_IBM and the Holocaust_

From: Jim Fehlinger (fehlinger@home.com)
Date: Sat Feb 17 2001 - 20:22:37 MST

I picked up a copy of this book today:
It was published last Monday, Feb. 12. A passage from the Introduction (pp. 10-12):

"I was haunted by a question whose answer had long eluded historians.
The Germans always had the lists of Jewish names... But how did the
Nazis get the lists? For decades, no one has known. Few have asked...

I confronted the reality of IBM's involvement one day in 1993 in Washington
at the United States Holocaust Museum. There, in the very first exhibit,
an IBM Hollerith D-11 card sorting machine... was permanently displayed.
Clearly affixed to the machine's front panel glistened an IBM nameplate...
[A]lthough 15 million people, including most major Holocaust experts, have
seen the display, and in spite of the best efforts of leading Museum historians,
little more was understood about the provocative display other than the brief
curator's description at the exhibit and a few pages of supportive research...

My parents are Holocaust survivors, uprooted from their homes in Poland.
My mother escaped from a boxcar en route to Treblinka, was shot, and then
buried in a shallow mass grave. My father had already run away from a
guarded line of Jews and discovered her leg protruding from the snow...
Standing next to me five decades later, their image within the reflection
of the exhibit glass,... my parents could only express confusion...
But I had other questions. The Nazis had my parents' names. How?
What was the connection of this gleaming black, beige, and silver machine,
squatting silently in this dimly lit museum, to the millions of Jews
and other Europeans who were murdered...?"

There is a copy of an article from last Sunday's London _Times_ in
the Usenet article at:

I anticipate that this book will be a depressing document to read -- a
sobering demonstration that the computer technology celebrated by nearly
everyone on this list was tainted even before its birth by the sordid
use to which it was put by the Nazis, from which, this author alleges,
IBM profited handsomely.

I had a conversation with a friend recently in which the friend remarked
that citizens of the Western democracies at the end of the 20th century
probably enjoy more freedom than has existed before in the history of the
human race. I agreed with this, but added that the technology which
we enjoy so much is at the same time creating an infrastructure which could
someday support the most oppressive and inescapable tyranny yet seen.

By the way, I first heard of this book last weekend when I caught
the tail end of a news broadcast on TechTV. I probably would not have
had the stomach to submit that "Das blinkenlights..." article from
the previous weekend if I had known about this book beforehand
(the juxtaposition of the news of the book's publication with the title
and subject matter of my article in a public mailing list would in any
case have been in extremely bad taste). It seems we live in a world
in which no pleasure can be guaranteed to be totally innocent.

Jim F.

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