Saturday, June 26, 2010


Book: IBM and the Holocaust

My former IBM colleague and friend Nathaniel Borenstein has recently left IBM. He’s also recently read a book that he’d reserved for when he was no longer working for the company: IBM and the Holocaust.

The book talks about the part IBM played in supplying Hitler’s regime with technology and machines, which helped enable the rounding up of the Jews in Germany, and the transportation of them to concentration camps. What Nathaniel writes in his blog is disturbing enough; I’ll have to read the book myself to see the full extent of it.

As I read what Nathaniel wrote, I thought, How awful the company’s leaders were then, to participate in that. Surely they knew what Hitler was doing, and how IBM’s technology was helping him do it!

But, I added, mentally, that was then, and that was Thomas Watson, Sr, and much has changed since. It’s a different company now, and we can’t blame the current leaders for what happened in the 1930s.

Nathaniel had similar thoughts, writing, But the war has been over for 65 years. Nearly everyone involved in IBM’s shameful activities is dead, of course. Why should we care today? What does it have to do with today’s IBM? He goes on to explain:

It must still have some relevance, because IBM is still stonewalling. Mr. Black dug through archives and libraries throughout the world, but over a hundred requests for information from IBM were denied. Typical responses claimed that IBM has no information relevant to that era — this from a company with legendary archives and full time archivists on staff! I can only conclude that today’s IBM is actively hiding something — something even worse than what I’ve summarized above.

He asks IBM to hold itself accountable, to be open about what happened, to set free the information and records about those years. Go read what he has to say, read his suggestions; I agree with them all.

Nathaniel has confidence that the IBM of today is a good company and will, eventually, be willing to be open about this. So do I. What do my readers who are still working for IBM think? Are you willing to work toward that?

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