2008-12-06 MIGHT BE THE MOST IMPORTANT PAGE ON THIS BLOG: The role of mechanized census data in Nazi Europe, Edwin Black, IBM and the Holocaust. Why we have a Charter Right to privacy of personal information in Canada.
(2) THE SECRET HISTORIES, AN ANTHOLOGY, EDITED BY JOHN S. FRIEDMAN
(3) IBM AND THE HOLOCAUST, BY EDWIN BLACK
(4) AN IMMIGRANT, DAREK CZERNEWCAN, ORIGINALLY FROM A COMMUNIST COUNTRY WRITES
(5) EDWIN BLACK, IDEAL EXPERT WITNESS FOR THE TRIAL, OR NOT
(6) THE PLAN, NEW BOOK (2008) BY BLACK, IN THE CANADIAN CONTEXT. THE KICKER: OIL (water?) SECURITY FOR THE USA.
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“Mankind barely noticed when the concept of massively organized information quietly emerged to become a means of social control, a weapon of war, and a roadmap for group destruction. … (from IBM and the Holocaust)
Ha! I love this lawyer, Howard. Instructing me on defence for the trial, Howard writes:
– Do not use this book I am quoting from
– Do not use history
– Do not use the Iraq War
– (all the things I WANT to do!)
And do you know, he’s mostly right. He says:
– You will lose the court
– You will lose the media
– We do not learn from history
– What IBM did (working with the Nazis to supply population data) is not what Lockheed Martin did
Okay, okay. What I can say is, “I did not fill out the census form because I believed that the information would not be secure based on …, (or) I read about cluster bombs and believe …”. That kind of thing. Forget about telling the Court the REAL reasons I would not cooperate with what Statistics Canada (the Canadian name for the Census Bureau) is doing.
But I still think it’s important to understand history, even if we are doomed to repeat it (as in Kosovo, as in Rwanda, and the list goes on.)
Maybe I can’t use the following directly in the court case. But it is one hell of a big motivator to me. Maybe to you, too?
THE ROLE OF MECHANIZED CENSUS DATA IN NAZI EUROPE
(THE HOLOCAUST), COMPLIMENTS OF IBM.
Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau was the driving force behind getting a Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
He understood history.
The Charter came well before Edwin Black’s book, IBM and the Holocaust, the strategic alliance between Nazi Germany and America’s most powerful corporation (2001) . The book is a meticulous documentation of the role of census data in Nazi Europe.
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the application (interpretation) of it by the Supreme Court of Canada, are tools we can use to prevent a re-occurrence of Nazi Europe or anything like it.
Even prior to the publication of IBM and the Holocaust enlightened Canadian leadership understood the dangers of state collection of data on its citizens, the need for a tool to prevent the state from encroaching upon the privacy of the individual. We were given a Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is useless if we don’t stand up and use it in times such as this.
IBM and the Holocaust dictates we do so.
(2) THE SECRET HISTORIES, AN ANTHOLOGY , EDITED BY JOHN S. FRIEDMAN
– Thursday, in relation to the trial, (I was representing myself at this point) it was highly recommended to me that I read Edwin Black’s book IBM and the Holocaust, The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation (2001).
– Friday (last nite), I started reading a book I’d picked up, The Secret Histories, An Anthology (2005) (things that have happened in history, but which have been kept secret). What do I find? – – “IBM and the Holocaust” again.
From The Secret Histories (p. xv):
A reader might take this book as yet another reason to think skeptically about agencies of government and corporate economy, understanding them as prone to the abuse of power through secrecy. Even my once beloved FBI proved capable of egregious assaults on the rights of a population it was sworn to protect. If the FBI is capable of such corruption, why not the Army, or IBM? But a reader might also take this book as the occasion to ask a more difficult question about the nature of democratic polity. Suppression of information, in a free society, can be exclusively a matter of government connivance, but often – and some of the stories collected here make the point – the culture of secrecy requires a complicitous media and a passive citizenry. We do not know what we do not want to know.
The Soviets lie, while we tell the truth? Why were Americans like me so blasé, say, when Washington was caught in its blatant lie about that U-2 “weather plane”? …
The point is not to judge such denial from a moral high horse. Anymore than it is for me to look contemptuously back on my younger self, enthralled as I was with illusions about the FBI. The human condition is difficult. No one is innocent. There are secrets, therefore, that no one wants to face. The Bible says that the truth will set you free. Maybe. But experience says that first, the truth will knock you for a loop. Then it will set you free. … But the truth laid bare here is less about our flawed institutions than about our human selves.
The second article in Secret Histories is IBM and the Holocaust.
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Related: 1940’s “U.S. Census was used to round up hundreds of thousands of patriotic American citizens at gunpoint”
(3) IBM AND THE HOLOCAUST, BY EDWIN BLACK
IBM and the Holocaust is the stunning story of IBM’s strategic alliance with Nazi Germany — beginning in 1933 in the first weeks that Hitler came to power and continuing well into World War II. As the Third Reich embarked upon its plan of conquest and genocide, IBM and its subsidiaries helped create enabling technologies, step-by-step, from the identification and cataloging programs of the 1930s to the selections of the 1940s.
Only after Jews were identified — a massive and complex task that Hitler wanted done immediately — could they be targeted for efficient asset confiscation, ghettoization, deportation, enslaved labor, and, ultimately, annihilation. It was a cross-tabulation and organizational challenge so monumental, it called for a computer. Of course, in the 1930s no computer existed.
But IBM’s Hollerith punch card technology did exist. Aided by the company’s custom-designed and constantly updated Hollerith systems, Hitler was able to automate his persecution of the Jews. Historians have always been amazed at the speed and accuracy with which the Nazis were able to identify and locate European Jewry. Until now, the pieces of this puzzle have never been fully assembled. The fact is, IBM technology was used to organize nearly everything in Germany and then Nazi Europe, from the identification of the Jews in censuses, registrations, and ancestral tracing programs to the running of railroads and organizing of concentration camp slave labor.
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.
IBM and the Holocaust takes you through the carefully crafted corporate collusion with the Third Reich, as well as the structured deniability of oral agreements, undated letters, and the Geneva intermediaries — all undertaken as the newspapers blazed with accounts of persecution and destruction.
Just as compelling is the human drama of one of our century’s greatest minds, IBM founder Thomas Watson, who cooperated with the Nazis for the sake of profit.
Only with IBM’s technologic assistance was Hitler able to achieve the staggering numbers of the Holocaust. Edwin Black has now uncovered one of the last great mysteries of Germany’s war against the Jews — how did Hitler get the names?
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Edwin Black’s opening words, IBM and the Holocaust (p.7):
This book will be profoundly uncomfortable to read. It was profoundly uncomfortable to write. It tells the story of IBM’s conscious involvement – directly and through its subsidiaries – in the Holocaust, as well as its involvement in the Nazi war machine that murdered millions of others throughout Europe.
Mankind barely noticed when the concept of massively organized information quietly emerged to become a means of social control, a weapon of war, and a roadmap for group destruction. …
Hitler and his hatred of the Jews was the ironic driving force behind this intellectual turning point. But his quest was greatly enhanced and energized by the ingenuity and craving for profit of a single American company and its legendary, autocratic chairman. That company was International Business Machines, and its chairman was Thomas J. Watson.
In the upside-down world of the Holocaust, dignified professionals were Hitler’s advance troops. Police officials disregarded their duty in favor of protecting villains and persecuting victims. (INSERT: please ask if you want email “Follow-up, Police provoke Violence at SPP protest”, sent 28/11/2008.) Lawyers perverted concepts of justice to create anti-Jewish laws. Doctors defiled the art of medicine to perpetrate ghastly experiments and even choose who was healthy enough to be worked to death – and who could be cost-effectively sent to the gas chamber. Scientists and engineers debased their higher calling to devise the instruments and rationales of destruction. …
Solipsistic and dazzled by its own swirling universe of technical possibilities, IBM was self-gripped by a special amoral corporate mantra: if it can de done, it should be done. To the blind technocrat, the means were more important than the ends. The destruction of the Jewish people became even less important because the invigorating nature of IBM’s technical achievement was only heightened by the fantastical profits to be made at a time when bread lines stretched across the world. …
So how did it work? …
I was haunted by a question whose answer has long eluded historians. The Germans always had the lists of Jewish names. Suddenly, a squadron of grim-faced SS would burst into a city square and post a notice demanding those listed assemble the next day at the train station for deportation to the East. But how did the Nazis get the lists? For decades, no one has known. Few have asked.
The answer: IBM Germany’s census operations and similar advanced people counting and registration technologies. IBM was founded in 1896 by German inventor Herman Hollerith as a census tabulating company. Census was its business. But when IBM Germany formed its philosophical and technology alliance with Nazi Germany, census and registration took on a new mission. IBM Germany invented the racial census – listing not just religious affiliation, but bloodline going back generations. This was the Nazi data lust. Not just to count the Jews – but to identify them.
(INSERT: My Mother commented, We always thought the Jews were identified by people who snitched on them.)
People and asset registration was only one of the many uses Nazi Germany found for high-speed data sorters. …
Many of us have become enraptured in the Age of Computerization and the Age of Information. I know I have. But now I am consumed with a new awareness that, for me, as the son of Holocaust survivors, brings me to a whole new consciousness. I call it the Age of Realization, as we look back and examine technology’s wake. Unless we understand how the Nazis acquired the names, more lists will be compiled against more people.
Only through exposing and examining what really occurred can the world of technology finally adopt the well-worn motto: Never Again.
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Was IBM, “The Solutions Company,” partly responsible for the Final Solution? That’s the question raised by Edwin Black’s IBM and the Holocaust, the most controversial book on the subject since Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners. Black, a son of Holocaust survivors, is less tendentiously simplistic than Goldhagen, but his thesis is no less provocative: he argues that IBM founder Thomas Watson deserved the Merit Cross (Germany’s second-highest honor) awarded him by Hitler, his second-biggest customer on earth. “IBM, primarily through its German subsidiary, made Hitler’s program of Jewish destruction a technologic mission the company pursued with chilling success,” writes Black. “IBM had almost single-handedly brought modern warfare into the information age [and] virtually put the ‘blitz’ in the krieg.”
The crucial technology was a precursor to the computer, the IBM Hollerith punch card machine, which Black glimpsed on exhibit at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, inspiring his five-year, top-secret book project. The Hollerith was used to tabulate and alphabetize census data. Black says the Hollerith and its punch card data (“hole 3 signified homosexual … hole 8 designated a Jew”) was indispensable in rounding up prisoners, keeping the trains fully packed and on time, tallying the deaths, and organizing the entire war effort. Hitler’s regime was fantastically, suicidally chaotic; could IBM have been the cause of its sole competence: mass-murdering civilians? Better scholars than I must sift through and appraise Black’s mountainous evidence, but clearly the assessment is overdue.
The moral argument turns on one question: How much did IBM New York know about IBM Germany’s work, and when? Black documents a scary game of brinksmanship orchestrated by IBM chief Watson, who walked a fine line between enraging U.S. officials and infuriating Hitler. He shamefully delayed returning the Nazi medal until forced to–and when he did return it, the Nazis almost kicked IBM and its crucial machines out of Germany. (Hitler was prone to self-defeating decisions, as demonstrated in How Hitler Could Have Won World War II.)
Black has created a must-read work of history. But it’s also a fascinating business book examining the colliding influences of personality, morality, and cold strategic calculation. –Tim Appelo –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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This review is from: IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation (Hardcover)
This book is the most important new work on the Nazi era in the last two decades. The book is even more significant for the questions it raises about what the purpose of a corporation is and should be, what role companies and governments should play in directing cutting edge technology, and the danger that misuses of advanced information technology bring to individuals.
The core of the story is how a key IBM technology, the Hollerith-based card tabulating machines, became available for the Nazi war and Holocaust efforts. Although the details are murky (and may remain so), it is fairly clear that the use of this technology was sustained during the war years in part by shipments of customized (for each end user) tabulating cards from IBM in neutral countries for everything from blitzkriegs to slave camp scheduling to transportation to the death camps. There was not enough paper capacity to make the cards in Europe (that the Nazi and IBM records show were used), and there is no evidence that Nazis created substitutes for these essential supplies.
As Mr. Black warns, “This book will be profoundly uncomfortable to read.” I agree. My sleep will not be the same for some time after experiencing this powerful story.
Mr. Black makes an even stronger statement. “So if you intend to skim, or rely on selected sections, do not read the book at all.” I took him at his word, and did not even read the book quickly. I also arranged to read it in several sittings, so I could think about what I had read in between. I recommend that you do the same.
The reason for my recommendation is that your thinking will change very fundamentally through reading the book. Having read dozens of books by fine historians about the Nazi period, and knowing a great deal about the history of data processing, I assumed that there would be little new to the story here. But the title intrigued me. By the fourth time I saw the book, I could no longer resist it.
What I found inside the book surprised, shocked, and amazed me.
First, many authors claim that it was not clear in the United States that Jews were losing their lives in Europe during the Nazi years until just before the end of the war. This book documents many articles that appeared in the New York Times that certainly seemed to be saying that this systematic killing was going on from very near the time when it began. Anyone who ignored these reports just didn’t want to know.
Second, the book makes many connections between Thomas Watson, Sr. and Nazi Germany. Many things surprised me about this. One, he was there once or twice a year until just before World War II began. The horrible human abuses were probably observed first hand by him then. Two, he had friends who were victimized by the Nazis. Three, he accepted a very prestigious medal from Hitler in 1937 (which he returned in June 1940). Four, he spoke in favor of making U.S. policy pro-German until just before the United States entered World War II. Five, it appeared that he had a lot more concern about IBM’s profits and machines in Europe than about any people there.
Third, although I was very familiar with the improvements in industrial and transportation effectiveness in Germany during the Nazi years, I did not realize that IBM’s design of Hollerith machines for card tabulation was a breakthrough technology that enabled this progress.
Fourth, I had always been amazed that the Nazis had such detailed records of the geneologies of European Jews. What I did not realize was that much of this information was provided by Jewish citizens in government censuses, and was quickly processed into records used by oppressors on Hollerith machines leased from IBM or its subsidiaries.
In France, where the use of these machines was subverted by the Resistance, the percentage rate of Jewish deaths was one-third of what occurred in Holland where this technology was well applied. It is hard to avoid the feeling that millions of people died because these machines were available and kept supplied with parts and punch cards for the Nazis.
One cannot help but draw the comparison between this historical example and the companies and countries (including, apparently, the United States) that have more recently allowed critical nuclear, rocket, and satellite technology to become available to repressive regimes. It seems that by not asking questions about IBM and the Holocaust, we may be continuing to make many of the same mistakes today.
I salute the incredible imagination and back-breaking effort that went into assembling this astonishing set of documents and perspectives. I hope that many people will read the book, that scholars will look for more information to expand our understanding, and that the fundamental questions raised by this book will be debated wherever free people live.
Remember: Your freedom is only as good as that of the least free person, who is most vulnerable.
“Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”
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(4) AN IMMIGRANT, DAREK CZERNEWCAN, FROM A COMMUNIST COUNTRY WRITES
Darek Czernewcan was charged for failure to fill out his census form.
“I purposely declined the census because I felt that the long form, which I received, asked questions which violated my right to privacy. Being an immigrant (originally, I’ve been a citizen now for 16 years), and having come to Canada from a (formerly) communist country, where even Big Brother did not resort to the kind of tactics I am facing in FREE Canada… Well, I was just offended. I did not spend a significant part of my life in the squalor of refugee camps, running away from political oppression, only to be met with the same kind of oppression in the FREE WORLD. I don’t want to rant too much, but I’ll just sum it up this way – I am being threatened with fines and jail time because in a FREE COUNTRY, I refused to tell the government how many hours in a week I spend doing dishes!”
In this Information Age most of us take “information” for granted.
Canadian census forms required information related to ethnicity, etc.
Lockheed Martin is in the business of “surveillance”.
I won’t go into the war work that it does for the American military in Iraq and elsewhere.
We are all familiar with the abuses.
(5) EDWIN BLACK, IDEAL EXPERT WITNESS FOR THE TRIAL, OR NOT.
The IBM story has some resemblance with what is happening today with the Canadian census and Lockheed Martin. It made me a little nervous. But also determined.
(See the posting “Nov 01, U.S. wants more information on Canadians”)
RE Edwin Black, we haven’t time nor the resources, and as Howard (lawyer) points out, Lockheed Martin is not IBM, LM did not do what IBM did, I can’t tell the judge to read the book. (I took the book into Court and brought it to the attention of the Judge and Prosecutor.)
The game is public education. Sometimes, as Howard says, you go to court for a principle. I am in full agreement.
After the court case I would like to re-ignite the call for a public inquiry into the police tactics at Montebello. Those in positions of authority MUST be held accountable. “The culture of secrecy requires a complicitous media and a passive citizenry”.
(6) THE PLAN, NEW BOOK (2008) BY BLACK, IN THE CANADIAN CONTEXT. THE KICKER: OIL (water?) SECURITY FOR THE USA.
I recommend this video to you.
Black uses American daily oil consumption figures to establish the extent and consequences of American dependency on oil imports. He makes the point that the Americans do not have a plan for a disruption in supply (European countries do). The role of the Straits of Hormuz in the supply line become abundantly clear.
He does not mention the Tar Sands, nor the fact that Canada is now the number one oil supplier to the U.S. I am left with the feeling that the Americans, contrary to Black’s statements, DO have a strategy for oil security. It lies in Canada. Uneasiness about that comes with the Troop Exchange Agreement (Feb 14, 2008) and the new “Canada First Defence Strategy” (June 2008) in which Canada has “interoperability” and “compatible doctrine” with the U.S..
I guess I can CHOOSE TO KNOW or choose not to know: we are part of the strategy for oil and water security for the U.S. And, regardless of the court case, Lockheed Martin’s involvement in the Canadian census is problematic, similar to IBM’s involvement in the data capture and storage functions in Nazi Germany.
Edwin Black at Western Automotive Journalists’ Symposium video, click on this web link (Be patient or bypass the introductory comments.):
(SOrry – the link is no longer valid. http://video.google.ca/videosearch?hl=en&q=edwin+black&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=X&oi=video_result_group&resnum=4&ct=title#)