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IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation 16370th Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 151 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0609808993
ISBN-10: 0609808990
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press; 16370th edition (March 26, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609808990
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609808993
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (151 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #520,867 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAME on March 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book is the most important new work on the Nazi era in the last two decades. The book is even more significant for the questions it raises about what the purpose of a corporation is and should be, what role companies and governments should play in directing cutting edge technology, and the danger that misuses of advanced information technology bring to individuals.
The core of the story is how a key IBM technology, the Hollerith-based card tabulating machines, became available for the Nazi war and Holocaust efforts. Although the details are murky (and may remain so), it is fairly clear that the use of this technology was sustained during the war years in part by shipments of customized (for each end user) tabulating cards from IBM in neutral countries for everything from blitzkriegs to slave camp scheduling to transportation to the death camps. There was not enough paper capacity to make the cards in Europe (that the Nazi and IBM records show were used), and there is no evidence that Nazis created substitutes for these essential supplies.
As Mr. Black warns, "This book will be profoundly uncomfortable to read." I agree. My sleep will not be the same for some time after experiencing this powerful story.
Mr. Black makes an even stronger statement. "So if you intend to skim, or rely on selected sections, do not read the book at all." I took him at his word, and did not even read the book quickly. I also arranged to read it in several sittings, so I could think about what I had read in between. I recommend that you do the same.
The reason for my recommendation is that your thinking will change very fundamentally through reading the book.
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Format: Paperback
I did not want to read this book.

My grandfather worked for International Time Recording (ITR) in Endicott, NY before IBM was formed and Mr. Watson came on board. My father's first job, at the age of seventeen, was caretaker of the Watson Homestead. My family has had a hand in virtually every product that issued from the IBM manufacturing effort since its inception in 1924. I have deep affection for the company my family labored to build.

I approached "IBM and the Holocaust" with a high degree of skepticism. The book sat on my nightstand for two months before I opened it. Finally picked it up for the sake of completing my 14-book IBM historical reading cycle.

This book is astounding. It is impeccably researched, artfully written, highly detailed, painstakingly documented, remarkably objective and thoroughly engaging.

"IBM and the Holocaust" has finally exposed the undeniable truth: IBM became the world's most powerful corporation largely because it assisted in identifying, cataloging and exterminating millions of innocent people for Hitler. The evil that lurks in IBM history was not exposed previously only because IBM management was smart enough and powerful enough to "hide its tracks" in Nuremburg. No investigator has ever dug deeper into IBM history than Edwin Black.

A close reading of the book makes it absolutely clear that Mr. Watson (IBM CEO) knew the exact purpose, goal and expected outcome of the IBM solution in Europe. The book details the fact that unlike previous IBM engagements for the Third Reich that were completed by Dehomag (IBM's German subsidiary), the engagement in Romania (1941) was conducted directly under the management of IBM New York.
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Format: Hardcover
I just came upon this book this past week, but I have read research on the Holocaust for over 30 years and always wondered how the Nazis could be so efficient in rounding up people, how they could exactly know so much as they took over Poland and France, etc., etc., Now I think I know and the knowledge is most disturbing.
Reading this book made me stop and think about where technology is going today in our world where all the bits of information about everybody are carefully stored, collated, and applied to "appropriate" use. I think there is a warning from the book about having too much data about individuals. I for one will never answer census questions completely again, certainly not the petty questions that inquire into the specifics of my personal life.
A few months ago, I watched the HBO Movie Conspiracy which was an exact dramatization of the Wannesee Conference in 1942 in Berlin. The script was based on the sole transcript of that meeting found after the war and belonging to one of the attendees. As I was watching the movie and later when I poured over the actual transcript which I found on the net, I wondered, "How did they have such exact figures for each country and group? So exact that the numbers were down to the single digits. How did they find these people?" It puzzled me. In reading IBM and the Holocaust, I found my answer.
History has an ostentatous way of rationalizing what actually happened to fit current viewpoints that are acceptable to people and institutions. We don't want to think that a company like IBM could be so dreadful for profit or that our Government refused to bomb camps or take in refugees when they knew horror was happening.
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