IBM's Role in the Holocaust

Peter Hayes openly misstates and/or misleads the public about the facts of my book [IBM and the Holocaust] and Holocaust history ("Did IBM really cozy up to Hitler?" Books, Mar. 19). For example, Hayes wrote: "The author invokes at the outset the shock of his Holocaust survivor parents at his discoveries." The only mention of my parents is in the [book's] introduction, indicating they were with me in 1993 at the Holocaust Museum when I first noticed the Hollerith machine. They were not "shocked," they are not "shocked." Once a reviewer invents the little stuff, you must question everything that follows.

The excuse for Nazi perpetrators has long been "just following orders." To this we add Peter Hayes's new excuse for Nazi collaborators: "just following profits." It was [IBM chief Thomas] Watson's decision to invest a million dollars in a new factory and special printing facilities in 1934 and 1935, not to save assets but to capture new profits from Nazi Germany. In that same vein, Watson opened subsidiaries throughout Europe in cadence with the Nazi takeover, such as in occupied Poland in 1939.

Hayes further wrote: "The Nazis had no need for elaborate technical equipment to help them identify Jews and their property." Hayes could have read in the book that the voluminous "paper and pencil" documents filled at registration offices and elsewhere were actually punched in. Only a data processor could rapidly cross-tabulate a typical Reich census of 41 million and then authoritatively conclude, as the Nazis did, that: "the largest concentration of Jews [in Berlin] will be found in the Wilmersdorf district. Approximately 26,000 observant Jews account for 13.54 percent of the population within that district." This was the result of machine cross-tabulation.

Hayes also wrote: "The SS Race & Settlement Office did not even acquire a Hollerith machine until 1943." Hayes is profoundly misleading the readers. Historians know that the SS Race & Settlement Office was not involved directly in Jewish tracking. This was a tiny office devoted to establishing Aryan pedigrees of SS officer candidates and their families.

[Hayes is also wrong in his assertion that Hollerith machines] had little effect on the fates of the [forced labor camp] inmates. People were worked to death based on their occupational skills and geographic location, which Hollerith Departments in almost every camp tracked.

Peter Hayes owes me and Holocaust history an apology.

Edwin Black

Rockville, Md.

For more on Black's response to the review go to

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