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Showing 1-3 of 3 reviews(2 star)show all reviews
on September 10, 2001
Edwin Black has done heroic, scholarly, vital work. This book must
exist.It's a cautionary monument against corporate amorality and
the certainty that high tech population control is
a 60 year old fact.
Problem with monuments is they don't always make engaging reading. Third Reich and IBM practices were effective because
they were predictable and formulaic. To recount these practices in convincing detail is fascinating at first. But Black moves from occupied country to occupied country
telling essentially the same tale of punch cards and profit margins. Reading his book is a bit like listening
to the same song over and over, only in a dozen different
languages. Eventually you go numb, no matter how visceral your
initial reaction.
I would
have liked to have read more first person accounts from surviving Jews
who were rounded up. Did they sense that their cooperation in
filling out census forms was spelling doom? What were the other paper work signs
that so many failed to see? That kind of knowledge could
benefit us all.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 4, 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). Too bad there wasn't more info like that that actually looked at IBMs role in winning the war to counterbalance this decidedly one-sided account. Every step that IBM made during the war years is portrayed as evil and just doesn't ring true to me. If you're going to give IBM this sort of treatment, you're going to have to go after hundreds if not thousands of other companies who backed the Hitler regime. After I finished reading this book I wasn't convinced that IBM was all that different than any other corporation that did business with Germany at that time and am still scratching my head trying to figure out why they were singled out. Bad judgment in high places is nothing new and, motivated by their hatred of Jews, a rabid Nazi with a pencil could've given an IBM Hollerith machine a run for its money if he had been forced to.
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