IBM and the Holocaust, Part 1

Hollerith punch card
TC Talk
IBM and the Holocaust, Part 1

Nazi Germany systematically identified, relocated, and murdered millions of Jewish people during the Holocaust. But how were they able to kill so many so efficiently? IBM equipment played a key role. Meanwhile, IBM CEO Thomas J. Watson got rich off of Nazi Germany and strategically escaped scrutiny for his collaboration. In this episode, drawing on Edwin Black’s book IBM and the Holocaust, Abi explains how intertwined IBM and Nazi Germany were by tracing their paths through the Hitler years.

Sources and further reading

  • Black, E. (2001). IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation. Dialog press.


BHi, this is TC talk.
AI’m Abi.
Band I’m Benton.
AI teach technical communication
Band I don’t.
ABut you’re married to me so you get to hear all about it.
BI do.
AFor new listeners. Let’s start with a brief definition of technical communication. I see technical communication as communication, whether verbal, visual, etc. that helps somebody make a decision or perform some action. The most effective tech comm is highly attuned to its audience and the audience’s knowledge, their values, and so on.
BThat sounds good to me.
ANow, effective tech comm isn’t inherently good or ethical, as we will get further into in this episode. Today we’re going to talk about the book IBM and the Holocaust by Edwin Black. It was written in 2001. And this is another of those books that I did not plan to talk about for this podcast. But once I started reading it, I knew there are multifarious connections. Is that a word?
BMultiply nefarious?
AWell, multifarious and nefarious, certainly in this case. Myriad.
ALanguage. Many. Thank you. It was getting some buzz on Twitter on Holocaust Remembrance Day in January, and I knew I had to pick it up.
BWhat day in January is that?
ABecause I’m interested in history generally. But we’ll certainly get to the implications for tech comm. I might just pull a Peter Jackson with this one. It’s a very long and dense book. I may need to extend it into multiple episodes. We’ll have to see how efficiently we can get through this.
BWe’ll see what the CGI budget for this one is going to be then.
AWell, in fact, I don’t think any of the episodes we’ve done this season have been planned like very far in advance. And I did actually go into the fall with a list of topics I wanted to do. And then other stuff just came up and it seemed more interesting at the time. But I still wanna do those topics. Okay, Benton, What if I told you that there was a man whose loyalists called him The Leader, assembled and sang celebratory songs about him. And who was instrumental in the efficient mass murder of millions of people. Who am I talking about?
BThat sure sounds like Hitler to me.
AI’m talking about Thomas J. Watson, the CEO of IBM, International Business Machines. Were you aware of this? Like what is your kind of background understanding of what IBM is or what or who Thomas Watson was?
BI did know that IBM has existed for a lot longer than electronics. Well, as we know them today.
AHence, the machines in its title.
BMachines, yes.
AVersus computers.
B I know that they were instrumental in the US Census going from a process of several months of collating data before the punch card reader was used to being like a matter of weeks, maybe?
AYou’re talking about the American Census.
BThe American Census.
ANo it took years actually to compile the data before IBM came on the scene.
BOkay. It was a substantial reduction, that much I knew. So being a kid growing up in the ’90s in an Apple computer home IBM was known as Big blue. They were the evil empire. They were they were the bad guys in computers.
AFor real?
AWhere did this notion come from?
BBecause they were the other team.
AWhat about Microsoft? Where were they?
BWell, they were on that team.
AOh, Apple versus everyone else?
BYes. I admit it. I was a techno-jingoist when I was a kid.
AWell, you weren’t wrong. I mean, I wouldn’t say Apple is innocent.
BThey’re not innocent and they never were.
AYeah. Okay. What about Watson? Do you remember the Watson supercomputer?
BWas this Jeopardy or was this chess?
AIt may have been both. What I remember of it is that it went up against my childhood hero Ken Jennings.
BAh. So definitely Jeopardy.
ARight. You know, it was created by IBM, named after its founder. Obviously,
BI thought it may have been named after Sherlock’s colleague, Dr. Watson. Or maybe there’s the Watson Crick model of DNA.
AIt was indeed named after Thomas Watson. I just want to start by saying, I think this book offers a good lesson in who we choose to lionize. Who are our heroes? Even before I got very deep into this book, I did a quick Google search, like who is this Watson guy? And in some of the top results, there were articles like Encyclopedia Britannica and whatnot. Based on what I read there, there was zero reference to his dealings with Nazi Germany.
AAnd he was only presented as one of America’s best-known businessmen. Again, I wasn’t looking deeply. It’s not some hidden secret that IBM worked with Nazi Germany. But any elementary school kid trying to write a report on this guy would only come up with praise of him. And that speaks to Americans’, I think, tendency to respect rich people simply on the basis of they’re rich.
AThe facade is starting to slip.
BThe resistance to that. That general trend is definitely getting more pronounced and widespread. Thank goodness.
AYeah. Elon is not doing himself any favors with his antics. Jeff Bezos, I can’t think of a single person who looks up to the guy,
BDr. Evil with his giant phallus rocket.
ABut as this book shows, it’s actually dangerous to unquestioningly respect someone even if they are a quote, unquote good businessman. Because in a capitalist society, being a good businessman means you make money. Let’s get into the overlap between IBM and Nazi Germany. And as Edwin black argues, IBM added the Blitz to blitzkrieg. And the author is very clear about this. Hitler still would have murdered the Jews without help from IBM. But there is no way he could have done it quite as efficiently. Like any rhetorician, I like to get the context for what I read. What was the reaction when it came out? How are people reacting to it now? And it was generally well received thanks in part to its just absolute trove of documentation. So what Black did with this book is he pieced together this collaboration that they were very strategic about keeping hidden, as seen in all of the plausible deniability built into their correspondence and in how Watson’s public PR stunts failed to align with his private decision-making. So in my search for context, I made the mistake of reading Amazon reviews.
BAs we sometimes do.
AThe critical ones were along the lines of this book failed to convince me that Watson was a genocidal maniac. Of course he wanted to sell his product. That’s what companies do, make money. I’m just like, do you see the problem here? The value of capitalism and money-making is so deeply embedded that it seems like an obvious excuse for aiding and abetting fucking genocide. Right?
AI mean, obviously not everyone thinks this way, but I don’t know, the tone of that comment gives us a window into how some people react to this. So, sure, Watson may not have been a genocidal maniac like Hitler. But Watson was not against it enough for it to matter.
AAnd in my mind, whether you’re motivated by a deep and abiding hatred based on lies or greed, the end result is the same, right? And these are the people who fly under the radar because they’re not spouting the overtly racist stuff. But again, if you enabled the Reich, what does it matter? The swastika only represented a dollar sign to Watson.
BAlso, again, getting back to capitalism, IBM, their leadership had a financial obligation to obfuscate the truth.
AHow so?
BWell, a corporation exists for the profit of shareholders.
ASo like I said, I want to show how intertwined IBM and Nazi Germany were by tracing their paths through the Hitler years. If you want the depth, I do highly recommend the book, but I don’t think you’ll need to read the book to get the important lessons out of it. Which like I said, might be a future episode. Okay, background on Thomas Watson. So he worked for the National cash register company, NCR. He was a devious salesman, drove out any competition. NCR’s quote, “war tactics were limitless. Bribes, knockoff machines at predatory prices, threats of litigation and even smashed store windows were alleged.” So in 1912, Watson and other NCR execs were found guilty of criminal conspiracy. And I’m going to tell a story because it perfectly illustrates Watson’s tactics for shirking accountability that he will fully deploy at IBM.
AThe same spring that Watson and friends were being investigated, there was massive flooding in town. This was in Ohio. 90,000 people were displaced. Quote, “NCR organized an immense emergency relief effort.” They converted their factories to be able to produce rowboats. They opened up their facilities for hospital patients. They offered food, water, organized repairs of the railroads, so on and so forth. They became heroes. They used that hero status to get others to push for pardons for them. Eventually Watson’s attorneys got him off the hook for a technicality. He learned two lessons from this event. Number one, you can avoid accountability by becoming indispensable. Number two, don’t put everything in writing. The evidence for the jury to convict him was overwhelming. And he wouldn’t make that mistake again. Watson took charge of IBM in 1922. And IBM acquired Dehomag, short for in German, German Hollerith Machine Company. What’s a Hollerith machine? It was a type of early computing device that sorted punchcards for various purposes. This was invented in the late 1800s by an IBM worker, a German immigrant, named Herman Hollerith, who devised the machine while working for the US Census Bureau. Dehomag may as well have been called IBM Germany. But keeping IBM out of the company name helped him stay under the radar as the public started scrutinizing Germany, as Hitler rose to power. And by this point, IBM had already made a fortune off Germany even in the midst of the Great Depression in the United States. So Watson was sneaky in the way that he reported his profits.
AIn fact, much of the book just covers his shady business dealings and his ongoing fight over finances with Willie Heidinger, the enthusiastic Nazi who owned Dehomag at the time IBM acquired it. I won’t touch on that here because I don’t have a business or legal background and frankly, I wasn’t able to follow it very well. But the upshot is that Watson was greedy and cunning throughout all of this, and he micro-managed Dehomag to ensure he could squeeze as much profit out of it as possible and to conveniently obscure to the public and the US government his close relationship with Nazi Germany.
AAlright, what’s special about 1933 in Germany?
BIs that when Hitler was elected?
AI believe it was when he was appointed Chancellor.
Aby President Hindenburg. Hitler came to power and it was no secret that his goal was to eliminate the Jewish people. This was one aspect of his platform that he never wavered on. You know, his Mein Kampf is full of the ravings of a racist madman. I say that to preempt any excuses like, no one could have known.
BMaybe not everyone took him seriously at the time.
AThe 1920s, he had that failed Beer Hall Putsch and
BThat put him in prison when he wrote Mein Kampf.
ARight. And Hitler learned from that experience that the way to get to power is through legitimate means. Or at least the appearance of legitimacy. After 1929, the stock market crash in the United States, America was like, Oh hey, pay those loans back. It was a financial crisis that prompted people to be like, oh, Hitler knows what he’s talking about. But the anti-Semitism was already deeply baked in to culture at that time. Again, not something that just emerged out of thin air. Right away, Hitler started implementing laws that disenfranchised the Jews. The persecution ramped up over the years, starting with pushing them out of their workplaces, stealing their assets, moving them into ghettos, and ultimately sending them to concentration camps for either quote “extermination by labor,” unquote, or to be gassed.
BI know that one of the, one of the camps had the slogan over its gate. Work makes free.
AThat sounds familiar.
BBecause it will free you from your earthly body. Enough work.
AYeah. And this is a question I had always wondered about before I started really digging into the history of World War Two. How did Hitler know who all the Jewish people were, right? Because by that point, many were very assimilated. Many had even converted to Christianity
ALikely nudged by the racism against them.
BPolitical racism and individual racism.
ARight. But I always wondered, how do you pick them out? Especially if you’re defining Jewish as both those who practiced Judaism and those who were Jewish by blood, even by a small portion. The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 kind of officialized this broad definition of Jewish. So how could you possibly identify them without collecting and cross-referencing data from multiple censuses, church record books, and other documentation? The answer, Hollerith machines. I’m going to give you an example of one function of the Hollerith machines just to illustrate how it worked. But it was used for many, many different purposes. And Nazi Germany was obsessed with documenting and tracking.
BOh, yeah.
AUm, so they also did a horse census. They did a cow census, they did a vehicle census, they did a fucking butter census.
BNot only genocide. Hashtag, not all Hollerith machines.
AOh my gosh. Okay, so here’s an example of how a Hollerith machine helps to run the activities of a concentration camp. Black writes, “prisoners were identified by descriptive Hollerith cards, each with columns, with punched holes detailing nationality, date of birth, marital status, et cetera.” So with a spreadsheet you can filter, you can sort, you can list. But before computers existed, there was no way to do that efficiently. But if every person has their own punch card, then you can set your Hollerith to say, alright, spit out all the Jewish people who are men ages 18 to 24 or what have you. And then you send the punch cards through.
BSay you’ve got a need for strong backs to do hard labor.
ARight. Hole 3 signified homosexual. Hole 9 signified anti-social. Eight, Jew. And then there was also a code for reason for departure.
AFrom the camp.
ATwo was transfer. Suicide was 5, special handling was 6.
BWhat the hell kinda thing is that?
AIt was commonly understood to be extermination either in a gas chamber, by hanging or by gunshot.
BSpecial handling.
AYep. Does it make sense in general you know what Hollerith machines were able to make possible?
AOkay. And they were used to
BYou got a stack of cards. Every person is a database entry. Yeah. And when you pull their card, you call them, they get in line and they perform whatever task they were called for.
AYeah. Right away Hitler was like, alright, we’re gonna do a census. We’re going to use the Holleriths. Of course they tracked religion. And it wasn’t enough to just count the Jewish people. They needed to know, I shouldn’t say needed, they wanted to know exactly who they were. One statistician at the time said “In using statistics, the government now has the roadmap to switch from knowledge to deeds.”  
BThere’s a saying in, in business. I think it’s in business that you can’t control what you can’t measure. Be careful what you measure
Bbecause you’ll start to think that it’s important.
AOh my gosh. Yeah. Well, I mean, we’ll talk about this more. I think there’s definitely connections here to big data of today. So I just want to call attention here to how Hitler marshaled these institutions of science, statistics towards his racist ends. They sort of borrowed the credibility of science to invent a pseudoscientific branch of race science.
AAnd I think that’s a move that we need to be alert to. That happened certainly in the United States, as we discussed in our episode about racist medical experimentation.
AAnd then, I want you to read this quote. I want you to read this quote from Willy Heidinger.
B“The physician examines the human body and determines whether all organs are working to the benefit of the entire organism. We, Dehomag, are very much like the physician in that we dissect cell by cell, the German cultural body. We report every individual characteristic on a little card. These are not dead cards. Quite to the contrary. They prove later on that they come to life when the cards are sorted at a rate of 25,000/h. Our nation’s capital P physician, Adolf Hitler, can take corrective procedures to correct the sick circumstances. Our characteristics are deeply rooted in our race. Therefore, we must cherish them like a holy shrine, which we will and we must keep pure.”
AWhat do you think?
BThat is some grade a use of persuasive rhetoric. Not that I’m persuaded, but he uses the positive. A physician. Physicians are there to help, we’re like physicians. We’re here to help
BIt is not a human, it is a cell that may be sick.
AIt’s a tumor.
AThat’s going to harm the rest of the body if it’s not excised.
B“We must poison the tumor.”
AAnd the punch cards are inextricable from this mission, right?
AOkay. In 1935, one of the things that Roosevelt is best known for, Social Security Act.
BYes, the New Deal.
Awhich required tracking 30 million people. Guess who got the contract?
AAccording to Black, “Watson’s people boasted that his was the biggest accounting operation of all time.” But actually it was the second biggest. The dress rehearsal had already taken place in Germany. I mention this to show how IBM was starting to become essential to the operations of the US government as well, right? Watson was elected chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce.
BI imagine that meets in New York?
AWell, that year the conference was in Paris. But once Watson was in charge, guess where he announced the next conference would be?
BIt will be in Berlin.
AYes. Meanwhile, IBM was becoming more essential in Germany. And just to clarify, in case you think that Germany could have done this without Watson. They did supply the punchcards. Billions a year.
ABecause of trade sanctions and whatnot at that time, Germany had a hard time acquiring the raw materials it needed and paper was in short supply. So they relied heavily upon IBM New York at this point. In 1937 was the International Chamber of Commerce meeting in Berlin. And at this meeting, Watson received Hitler’s medal, Merit Cross of the German Eagle. This was in honor of Watson’s vocal support for Germany, for helping keep a trade route open, for providing the technology that enabled the rounding up of the Jews, for the credibility he granted to Germany due to being quote, America’s businessmen and a consultant to Roosevelt. At this meeting, there were lavish dinner parties. He was entertained by Joseph and Magda Goebbels. This was quite audacious of Watson because at this time there were boycotts, protests, public outcry against Hitler’s regime. So again, already, the world was becoming wise to Hitler’s dangerousness.
BWary, at least.
AWatson really was instrumental for Germany at this point because he went out of his way to defend them. Even if in vague terms. And his high-status with Roosevelt gave an implicit green-light to their activities.
BBeing a publicly viewed as successful businessmen, that alone will get you access to politicians, but donations, they definitely put your name at the top of the list.
AWatson donated large sums to Roosevelt’s campaign.
BYeah, and this kind of gets to the idea also that certainly Roosevelt was not a saint. 
BObviously under Roosevelt’s watch, we turned away boats of Jewish refugees from Germany. Said, Go back.
AYes. 1938 Hitler starts to expand. Not that way,
BSorry. I couldn’t help it.
AStarts to expand Germany, not himself. Benton just did a gesture of blowing up like a balloon. Watson visits Germany again earlier in the year. He argued passionately for Germany’s demands, according to Black, “that the world redistribute its raw materials and lower so-called trade barriers as the path to peace. Even as the mass media regularly published explanations that Germany desperately only needed those raw materials to arm its war machine.”
BWell, there didn’t need to be war if nobody fought back. Eye roll.
AAnd Watson praised the rising standard of living in Europe even as the Jews were being dispossessed. I have to read you this quote from Watson. “You know, you can cooperate with the man without believing in everything he says and does.” And I point out his calls for world peace because of how disingenuous they were. And that’s another thing we need to be alert to is that if the price of peace is eliminating an entire race of people,
Ait’s not worth it. Germany continues to expand, invades Czechoslovakia. Every time Germany claimed more land, it had to buy more Holleriths and implement more censuses so that they could immediately identify and round up the Jews living there. Jewish people had been emigrating from Germany for years at that point. Because of the policies that dispossessed them.
BThey saw they saw it coming. So they moved to France or moved to Czechoslovakia.
BIf I get out of these borders, I’ll be safe.
ABut then Germany would just catch up to them. November 10, 1938. This was a turning point. Kristallnacht. Tell me what you know about it.
BIt was the night of the broken glass. From my understanding, this is when groups of political hooligans, brown shirts, Nazis, whatever you want to call them, went around and broke the store windows of Jewish businesses.
AThere were beatings in the street. Synagogues burnt down. It was a very vocal, not vocal, but a very obvious threat, sort of a signal, that the flood gates have opened.
BThe leash is off?
AYes. The public outcry outside of Germany continued. US continued boycotting German companies. IBM was lucky that it didn’t have IBM in the name of its German subsidiary. And they were lucky that they were only exporting to Germany, not importing from Germany. So that allowed it to stay under the radar. But by this point, Watson had had a very public relationship with Germany. I mean, he got a medal from Hitler. And so he finds himself in a sticky situation, fully of his own making, I might add. He really didn’t want to tell off Germany, but there was such ill will against Germany at that point that from a PR standpoint, he just couldn’t keep silent. So he sent a letter addressed to his Excellency, Hitler, asking him to consider the golden rule in how he handled minorities. By all accounts, a very mild critique. Even so, this letter somehow got lost, was mysteriously misaddressed. Watson’s really trying to play both sides here. 1939, International Chamber of Congress is held in Copenhagen. During Watson’s speech, he says, “We regret that there are unsatisfactory political and economic conditions in the world today, with the great difference of opinion existing among many countries. But differences of opinion freely discussed and fairly disposed of resultant mutual benefit and increased happiness to all concerned.” And this, sorry, I have feelings.
BYou have, you have feelings, huh.
AI mean, it reminds me of people saying Let’s just all get along. There’s so much polarization and hate from both sides. And it’s like when one side is aiming to dehumanize a specific group of people. Again, so-called peace is not worth it.
BYeah. The hate is not symmetric. It’s not equal in magnitude or in type. One side hates what the other is doing. The other side hates what this side is.
AYes. And you know, it raises the question. Sure. Maybe there’s anger on both sides, but whose hatred is actually harming human lives?
AHitler invades Poland, bam, World War II begins. They start another census.
BOnce Hitler invades Poland, the Soviet Union doesn’t want to miss out.
ARight. They strike a deal.
BWell, they strike a deal. They said that you can invade Poland. And we can invade Poland, but we will not fight each other once we, once our lines meet,
BPoor Poland.
AI know, right?
BIt’s a plane, it’s a geological plane. Nothing to hide behind. you, No, no mountains to fortify, just perfect for tanks.
AYeah. As I mentioned before, they would relocate the Jews into ghettos. They would use Hollerith machines to keep track and know exactly how many Jews were under their jurisdiction and how much nutrition to allocate. Such as 184 calories per person per day,
BOh wow, that’s, missed a zero there.
AExactly. Again, no, no secret what the end goal is here. So Watson still in a sticky situation in 1940. He’s trying to create more distance between himself and IBM Germany.
BAt this point, America is not in the war.
Acorrect, but Britain. Let’s see. It was in 1940 that Germany invades Norway, Holland, and Belgium. When the Nazis blitzkrieged France, they were on meth.
AThanks to whatever documentary taught me this, but
BMeth Nazis
AIt blew my mind. It’s like, why are these Nazis never stopping to rest?
BShall go until we get to Spain, ya.
ASo Watson, he didn’t want to offend Germany, but he didn’t want to look complicit and risk his hero status in the United States. So he tried to shirk the decision of what to do with this medal. He even asked the Secretary of State if they wanted him to return the medal so he could throw them under the bus. And they were like, I refuse to comment on this.
BIn 1940, yeah. The US, they were tip toeing.
AYeah. Despite Watson’s friends in high places, there was definitely suspicion. Even the FBI started nosing around IBM.
BOh, man.
AAnd Watson appeared to cooperate by throwing his German workers under the bus and pretending like, oh, we have no tolerance for this. And then he did eventually give the medal back, publicly, of course. The Nazis were pissed. Dehomag started revolting. Dehomag was starting to make plans to make their own equipment and threatened Watson with that possibility. But again, they were just too enmeshed basically.
BI’m sure there were patents and other binding international business reasons that they weren’t allowed.
AWatson is, has lost his biggest supporters in Germany, but no worries. There’s another country he can get rich off of, the United States. Because in 1940, he could sense things were building up to them joining the war. IBM started making machine guns.
BWow, international business machine guns.
AThey acquired a munitions company or converted a factory or something. They started doing military research for the US. You know, Holleriths were even used at Bletchley Park.
BThat is where they cracked the Enigma machine.
AIBM was essentially aiding both sides in encoding and decoding their intelligence.
BWhich is the perfect place for a war materiel supplier to be.
AAnd over the course of the war, IBM became a precious war asset to the United States,
BToo big to fail, huh?
AAnd IBM supplied the equipment needed to conduct the 1940 census in the United States. There was some reluctance about this and the invasive questions in the census. Eleanor Roosevelt even took to the radio to call the census “the greatest assemblage of facts ever collected by any people about the things that affect their welfare.” Remember this for later. US government is starting to crack down even more. US Treasury prohibits transactions with the enemy. So Watson found labyrinthine ways around it. He did a lot of his communication through neutral countries, like Switzerland. He wasn’t micro-managing anymore. He opted not to know.
BStrategic ignorance
APrecisely, but, and this is wild to me. He continued communications with Europe under the cover of the US government. Remember, he’d been cultivating contacts for years. He had friends in the State Department or at least folks who wouldn’t dare turned down the man responsible for making social security, the census, and other government functions happen. Meanwhile, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, America joins the war.
BEnd of 1941. And then America gets to let its racist flag fly.
AYeah. Roosevelt orders Japanese people in the United States into internment camps.
BAnd they surrender all assets.
AHow did the government find them so quickly? Remember the census of 1940.
B1940, wow, that’s handy.
A1942. The Nazis hold the Wannsee Conference where Nazi officials planned out how to get all the Jewish people in their conquered territories expeditiously to the gas chambers
BThis was in a movie I saw.
Awhere the final solution was unveiled
Bto the top leadership of people who would be involved in making it happen.
AYeah. And again, to be clear, this wasn’t an ideological escalation on the part of Hitler. This was always where he wanted to end up. He just lacked the infrastructure for it. So the Nazis begin their extermination plan in earnest. There was IBM equipment at every concentration camp. Holleriths and punch cards were used to assign work, track transfers, ID the prisoners. Quote, “The third Reich’s transition from the blind persecution of a general population to the destruction of individuals had come full circle. In genocide, Jews lost their identity. Now every corpse comprised a mere component in a far larger statistical set, adding up to total annihilation.”
BThey had numbers tattooed on them, didn’t they?
BAnd I bet those numbers corresponded with the punch card.
AYeah. Hollerith numbers.
ASo skipping ahead to 1945 when the war ends in Europe. IBM New York, writes Black, “was able to recapture its problematic but valuable German subsidiary, recover its machines”
A“and assimilate all the profits.” And Watson’s, you know, things are going pretty well for him, but he’s antsy because war crimes trials are starting to be set up. IBM very much wanted to be excluded. What do you do? You become indispensable. One of the ways that he became valuable to the United States was the US strategic bombing survey. Are you familiar with that?
AIts goal was to study the effects of the bombings on Germany, especially the effects on citizen morale. And they wanted that data to plan their bombing campaign against Japan.
BSo this was a pro carpet bombing.
AThe Nuremberg Trials began. One of the challenges was that all the evidence needed to be translated into French, Russian, German, English. But one company volunteered to do it free of charge.
BI bet one company did.
AYep. Thanks. IBM. I think this is a good time to pause. I have more that I want to talk about. But I think at this point it’s safe to say the war is over. IBM is intact. Watson is scrooge McDuck, swimming in his gold. And millions of people have died, whether in battle or murdered in concentration camps or whatever other ugly means the Nazis used. I’ll close with this quote from IBM and the Holocaust. “What seemingly magical scheduling process could have allowed millions of Nazi victims to step onto train platforms, travel two or three days by rail, and then step onto a ramp at Auschwitz or Treblinka, and within an hour be marched into gas chambers hour after hour, day after day, timetable after timetable? Like clockwork and always with blitzkrieg efficiency.”
AI am cognizant of the fact that a number, a statistic, doesn’t convey the tragedy of each individual being dehumanized and murdered. 6 million is one of those numbers that you can’t wrap your head around. So I actually, I googled how many seconds or how, how long is 1 million seconds. It was like ten or 11 days.
B11 days.
ASo multiply that by six, you’ve got what, two months?
BMore than two months.
ASo if every life is represented by a single second going non-stop, every second of every day for over two months, that would equal 6 million. That’s a crude comparison. But just as a as a way of trying to wrap your head around the scope of it. So at this point, anticipating potential objection. How do we know that IBM made that much of a difference, right? Clearly, Hitler would’ve pursued this regardless of the support of IBM. So that’s what I’m going to talk about next by explaining how the use of Hollerith machines differed from country to country and how that affected the results.
AThis is a riveting story. So you’ll want to tune in.