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June 16: IBM and the Nazis

June 15, 2016

ibmnaziIBM was founded as the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company in Endicott, New York on this date in 1911, as a merger of four business-machine companies. Renamed the International Business Machine Company in 1924, IBM as of 2012 was the second largest corporate workforce (435,000 worldwide) and the ninth most profitable. According to research by Edwin Black, author of the 2001 book, IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation, IBM’s CEO Thomas Watson willfully ignored a widespread U.S. business boycott of Nazi Germany and made deals to enable the Nazis to use the company’s tabulation equipment to track populations in occupied countries throughout World War II and identify, isolate, and eliminate Jews and Gypsies. “[W]ithout IBM’s machinery, continuing upkeep and service,” Black writes, “as well as the supply of punch cards, whether located on-site or off-site, Hitler’s camps could have never managed the numbers they did.”

“From the first moments of the Hitler regime in 1933, IBM used its exclusive punch card technology and its global monopoly on information technology to organize, systematize, and accelerate Hitler’s anti-Jewish program, step by step facilitating the tightening noose. The punch cards, machinery, training, servicing, and special project work, such as population census and identification, was managed directly by IBM headquarters in New York, and later through its subsidiaries in Germany, known as Deutsche Hollerith-Maschinen Gesellschaft (DEHOMAG), Poland, Holland, France, Switzerland, and other European countries.” --Edwin Black