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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2001 9:00 pm 
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The discussion of a banner image, while it has been fun, isn't really a "tough issue". However, the world continues on and there are truly tough issues to ponder.

The question that opens the thread is just one of many to think about when reading the following news item. Others to think about are:

How much time must elapse before a company is considered to be a "different" company? (Meaning that the company in this story has a significant number of employees on every level that have religious ties to those previously affected by the company's dealings, yet those people aren't the ones who made those very old dealings and they are now benefiting from the employment and success of that company.)

Can (should) a company be held liable for transfering technology to another entity (country, company, individual) who then uses that technology for nefarious, heinous actions?

==========================================

Book, suit allege IBM hid Nazi ties

By Reuters, 2/12/2001

EW YORK - International Business Machines Corp. is bracing itself against charges raised in a new book and lawsuit that the firm's tabulating machinery and its German business unit were instrumental in helping Hitler systematically identify and select victims of the Holocaust.

The book, titled "IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation", was written by Holocaust investigator Edwin Black.

Historians have known for decades of Nazi use of Hollerith tabulators - the mainframe computer of its era - but the book sheds light on IBM business dealings and the lengths to which it may have tailored its machines to meet Nazi requirements.

IBM responded Friday to general issues that may be raised by the book in a letter posted on the firm's internal computer bulletin board that is read by its more than 307,000 employees.

"We recognize that its (the book's) very subject is an important and highly painful one for many IBMers, their families and the world community at large", IBM said in the statement.

IBM spokeswoman Carol Makovich declined to comment beyond the employee statement.

IBM was named in a lawsuit filed on behalf of five Holocaust victims Friday in a federal court in Brooklyn, according to Michael Hausfeld, an attorney with Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll of Washington, D.C.

The suit - timed to coincide with the publication of Black's book - asserts that IBM knowingly supplied technology used to catalog death camp victims and aided in the "persecution, suffering and genocide" before and during the Second World War.

"Hitler could not have so quickly and efficiently identified and rounded up Jews and other minorities, used them as slave laborers and ultimately exterminated them, without IBM's assistance", Hausfeld said in a statement yesterday.

An IBM spokeswoman reserved comment until the company had seen the filing.

IBM's punch-card-based tabulating machines dated back to 1890, when Herman Hollerith, a German American, first built them to compile the US population census.

Everything about the book had been a closely guarded secret for its promoters, Crown Publishers, a unit of German media giant Bertelsmann, which plans to announce the book today.

IBM is one of the world's largest suppliers of databases. Hollerith punch cards are the same technology blamed for the election counting breakdown in Florida last year.

This story ran on page 3 of the Boston Globe on 2/12/2001.
© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.


[This message has been edited by Panther (edited February 12, 2001).]


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2001 11:16 pm 
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Did IBM know the technology was going to be used for identifying Jews? When the technology was being supplied, was IBM breaking any laws? I suspect quite a few American companies were selling things to Germany during the period Hitler was killing Jews and others, but was not at war with the USA.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2001 2:29 pm 
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<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by gmattson:
Did IBM know the technology was going to be used for identifying Jews?<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

According to the snippets I've read, both the book and the lawsuit maintain that IBM not only knew, but specifically tailored the technology to fit the needs of the Nazis in identifying, cataloging, and ultimately exterminating the Jews. (But that's just the book and lawsuit point of view... with ~60 years having past, it's difficult to actually know without doing the extensive research.)

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote
Quote:
When the technology was being supplied, was IBM breaking any laws?


As far as I can tell... No.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote
Quote:
I suspect quite a few American companies were selling things to Germany during the period Hitler was killing Jews and others, but was not at war with the USA.


True enough. The position of this book and lawsuit seems to be that IBM had some prior knowledge of what was to take place based on the way the technology was being modified... and that IBM was therefore complicit in the "final solution". Image

The tough question I ask is whether we can or should hold the current members of the company financially liable for alleged potential misdeeds of their predecessors. We hold companies liable for the past misdeeds in cases of toxic waste dumping, why (or why not) make them pay restitution to the heirs of those that they allegedly helped to murder? That also begs the question of punishing innocent people (many of whom are of the same religion as those murdered and are benefiting currently from the company's financial well-being) who may also fit into the category of those who have suffered damage... Image

If we are going to go that far, do we then bring lawsuits against Mitsubishi to repay all the heirs of the victims at Pearl Harbor? (Mitsubishi designed and built the infamous "Zero" used in the attack...)

Do we bring suit against Daimler-Benz the company that built the "Panzer"?

How about those companies that manufactured mustard gas? Or Zyklon-B? Are those the next lawsuits even 45, 60, 75, or more years later?

I don't advocate forgetting... and I'm not even saying necessarily to forgive either... but how far does this go?

Can the decendants of the families of Atlanta file a lawsuit against the decendants of Sherman's raiders?

Where's the line?


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2001 6:50 pm 
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<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Kevin Mackie:
If memory serves, at least two German businessmen responsible for Zyklon-B were hung at Nuremburg.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

True, but those were the actual knowledgable perpetrators.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote
Quote:
The key phrase is "knowingly". G.E., knowingly dumped toxic waste (PCB's)in Pittsfield, MA and are still responsible for the clean-up decades later.


True, but the clean up is to correct an ongoing health hazard caused by the company.

Neither is the case in the IBM litigation. In the IBM litigation the original, allegedly knowing perpetrators are long since gone. (If not from this world, at least from this company) And there is no continuing health hazard or misuse of technology for nefarious reasons. So, who's being punished? the entity known as "IBM" or the innocent employees from the very bottom to the very top of the company "IBM" (none of whom were involved in the historical dealings)?

That's why I chose this as a tough issue. As much as it's enticing to punish the corporate giant monetarily, who's actually being punished and what purpose does it serve at this point over 50 years later?

Tough questions to ponder...


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2001 6:55 pm 
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I cannot say how far it goes for others.

I can only say that I have never owned a VW, Karmann Ghia, BMW, nor a Mercedes.

I never will.

And I do not choose to debate my position.

student


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2001 7:56 pm 
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<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by student:
I cannot say how far it goes for others.

I can only say that I have never owned a VW, Karmann Ghia, BMW, nor a Mercedes.

I never will.

And I do not choose to debate my position.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I understand and respect that choice. No debate needed, but I do have some questions...

Do you also refrain from buying Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota, Suzuki, Yamaha and Kawasaki? How about Panasonic, Sony, or Nintendo? Does this also extend to Blaupunkt, Kodak (Koni or Omega cameras), quite a number of different beers and wines, Porsche, Seimens microchips and electronics, a lot of ultrasonic/ultrasound technology? How about Chrysler?

Just wondering...


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2001 10:13 pm 
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"Where to draw the line" is definitely a tough issue. I can't say that I have an answer. I can say that I understand Student's decision - and feel similarly having lost some of my own relatives in the death camps.

As a student and former teacher of history - the thing that scares me the most about this particular issue is the potential... the old adage about history repeating itself - and the technology, electronic snooping and databases and catalogging that goes on every time you write a check, fill out a form, write something on the internet, or even answer your telephone makes the possiblities for singling out certain parts of the population much easier than during the war.

Damn glad we live in some semblance of a free country - I can only pray it stays that way for our children. For me the question is where to draw the line on how much action is necessary on an individual basis to ensure these freedoms continue. Starts with voting I would expect - but even THAT is a scary issue these days.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 14, 2001 2:45 am 
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<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Panther:
I understand and respect that choice. No debate needed, but I do have some questions...

Do you also refrain from buying Mitsubishi, Nissan, Toyota, Suzuki, Yamaha and Kawasaki? How about Panasonic, Sony, or Nintendo? Does this also extend to Blaupunkt, Kodak (Koni or Omega cameras), quite a number of different beers and wines, Porsche, Seimens microchips and electronics, a lot of ultrasonic/ultrasound technology? How about Chrysler?
<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Yes to the German stuff.

No to the Japanese.

I don't drink beer at all and very little wine, so my positions are not really tested here.

If a product were of dubious origin - dubious to me, of course - yet necessary to save the life of a loved one, yes I would use it (or have it used).

I have no doubt that I am not completely internally consistent.

student


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 14, 2001 5:30 am 
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<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote
Quote:
How about those companies that manufactured mustard gas? Or Zyklon-B? Are those the next lawsuits even 45, 60, 75, or more years later?


If memory serves, at least two German businessmen responsible for Zyklon-B were hung at Nuremburg.

The key phrase is "knowingly". G.E., knowingly dumped toxic waste (PCB's)in Pittsfield, MA and are still responsible for the clean-up decades later.

Kevin


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 14, 2001 4:36 pm 
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Just a coupla thoughts:

1) Anyone who is a proponent of long term corporate or governmental responsibility feel like vacating their homes so the native americans can resettle?

2) How do we best retrieve whatever humanity we can from the ashes of a war? Is it through continued distance that shows no compromise of one's beliefs that a country was in the wrong--or is it in a chance for reconciliation and a correction of differences that accounted for the war in the first place? No opinion here, rather I am asking for those of other posters.

3) Why punish a guilty company long after all the guilty parties and victims have moved on? Let me ask you this--suppose all that stolen gold/art yadda yadda that ended up in Swiss banks and elsewhere wasn't identified until 30, 50, 100 years from now. No one who stole or was stolen from would be alive. But looking at the loot in the vaults, seeing things that belonged to massacred millions, could one argue that it was legitimate corporate property and that the heirs of the dead, who would otherwise have owned it, should not receive it? Or if ownership is not longer clear--that it be made available to museums or monument projects, or to the public perhaps?

Why is ill gotten money earned by supplying the final solution different? Why might guilt but not ownership have a shelf life? (When does this run into #1?)

4) There's a difference between designing tanks and planes and helping out with the final solution. One is war; war is wrong in many senses but legal in others; there are rules. The final solution didn't follow any.

5) A piece of interesting (to me) detail:

Death toll: 11 million. = 6 million Jews and 5 million... gypsies, communists, other activists, other racial minorities, and other undesirables such as gays and members of certain religions.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 14, 2001 7:50 pm 
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Good replys all... Thanks for putting the time and thought into them.

Student, I wasn't in any way trying to say you were consistent or inconsistent with your positions, merely trying to continue the thought process and discussion. I have relatives who refuse to have anything outwardly to do with Japan because of battles they fought during WWII and I completely understand the position (especially after hearing some historical tales from two of my Uncles who were in the Far East at that time).

Lori-san, Knowing what I do about the history of the Holocaust and the history of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, are just a few of the reasons that I'm so adament about being pro-RKBA and pro-privacy without compromise.

Ian-san, interesting and thought provoking questions and comments...

Thanks again to everyone.


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