on IBM and the Holocaust is a monument to thorough, historical research and documented fact-finding. He left no stone unturned. I tried to get IBM to dispute any part of it and they did not do so. Investigative journalism at its best.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This Case Not Proved, March 18 2001
IBM may be guilty of what the author claims, but he doesn't prove it, and admits at the end that he can't. As far as this book shows, Thomas Watson was not a fascist (by the author's own admission) and his motive was making money, period. There is nothing to show his priorities included killing Jews and others, propagating a "master race", or making the world safe for National Socialism. The technology was in Germany long before Hitler came to power. Watson was certainly amoral and an arch-capitalist who played both sides against the middle to win, but this book did not convince me he was an advocate or an engineer of genocide.
The author also doesn't stick to the point. He retells everything that went on in the world from the 1860s to the 1940s. The point is not what the Nazis did (most people are aware of this), but what IBM did.
One of the biggest problems I had with this book is that so much is written with the benefit of hindsight. He seems to think the entire population of the U.S., all the Jews in Germany, everyone in Europe, and often the whole world "knew" what was going to happen. I can't believe that when Hitler published Mein Kampf in the 1920s (before he was even well known) that the whole world should have foreseen Auschwitz 20 years later. I have trouble with the idea that because a census of the population was taken in 1933 in Prussia that everyone should have envisioned the "final solution" first discussed at Wannsee in 1939.
IBM's relationship with the German company it bought was always adversary. Thomas Watson, after "insulting" Hitler by returning a medal he had earlier been awarded by the Third Reich, was in the author's words, "persona non grata" in Germany. He was certainly not privy to the Nazi government's top secret plans about the destruction of the Jews and the implementation of death camps in Eastern Europe. He may not have been disturbed about it if he had been, but the book doesn't show it. IBM was not IG Farben, at least not based on this material.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pure Evil, Feb. 21 2001
Genocide is pure evil. There are no special circumstances that
mitigate the action. If an individual is complicit in the
implementation of Genocide they are part of that evil. If an
individual or Corporation facilitates the administration of the
genocide, they or the company again are a part of that evil. Genocide
is not unique to the Germany of the Nazi's, they were not the first,
and they were not the final practitioners of the crime.
Because a
book documents unethical/amoral behavior by a company, in this case
IBM, the book is not automatically deserving of praise. It is not
automatically a scholarly work. It is not immune from the same
standards that any serious Historian must adhere to. Based on my
reading of Mr. Edwin Black's book I believe IBM is certainly guilty of
bending every rule they could, breaking them when bending did not
work, and allowed business ethics to guide their decisions as opposed
to the most minimal ethical standards that should guide any individual
or company.
Mr. Black has written about a valid topic. His decision
to make it a shrill editorial at times, and at others to communicate
his ignorance of basic business practices eliminates this book from
the level of accuracy and excellence that true scholarship
requires. Some examples should be noted to make my point. 1.IBM put
the blitz in krieg. 2.He compares Hitler's Brownshirts singing and
swaying to their anti Semitic nonsense, to IBM salesmen in Blue Suits
singing Company songs in New York. 3.He would have readers believe
that the world was aware and enraged about Hitler and his "Final
Solution" in 1933. This is pure nonsense, as any reputable
Historian will affirm. Even Mr. Black finally gets to the accepted
Historical dates of the final solution. This unfortunately is not the
only inconsistency in the book. Mr. Black on more than one occasion
will temper inflammatory editorial at the book's beginning with
well-known facts at the end.
On page 280 Mr. Black begins an
explanation of a financial maneuver that IBM implemented that was
absolutely motivated by profit, and in no way influenced by events in
Germany. However neither Mr. Black, his editors, proofreaders or
anyone else corrected an extremely simplistic business event.
This
is important because it is so basic and so wrong and so repeated to
illustrate a very valid point... The issue was IBM taking funds from a
blocked account and investing the funds in their German subsidiary
effecting the issuance of new stock. In point of fact doubling the
company's investment. This action is about as far from "any other
stock split" as can be imagined. The damaging point he was
attempting to make was that IBM increased its investment in Germany
rather than be limited by 6% dividend caps, and severe tax
penalties. A "stock split" does not increase investment, it does
not increase value, it does not enrich shareholders. If you own 1
share out of 100, after a split you own 2 shares of 200. You own the
same amount of the company nothing changes. It is the most basic of
math. IBM doubled their investment with a cash infusion, this is an
entirely different event, and totally changes the complexion of what
the Author was trying to communicate, and the level of noxious
behavior IBM was a party to....
You will
have to get by nonsense he espouses like; the dawn of technology was
the sunset of humane conduct. He evidently missed the Genocide in
Armenia, Lenin's and Stalin's Russia to name only three. How about the
Genocide of people of color via the slave trade that legally continued
for centuries prior to The Corporal showing up. How about the Native
Americans in The United States?
IBM was clearly
interested in making money and securing international market share
ahead of any concerns about how their machines were being used. Do
those that conducted the business during the time deserve
condemnation, absolutely. And while we are at it let's be sure to
include all the companies that were guilty. If you selectively choose
companies, you selectively write History. When this happens you come
dangerously close to revisionism, and that is a contemptible
act.
The book and the subject is valid History...
The IBM machine is one of
the first displays when entering the museum. It drew so much attention
prior to this book, the display had to be scaled down. While this book
may be the first in depth study of the topic, it is hardly the
exposition of an unknown topic that this Author would have you believe
he has introduced to the world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First Rate Research--Even a Widget has its Evil Side, May 5 2003
By 
Dr. Victor S. Alpher (Austin, Texas, U.S.A.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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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5.0 out of 5 stars A Sober, Courageous Look at IBM's Sordid WW II Past, Dec 14 2002
By 
John Kwok (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
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 Gripping, Chilling Documentation IBM Complicity, July 15 2002
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 extermination, 1933 to 1945. Not until IBM and the Holocaust. Author Edwin Black has produced a powerful, gripping, chilling and magnificently documented volume. The correspondance of IBM officials juxtaposed against NYT headlines offers a horrid insight into their mindsets as they were designing applications to further oppress the Jews and help Hitler conquer Europe. The author's website is filled with worldwide praise for this work, and yet it stands alone. I can find no other follow-up volumes to this excellent book. ... I cannot recommend enough this important achievement.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Makes me UNproud to be former IBM employee, May 24 2002
By 
Spook "secretcity" (Las Vegas, Nv United States) - See all my reviews
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars IBM Should Come Clean, May 6 2002
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. If Edwin Black's masterpiece has given us this much without IBM's cooperation, imagine how much more the world could learn if IBM came clean and opened all its files as the author urges.
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4.0 out of 5 stars IBM and the Holocaust, April 9 2002
By A Customer
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 party for the mass executions is not a fair accusation. However, it has raised many questions in my mind, about the involvment of IBM in Nazi Germany. I'm sure this is raising some questions at IBM also. It seems unthinkable that corporate America could have been invovled in this genocide, but Edwin Black brings it to life. He has brought the Holocaust closer to home than any historian or history book ever has or ever will.
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