« Sorry.. | Main | A361 GIGO »

The Holocaust and the technology of ID Cards

IBM and the Holocaust excerpts

When Hitler came to power, a central Nazi goal was to identify and destroy Germany's 600,000 Jews. To Nazis, Jews were not just those who practiced Judaism, but those of Jewish blood, regardless of their assimilation, intermarriage, religious activity, or even conversion to Christianity. Only after Jews were identified could they be targeted for asset confiscation, ghettoization, deportation, and ultimately extermination. To search generations of communal, church, and governmental records all across Germany--and later throughout Europe--was a cross-indexing task so monumental, it called for a computer. But in 1933, no computer existed.
When the Reich needed to mount a systematic campaign of Jewish economic disenfranchisement and later began the massive movement of European Jews out of their homes and into ghettos, once again, the task was so prodigious it called for a computer. But in 1933, no computer existed.
When the Final Solution sought to efficiently transport Jews out of European ghettos along railroad lines and into death camps, with timing so precise the victims were able to walk right out of the boxcar and into a waiting gas chamber, the coordination was so complex a task, this too called for a computer. But in 1933, no computer existed.
However, another invention did exist: the IBM punch card and and card sorting system--a precursor to the computer. IBM, primarily through its German subsidiary, made Hitler's program of Jewish destruction a technologic mission the company pursued with chilling success.

Comments

That's a bit spurious. IBM had punch cards... yes, invented by Jacqard (not IBM). The German subsidiary sold punch card to the Government therefore assisted... come on. You could use that same argument about people that made anything used by the Reich.
This smacks of the "guns don't kill people, people kill people"... but if they're punched cards (rather than guns) then you're implicated in genocide.

I guess that isn't the lesson that should be learn't from this, more that with exponentially improved data processinbg since the 40s, we should be exponentially worried by the capacity of the state to misuse it.

"That's a bit spurious. IBM had punch cards... yes, invented by Jacqard (not IBM). The German subsidiary sold punch card to the Government therefore assisted... come on. You could use that same argument about people that made anything used by the Reich."

The IBM machines were a lot more sophisticated than Jacquard looms, and worked using specially made mechanical-electro-optical punched cards - inferior quality ones jammed the machines.

These machines were to be found not just in railway offices, but actually inside the Nazi death camps themselves, filing and sorting the details of exterminations and adding up the value of reclaimed dental gold fillings etc.

IBM spent the whole war evading Allied sanctions as the monopoly supplier of these cards from around the world to their German subsidiary.

They also spent the war evading Nazi tax and foreign ownership/control laws by not declaring a dividend (to cheat their local german management shareholders) and funneling their profits out through neutral Switzerland.

The military logistics uses that the Allies made of the same technology (includinng rounding up Japanese Americans in internment camps) probably saved IBM executives from prosecution after the war.


Post a comment