Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New title: IBM and the Holocaust

One of the newer titles in the John Trigg Ester Library is IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi German and America's Most Powerful Corporation, by Edwin Black. This book is about how IBM created pre-computer technology that enabled the Nazis to identify, locate, and catalog European Jews—and thus round them up and murder them.
IBM and its German subsidiary custom-designed complex solutions, one by one, anticipating the Reich's needs. They did not merely sell the machines and walk away. Instead, IBM leased these machines for high fees and became the sole source of the billions of punch cards Hitler needed.
From Richard Pachter's review of the book in the Miami Herald:
The result is an exhaustively researched, highly detailed look at IBM, its history and business dealings. …IBM technology, Black asserts, also enabled the German war machine's mighty manufacturing and distribution prowess. …The question is raised how Watson and other IBM employees managed to get away with this murderous collaboration, how they escaped the notice of the press and the government. The answer, naturally, is complicated. Though much of the firm's activities at home and abroad were reported in newspapers (television news reporting was virtually nonexistent, and radio hardly a credible news medium) there was little effort made to "connect the dots''-with one significant exception. In 1942, an investigation by a minor U.S. government bureaucrat did, indeed, make the necessary connections, but IBM, by then the world's biggest corporation, was also an integral part of the Allied war effort, and had been careful to create an unimpeachable image of patriotism. The investigation was abandoned.

Black's book is, in many ways, like Spielberg's movie, Schindler's List; …More than just another Holocaust tale, the author paints a remarkable portrait of how a powerful company created enormous opportunities, irrespective of moral concerns and consequences. It's a chilling lesson in politics and business that remains potent relevant, and highly revelatory.
Hardcover: 528 pages
Publisher: Crown; 1st edition (February 12, 2001)
Language: English
ISBN: 0609607995

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