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Author Edwin Black Speaks at SMU on IBM and the Holocaust

Alex Constantine - November 10, 2012

“ ... When it comes to IBM, it was never about anti-Semitism,” Black said. “It was about business. ... ”

By Brett Davis

The Daily Campus, November 9, 2012

14643864931 e1352597847263 - Author Edwin Black Speaks at SMU on IBM and the HolocaustAuthor Edwin Black spoke about the link between IBM and Hitler’s Germany during World War II Wednesday.

Award-winning author Edwin Black spoke on Wednesday about the aid that the Nazis received from International Business Machines (IBM) during the Holocaust.

Black spoke to a packed room of over 100 audience members in the Hughes-Trigg ballroom. The smile on his face sharply changed after his introduction as he shed light on a story that IBM would rather not tell. Black’s book, “IBM and the Holocaust,” tells the story of IBM’s direct involvement in six aspects of the Holocaust: identification, expulsion, confiscation of assets, ghettoization, deportation and extermination of the Jewish people in Europe.

“IBM did not want this coming up decades later,” Black said.

According to Black, IBM provided Hitler and the Nazis with punch card technology that helped them categorize everything about the Jews, including their occupations, concentration camp sentencing and even their method of death.

IBM’s association and business transactions with the Nazis took place from 1933 to 1945, despite the fact that the United States joined World War II late in 1941.

The American business was apparently aware of what it was doing and sent workers to service the company’s machines in concentration camps every two weeks. Black had the documents and research to prove it, although not from IBM.

“[IBM] made all of their business orally and kept nothing written,” Black said. “Thankfully, the Nazis didn’t trust IBM and they documented everything.”

Black showed many posters that had copies of documents pasted to them.

He invited many members of the audience to read highlighted sections and stressed the dates on them.

“When it comes to IBM, it was never about anti-Semitism,” Black said. “It was about business.”

Rick Halperin, director of the SMU Embrey Human Rights Program, saw Black’s lecture and topic as a bridge between the past and the present.

“It’s easy when you’re in the U.S. to think of World War II and that era as behind us and long gone, but the effects of that tragedy linger on and in many ways. It’s not over,” Halperin said.

Black agreed. He fears that another incident like IBM during the Holocaust is not far away. He believes that there will be another similar event that will take place in the next few years or decades.

“I think that IBM should stand up and admit what they did and move on with it,” SMU senior Edward Gray said.

But as far as Black is concerned, they never have and never will.

Black said that IBM does not have any records or comments on the situation, but the company has also never challenged the allegations that Black has made against them.

IBM and the Holocaust can be purchased in paperback for $14. The newest edition contains 32 extra pages that are documents and pictures of signed invoices, meetings with Hitler and letters between IBM and the Nazis.


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