I'm having a hard time formulating the thoughts for this comment, because in my mind this is such a crystal clear issue I cannot imagine how to envision what the other side is thinking.
Perhaps because you are not reading carefully enough?
IBM, a company incorporated in the state of New York, had a German subsidiary company during the 1930s and 1940s. This subsidiary company sold IBM products to the Government of Germany, controlled at the time by the Nazi Party, let by Adolf Hitler. These products were used, probably amongst other things, to tabulate numbers as part of the roundup and execution of Jews, homosexuals, Catholics, gypsies, and other so-called undesirables.
From the Reuters article (and with my emphasis throughout):
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.
The problem that the book raises is not merely that IBM sold equipment to the Nazis in the '30s (as you make it seem), since this was known for decades. The accusation in the book is that IBM went out of its way to provide services that facilitated the murders of human beings, and did so with full knowledge of what the technology was being used for. Also, that this continued during the war.
[...] 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.
After reading the excerpt from the book, I've come to realize that the Reuters story sucks-- it is specially misleading when it calls the relations between IBM and its German subsidiary "stormy". Still, these quotes are just from that article, and enough to show how you wholly miss the point of the book.
But even if IBM's involvement were to be exclusively in the '30s, it is still a crime to knowingly provide assistance for commiting crimes. If IBM knew that the machines it was selling were going to be used to commit crimes against innocent people, then IBM should not have sold those machines. Period. Just as if somebody walks into a gun shop and asks the owner for a gun, if the owner were to have a solid reason to believe the gun is being bought in order to commit a crime, then the owner can't sell the gun.
Where is the issue here? A company did business with people. This is the equivalent of suing Smith and Wesson for enabling the actions of the two youths who shot up Columbine High School.
False analogy. Smith and Wesson did not sell them the guns. Smith and Wesson could not predict the guns were going to be used to commit a crime. (Whoever sold them the guns did commit a crime, and would have committed a crime more so if they knew what they would be used for.)
Unless something equivalent, procedurally and morally, to Adolf Hitler calling Tom Watson and requesting a device with which to, "Ease and accelerate my collation and extermination of undesirables" and Tom Watson directing his corporation to produce such a device, occured then I do not see how this was aiding and abetting the Holocaust. It was, instead, a straightforward business transaction with unforseen consequences.
Obviously the claim in the book is that it was not a straighforward business transaction, and that IBM could foresee the consequences of their sales. But we'll have to see the book to decide if the claim has support.
[ Parent ]