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on June 17, 2017
As a lifelong computer programmer raised in Silicon Valley, user of several punch-card-based IBM computers,
and aware of IBM's general history, I was very surprised when I first heard that the tattooed numbers on holocaust
victims' arms were ID numbers used in IBM data bases (based on punched cards, not full-purpose computers).
That revelation eventually led me to this book, which is THE book on the subject; no others even come close.

The author of this book - himself the son of two holocaust survivors - was also unaware of this connection as a boy
when his parents took him to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in New York City, where a German IBM card punch
machine was positioned at the entrance to the museum, with no indication of its far-reaching usage by the Third Reich.
As an adult, Black researched this connection and found an amazing absence of information everywhere about it,
even among organizations and individuals who had done deep research into all aspects of the holocaust.
Black decided to expose the whole intimate complicity of IBM's revered president J D Watson with the Third Reich,
assisting Hitler in carrying out the business end of his mass imprisonments, slave-laboring and exterminations.
Despite the complete lack of cooperation from IBM in opening their files (to this date), Black went to other sources,
scattered all over Europe and the USA, to root out and correlate 20000 documents that, individually, seem almost routine,
but when arranged chronologically and correlated together, constitute an unassailable, damning testimony against Watson.
The unbelievable amount of time, travel, correspondence, and volunteer work involved spanned several years.

The author is painstakingly careful about quoting directly from actual source documents, so that denial is utterly futile.
It worked - IBM has never attempted to sue Black for libel, slander, fraud, etc, and avoided public comments as much as possible..
I now mention the topic and the book whenever I meet any other tech people in the SF area, who are still uniformly unaware of it.
I perceive that IBM could offer a valid justification that IBM punch cards were just that ("international business machines"),
and that prosecuting IBM for war crimes would be as unjust as prosecuting Underwood for selling typewriters to the Third Reich.
IBM was not selling Zyklon B, or secrets. or munitions materials - what's the problem?
But IBM knows that its deafening silence is its best strategy - if people start asking questions, Black's book is waiting for them.

Having recently read Black's entire book, I can offer my personal assessment of three relevant Wikipedia articles as of 06/17/2017.
Wikipedia article "IBM and the Holocaust" is a good summary of Black's book, but still hedges at several places, with phrases like
"Black argues", "Black asserts", "Black demonstrates", "Black reports", and "Black charges".
The Wikipedia article on "History of IBM" paints an innocent picture of Watson, but does close with a paragraph on Black's book,
although the final sentence deceptively implies Black says that IBM's complicity ended with the US declaration of war. He doesn't.
The Wikipedia article on "IBM" reduces IBM's involvement with the Third Reich to half of one sentence.

IBM's involvement in the holocaust is a towering example of the dark side of "business as usual" in America. Read it.
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on March 8, 2015
The author carefully documented the light he shined on the infuriating dark past of certain players of our country. When I think of the sacrifices of my Dad drafted at 18 to fight in Germany--and indeed all good hearted Americans be they soldiers or family left behind--to find out that life sucking greed and to some extent US government complicity made much of the Nazi horrors a reality and enabled their implementation I am stunned. Stunned is not even the right word.
As long as there was money to be made these heartless people cared nothing at all for the sad fate of millions of murdered people-Jews, and anyone who opposed the Nazi machine. My Dad helped shut down one concentration camp-the people in the town had looked the other way as the Nazi criminals had carried out their plans. This book is all about looking the other way.

Someone once remarked to me that if corporations were people they would be psychopaths, and I could surely agree in this case. Sickening!
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on February 24, 2016
If you have any interest whatsoever in 20th century history you should buy this book. It is not only worth reading, it is worth re-reading several times. It is one thing to be amazed as to how data processing technology can be applied to eliminate an entire people. It is something else to realize just how much easier it would be to repeat this using modern computers. Edwin Black takes a subject, the presentation of which might be a boring recitation of endless statistics and details, and makes it the sort of book you just have to read another chapter before you put it down.
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on September 12, 2013
This is another hard read from Edwin Black, but it is a very important topic. It is a troubling topic in so many ways. First and formost, to know that corporations you grew up with aided the Nazi extermination of Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses, Gypsies, and others borders on the unfathomable. TO see such raw greed, with a complete lack of any moral fiber, is alarming.
Thomas Watson was such a person. He was the president of IBM, and continued operations in Nazi Germany, throughout the war, using deceptive accounting and other ruses to hide this fact. The facts are, that the tabulating machines that IBM owned and sold and serviced, were used to do the census in Germany and subsequently in all the countries that became part of the Greater Reich, after they were overrun by the Nazis. The census was how they knew who and where the Jews were. They pinpointed them with ease, and then used these same machines, again owned and serviced by IBM, to efficiently move them to concentration camps or slave labor camps by trains organized and scheduled with utmost efficiency. There acts were treasonous, as they were aiding the enemy! They were never charged, though they were investigated, because IBM was playing both sides, ingratiating themselves with the war efforts on this side of the Atlantic. They did not care where or how their money was made, or who from. They wanted more. I am ashamed of this "American" company.
This story troubles me when thinking about how long governments and corportions have been gathering information about us. For over a century. The results can be devastating. I think of all the information the NSA has been collecting about us, and don't find it difficult to imagine that it would be used against us. When George Orwell wrote 1984, and talked about Big Brother, he was warning us about information technology run amok! It happened before, and it can happen again. This gives me a chill!
This was an excellent read, my only criticism being the amount of material and detail which can be daunting. Nonetheless I believe it is a 5 star read.
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on September 23, 2017
This book should be required reading for every American. It is well-written and compelling. It delivers on many levels. IBM's complicity with Hitler's cause does not describe it properly. The Nazis could not have accomplished what they did on such a deep and stunningly efficient level without IBM's help. How was this allowed to happen in the first place? How was it so well concealed? Thank you for informing me. You want "free trade" with no regulations? Well, Thomas Watson was just a pure capitalist following the most profitable path. This is but one reason for sensible regulation. BTW, IBM was not the only collaborator during that era. The more I learn, the more I am shocked and amazed. Then, after The War, came Operation Paperclip. Many of the worst war criminals were brought over, not just for NASA, but for our intelligence community. Ironically, it was vital for NASA, but the intelligence community portion was certainly a deal with the devil...
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on April 9, 2015
Very well researched, well written and thorough. Impeccable research, unbelievably thorough. The Hollerith machines described in this book are one of the greatest mysteries in Holocaust history–for some reason, this is the only place I've read about them, how the Germans used them and how IBM managed to continue to sell them to the Nazis with any detail. The scope of this book is amazing.
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VINE VOICEon June 13, 2010
As a consultant, I often hear complaints from others in the workforce about IBM's WebSphere product line, but the objects of these complaints pale in comparison to the history of IBM that Black presents in this work. While IBM is barely mentioned in McKenna's "The World's Newest Profession: Management Consulting in the Twentieth Century" (see my review), Black presents the history of IBM from its beginnings through the second world war, with an intensive focus on IBM's connection with the National Socialists. In addition, during this journey the author brings the reader step-by-step through the historical events surrounding the second world war, with a concentration on Germany, a journey that is written so well that this book outshines many other books that cover this period of history in this aspect alone.

Black explains that the visit with his parents in 1993 to the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. caused him to ask question after question, beginning with questions surrounding National Socialist obtainment of his parents' names (his parents are Jewish survivors of the Holocaust). The Holocaust Museum exhibit at the time had an IBM Hollerith D-11 card sorting machine (one of the predecessors of modern computing equipment), but the exhibit did not explain much more than provide indication that IBM had been responsible for organizing the census of 1933 that first identified Jews living in Germany. To discover the details behind this lack of explanation, Black assembled a host of researchers across the globe in search of documents that explain how IBM equipment was used by Germany during that time period, resulting in approximately 20,000 pages of such documentation, and based on this effort Black estimates in his introduction to this book that five times this amount in additional documentation is yet to be discovered.

Thomas Watson, who eventually headed IBM, came from National Cash Register (NCR), a firm where Watson excelled for seventeen years, but where he felt business development opportunities were lacking. To broaden his opportunities at an international level, Watson joined the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR), from where Hollerith machines originated, the name of which Watson changed to International Business Machines (IBM) after he became chief executive. Dehomag, a German firm, was a licensee of Hollerith equipment from IBM, but the monetary crisis in Germany during the early-1920s made it impossible for Dehomag to pay royalties and other monies it owed to IBM, which controlled all of Hollerith's patents, so Dehomag became a subsidiary of IBM.

Black explains that while many European countries were slow to adopt Hollerith technology, more than half of IBM's overseas income came from Dehomag alone, and there were about seventy IBM subsidiaries and foreign branches worldwide at the time. In 1933, the business world questioned whether it was worth economic risk or moral descent trading with Germany. IBM was in an interesting position, because it exported American technology rather than import German goods, and while Dehomag was renamed IBM Germany following the second world war, it did not carry the name of IBM or Watson at the time, permitting it to fly below the radar. Unfortunately, in the pure pursuit of business development, Watson chose to risk moral descent, seeing many opportunities in the plans of the National Socialists, beginning with a census of Poland to identify those of Jewish origin, and later working with German statisticians to trace Jewish bloodlines back to the early 1800s.

The space available here is simply lacking for a thorough review of this book. In my opinion, the content that Black provides is as much an account of IBM and its enablement of ethnic cleansing as it is a warning to the modern world not to follow in the footsteps of early-IBM or the National Socialists. As other reviewers here have indicated, morality should not take a back seat to the demands of stockholders seeking a profit. And Black's mentions of Germany's "The Law for Simplification of the Health System" and "The Law for the Prevention of Genetically Sick Offspring" of 1934 together with the article for the German statistical journal written by Friedrich Zahn that same year, "The Economic Value of Man as an Object of Statistics", should be remembered by modern society as avenues which we should not travel again. But are we not as a global society moving in this direction again? Well recommended text to everyone seeking insight into how IBM, in the words of Black, put the "blitz" in "blitzkreig".
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on March 29, 2013
What an eye-opener! I recognized the equipment descriptions, although the punched-card equipment I was trained by IBM to use and design applications for as a systems engineer in the 1960s was not identical with what was described. It was close enough that I knew the author had done his research accurately. The IBM culture of tight control was also very accurate. My paternal grandparents were Jewish and came to the U.S. from Ukraine in the early 1900s. My maternal great-grandparents were Jewish and came to the U.S. from Lithuania in the 1880s. My father was drafted into World War II and sent to serve in the South Pacific because the Army realized that, if he were captured in Europe, he would surely end up in a concentration camp and his fate would be better as a Japanese prisoner. He did survive to return home. So I had four different reasons to be mesmerized by this lengthy, occasionally repetitious, but diligent deep research into one aspect of why Hitler was so efficient at extermination.
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on October 17, 2017
You want a depressing fascinating read, this is your book. I like computers, and I like Holocaust history, and this is a wallop of both of them. Really shows you how IBM played both sides before, during, and after the Holocaust, so that they could maximize their profits and keep one foot in Germany and one foot in the USA the whole time. All thanks to punch cards.
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on April 7, 2018
Hoped I would never have to read a book that would give such a comprehensive account of how an American industry could so blatantly assist the Nazi mission to exterminate the Jews. Unbelievable. Hats off to Edwin Black for exposing this travesty.
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