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IBM and Nazi Germany

By Estanislao Martínez in MLP
Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 05:27:14 AM EST
Tags: News (all tags)
News

Yahoo News has a Reuters story about a new book that claims IBM collaborated with the Nazis by knowingly providing technology intended to facilitate the persecution of civilians and the operation of concentration camps. If a court were to rule that the story in the book is true, IBM would be open to lawsuits from Holocaust victims.

Update [2001-2-11 20:24:39 by cp]: Estanislao asked for these links to be added: the Register's article (courtesy of J'raxis) and an excerpt from Black's book.


The technology in question is Hollerith punch cards, which the Nazis used to index data (financial, genealogical, political) on people, and thus allowed the rounding up of the Nazi state's "enemies" to proceed very efficiently.

According to the article, the book's claim is not merely that IBM provided the Nazis with this technology, but that IBM's German subsidiary at the time (Dehomag) actively listened and "tailored its machines to meet Nazi requirements", in knowledge that they were used for the persecution of civilians.

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IBM and Nazi Germany | 111 comments (97 topical, 14 editorial, 0 hidden)
Eternity. (4.25 / 12) (#3)
by aphrael on Sun Feb 11, 2001 at 07:22:54 PM EST

60 years ago, a company --- all of whose employees have since turned over and which probably has little to no institutional memory of having done so, aside from paperwork in vaults that today's managers have never seen --- did something really evil.

What is the culpability of the employers and managers of the company today? Sure, they profited from it; presumably some of that profit should be given back, and possibly even some of the capital growth that happened as a result of the profit --- but you can't rewrite or otherwise undo history, and none of the people who would pay the price today were involved in the crimes of yesterday. So, what's the right thing to do?

This is a global problem not just isolated to IBM or WWII; it's the same question as what the Australians, Canadians, and Yankees should do with their Indian populations, what the Sami are owed by the Finns, Norwegians, Swedes, and Russians; what the Koreans and Chinese are owed by the Japanese.

When do we stop trying to fix the mistakes of the past by punishing the people of today?

flaw in your argument (3.50 / 10) (#9)
by Estanislao Martínez on Sun Feb 11, 2001 at 07:49:20 PM EST

What is the culpability of the employers and managers of the company today? Sure, they profited from it; presumably some of that profit should be given back, and possibly even some of the capital growth that happened as a result of the profit --- but you can't rewrite or otherwise undo history, and none of the people who would pay the price today were involved in the crimes of yesterday. So, what's the right thing to do?

A company, its management, its employees, and its stockholders are distinct entities. If a company is guilty of a crime, it doesn't mean the others are (well, some management has to be guilty, but here we have a case where the relevant management is possibly dead). The company is liable for what it's done. Managers and employees are in the company "voluntarily" (the quotes because it's the phony capitalist sense of "voluntary" where a worker can be given the "voluntary" "choice" between taking a horrible job and starving), so there is no deep link between them.

When do we stop trying to fix the mistakes of the past by punishing the people of today?

Well, who is being "punished" here apart from a company, IBM?

Anyway, there is the converse question: When do we stop allowing people today (and here it's really "people") to reap the benefits of an enormous damage done to others in the past? This Nazi association is part of what has made IBM be what it is today. If the allegations are true, IBM shareholders, employees and management are to this day making profits off capital that was directly created for the purpose of committing a genocide.

--em
[ Parent ]

i.e. (3.00 / 4) (#12)
by titus-g on Sun Feb 11, 2001 at 08:33:09 PM EST

they got away with it.

If a company is afforded the same rights as a human (as they are), then they should also be afforded the same punishments, Regardless that they have a longer lifespan.

OK the 'punishment' should have come sooner, but it's still due.

Killers aren't locked away to teach them not to kill, it's to teach others that they shouldn't, why should a company get off easy?

--"Essentially madness is like charity, it begins at home" --
[ Parent ]

Philosophical questions... (5.00 / 2) (#69)
by ucblockhead on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 04:47:44 PM EST

There are a lot of deep (and probably unsolvable) philosophical questions here. One important point is that almost everyone alive today is reaping the benefits of evils done to others in the past. How much of today's Western Economy is built on profits traceable to the slave economy? How much is traceable to resources stolen from native populations? I suspect that it would be nearly impossible to find any modern entity, corporate or government, that is not in some way guilty of this.

The other issue I have is that there is a very real sense in which we are mistaking entities like "corporations" or "countries" with people. You cannot punish a corporation. It is not a concious entity. You can take money from it and thereby punish its current stockholders, but that does not punish the corporation. You can no more punish a corporation than you can punish a chair.

Lots of people gloss over this, but it is a very important point, because the decisions we are talking about were not made by the corporation. They were made by people in the corporation. The reason this is important is not because we should refrain from "punishing" corporations but because it can cause us to use useless punishments. It was not IBM that made these decisions. It was one or more managers at IBM. They are, as far as I know, all dead and buried, and thus beyond punishment.

Now we can hope that by punishing IBM, we will dissuade other corporations from evil acts. But the trouble is that, again, corporations are not concious. It is not the corporations that we need to dissuade, but rather, the people making the decisions in those corporations.

And this is exactly where the problem is. Because if you are a manager at another corporation, fining IBM billions does nothing to dissuade you from anything because you can see quite clearly that your counterparts in the IBM of the 1930's were not punished in the slightest. Thus, there is almost no disencentive for the people who make the decisions.

(Note: the issue of resitution is an entirely different ball of wax, and in general a much stronger foundation on which to stand.)
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Are you willing to accept the converse? (5.00 / 7) (#21)
by elenchos on Sun Feb 11, 2001 at 09:56:27 PM EST

If you contend that a corporation should get a clean slate for misdeeds that happened before the time of the current shareholders and employees, does that work for the good things they did as well? What about intellectual property that was created generations ago? What about market share or brand recognition they established in the dim past? What about debts that are owed to a company from many years ago? These are only a few of the assets a company may enjoy today, in the present, even though they are all based on "ancient history." When you invest in a company, you count such things as having the Colonel Sanders Secret Recipe, or the copyright to Gone With the Wind as assets, which increase the value of the company, and thus are factored into it's share price.

On the liability side, there may well be responsibilities or debts that were incurred by people who are long dead. The company could have borrowed money, for example. Or the proceeds from the IPO may have been spent 50 or 100 years ago, but whoever holds that stock today has a claim on the company, even though the current management wasn't even born when that IPO happened. Would you be willing to erase all of these debts and liabilities from the ancient past? That would ruin half the companies in our economy. Instead, these are just factored into a company's share price opposite the assets.

This list could go on and on. A company that polluted a piece of land can't just walk away from it because it was a long time ago (not without a little help from GWB, that is). It can't walk away from a contract merely because the contract is old. If the current management of a company has forgotten, or never heard of, a debt or a contract, that doesn't erase it either. Would that we could make our responsibilities go away just by forgetting them!

What if your company was the one expecting to be paid for a debt incurred 100 years ago? You wouldn't be saying that bygones are bygones then. So the fact that a company incurred a responsibility a long time ago does not, in of itself, let it off the hook.

Does this apply to nations as well? Well, do they benefit from the past also? Don't treatys last decades, and even centuries? If a country owed you money that was borrowed 60 years ago, a bond, say, would you just forget it? It is not easy to have one side of the coin without the other. But, maybe you have thought of a way around this fact: by all means, share it with us.

Adequacy.org
[ Parent ]

Well... (5.00 / 2) (#66)
by krlynch on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 02:46:51 PM EST

But where do we draw the line? Surely, we have to draw it someplace; I'm not quite sure where, but somewhere. Do we hold an Orange Juice conglomerate responsible for the suicide of the small farmer who they put out of business in the course of normal commerce (after all, they know that some of their competitors will be driven out of business by their lower prices)? Do we hold the gun manufacturer responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians killed by their weapons during a war (after all, they know that people will be killed by the weapons they make)? Do we hold car manufacturers responsible for the deaths caused by their cars when they are driven by drunken drivers (after all, they know some drivers will drive drunk)?

What about larger geopolitical questions: Do non-black US citizens owe reparations to black citizens? Do those reparations only get charged to those whose ancestors were slave holders, all those whose ancestors were here during slavery, or all those who arrived at any time? To get reparations, do you have to prove your ancestors were slaves or not? And should the blacks who so benefit be required to pay reparations to the descendants of whites who died in the Civil War fighting for their ancestors' freedom? Should we require the French today to pay the English for the suffering inflicted upon the Angles in the 11th century? Should we hold the Italians responsible for the excesses of their Roman ancestors? Should we all be punished because our Cro-magnon ancestors drove their Neanderthal neighbors to extinction?

I'm not trying to purposely trying to push these questions to absurd extremes, just trying to find where people think the line should be drawn: certainly some events demand reparation, while others don't...but there are events in the middle of the scale that people of good conscience disagree on. To what extent can/should we hold the son responsible for the sins of the father?

[ Parent ]

It is a question of evidence, not time. (none / 0) (#80)
by elenchos on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 07:29:14 PM EST

A crime may have happened just yesterday, but if we lack reasonable evidence to prove what happened, and who did what to whom, then nothing can be done about it. That is a bitter reality, which must be accepted, because the alternative is to lower your standards of evidence, and therfore cheapen your justice, just to find somebody to pay. A scapegoat, in other words.

If we do have proof of what happened, then justice is possible. The guilty may be punished, what was taken may be restored. This may be possible even if it regards events from 1000 years ago, or one day. It is of course highly unlikely that events from that long ago can be proven, but some things can be. It is an provable fact that England was never a possession of China, for a bizzare example. No Chinese claim to have their territory restored would make sense, based on about 4,000 or more years of history. A deed of land from 100 or 200 or more years ago might well be legally enforceable, provided that it is proven real and is otherwise valid. The age of the deed simply doesn't enter into it.

So when you ask if former slaves or their decendents should be compensated, I would argue that the standard is simply "Does the evidence for a claim exist?" Again, it is sad that in nearly all cases the evidence is lacking and so justice can never be served. We should resist the temptation to commit another injustice because we don't want to accept this. But, if the proof is there, why not? If I can show that my property was taken yesterday, or five generations ago, I should get it back. This is, as I said, simply the flip side of the principle that allows one to inherit property from ancestors going back to the dawn of recorded history.

To me this is not a terribly vexing question. We should simply follow the same rules with old cases as we follow with new cases.

Adequacy.org
[ Parent ]

Really Evil?? (5.00 / 5) (#56)
by jabber on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 12:15:35 PM EST

How's that?

IBM did not sell machines for the purpose of the systematic cataloguing, classification and identification of the members of a specific ethnic group, for the stated purpose of those people's extermination.

IBM sold equipment for the purpose of census and statistical data gathering and organization.

Exactly as they did for the American 2000 census.

Punchcard readers don't kill people. Fascists with guns and gas chambers kill people. If they do so more efficiently, is that a fault of the punchcard manufacturer? Is it a fault of Mercedes that their trucks were used to transport the Jews?

Hitler's orders, as carried out by his command structure and millitary, are what caused the Holocaust. A tool is a tool. Holding IBM responsible for even the smallest piece of the Nazi attrocities is like holding the Internet responsible for enabling the Ok. City bombing.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Re: Really Evil?? (5.00 / 1) (#85)
by eLuddite on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 08:52:22 PM EST

IBM did not sell machines for the purpose of the systematic cataloguing, classification and identification of the members of a specific ethnic group, for the stated purpose of those people's extermination.

Wtf? Are you rewriting the story? Are you rewriting the charges?

Exactly as they did for the American 2000 census.

No, not exactly. There's the small matter of several million americans that did not die during the 2000 census.

Punchcard readers don't kill people. Fascists with guns and gas chambers kill people.

No one is accusing punchcard readers of killing people.

Hitler's orders, as carried out by his command structure and millitary, are what caused the Holocaust.

Are you suggesting that IBM did not do what they are accused of doing under the little tramp's orders? They did this on their own initiative? Believe me when I tell you that IBM is not going to be calling you in their defense.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

What are you smoking? (5.00 / 2) (#101)
by jabber on Tue Feb 13, 2001 at 09:23:14 AM EST

Holding today's IBM accountable for the actions of it's German subsidiary - staffed by Germans, in the 30's and 40's - is like holding today's Germans accountable for the actions of their grandfathers. And that is like holding today's Americans accountable for slavery.

Don't you think that people should be judged for their own actions, not those of their ancestors? If not then I would like to see you up on charges for anything anyone in your family ever did wrong.

The story is, and always was, that Hitler held most of Germany spell-bound. He was a brilliant orator, and an absolute madman. Because of his charisma, he was able to convince a whole nation to go along unquestioningly with something horrible. The 'whole nation' might include a bunch of people who happened to work for the German subsidiary of IBM.

If IBM supported the transactions or if the German unit acted autonomously is relevant only if there was prior knowledge of the gruesome purpose of the transaction. I really doubt that the Nazi Governments P.O. for the Hollerith machines said: "For the extermination of Jews".

If it did, and the US headquarters knew, then, maybe, on some fringe, there is a reason to hold today's IBM accountable. If the German unit did it all by itself, without disclosure to the parent office, then there's nothing IBM could have done differently, short of not dealing with Germany at all. Until we (US) got involved in WWII there was nothing wrong with doing business with Germany. Hell, the US Government itself was selling weapons, resources and equipment to both sides for a good while. Since then, the US Gov has dealt with Iran and Iraq interchangably when it suited them.

The purpose of the IBM equipment was never the 'killing of people'. If anything, it was the relocation of an ethnic group. IBM made money on that. How is the 'relocation of people' different than what the US did to Indians, or to Japanese?

Would you hold accountable Colt and Remington for making the gun that won the Wild Wild West by killing millions of Indians? I'm sure they knew with more certainty than IBM that their products would be used for the killing of people. Would you hold accountable the company that made the woolen blankets that were given to the Indians on the Trail of Tears, and delivered Small Pox (intentionally) to irradicate them?

If you think that what I said implied that the Holocaust did not happen, go back and read my comment again. It most certainly did happen, and I'm sure that IBM equipment was used to make it happen more 'efficiently'. But, if IBM had no knowledge that their products would be used to commit attrocities, then on what grounds should they have not dealt with Germany?

Should Ryder refuse to rent trucks to everyone, just because one of their customers might turn out to be Tim McVeigh? Think a bit about your position.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Re: What are you smoking? (4.00 / 2) (#102)
by eLuddite on Tue Feb 13, 2001 at 11:01:25 AM EST

What am I smoking? Aren't you the clever moron. Don't you think that people should be judged for their own actions, not those of their ancestors?

I do but what does that have to do with corporate liability? What does that have to do with justice? There's blood money to be paid if (big if, granted) these charges are accurate and ibm was guilty.

There are still jews alive today who lived through ibm's best efforts - what about them? If not then I would like to see you up on charges for anything anyone in your family ever did wrong.

Not one principal of ibm will suffer punitive damages because of this action regardless of its outcome. What is your point?

The purpose of the IBM equipment was never the 'killing of people'. If anything, it was the relocation of an ethnic group. IBM made money on that.

Stop pulling facts out of your ass.

How is the 'relocation of people' different than what the US did to Indians, or to Japanese?

There's a difference of degree. Even so, the us govt is responsible for the forced relocation of Japanese which it has admitted to and paid reparations against.

If you think that what I said implied that the Holocaust did not happen, go back and read my comment again.

You have poor reading comprehension skills.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

IBM's best efforts? (4.00 / 1) (#106)
by jabber on Tue Feb 13, 2001 at 11:26:27 AM EST

There are still jews alive today who lived through ibm's best efforts - what about them?

Huh? Just how and when did IBM make efforts to kill Jews? From where do you draw that conclusion?

what does that have to do with corporate liability?

Exactly! How IS IBM liable for the way the Nazi regime used their products? If I use gasoline purchased from Exxon to burn down a school, is Exxon liable?

the us govt is responsible for the forced relocation of Japanese which it has admitted to and paid reparations against.

And the German government has done (and is still doing) the same thing. Do you think that IBM is the German government? Do they share the same level of responsibility? Should Rugger and Walther pay reparations to Americans whose fathers were killed by those firearms?

Frankly, either you are severely confused and misinformed about the Holocaust and IBMs role in it, or you are arguing this point into ridicule out of some strange compulsion.

How about this: Yes! You're right! IBM should be liquidated and the sale proceeds handed over to the state of Israel.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
[ Parent ]

Re: IBM's best efforts? (2.33 / 3) (#109)
by eLuddite on Tue Feb 13, 2001 at 01:53:38 PM EST

Huh? Just how and when did IBM make efforts to kill Jews? From where do you draw that conclusion?

I read the fucking article, you stupid wanker.

the us govt is responsible for the forced relocation of Japanese which it has admitted to and paid reparations against. And the German government has done (and is still doing) the same thing. Do you think that IBM is the German government?

No, why would I believe that? What does that have to do with anything? Did IBM knowingly further the Nazi's efficiency at killing jews? If so, considering that the war lasted only x number of years, are they liable for a certain number of deaths that would not have occurred without their help?

Can you or can you not stick to that one subject?

Frankly, either you are severely confused and misinformed about the Holocaust and IBMs role in it, or you are arguing this point into ridicule out of some strange compulsion.

Yeah, well, fuck you too, buddy. I'm glad you think this is ridiculous but I see no reason to impugn _my_ sense of right and wrong with _your_ complete absence of same. Ditto my understanding of the Holocaust. I find it offensive that I have to defend either as being germane to the subject of the article. Youre an idiot incapable of using logic to argue facts but you dont see me weighing these deficiencies into the debate, do you?

You can have the last word, I have no interest in arguing from a position of your inability to understand what is written. Nor do I have no interest in arguing strawmen with tin heads.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Re: What are you smoking? (3.00 / 2) (#104)
by eLuddite on Tue Feb 13, 2001 at 11:19:52 AM EST

What am I smoking? Aren't you the clever moron.

Don't you think that people should be judged for their own actions, not those of their ancestors?

I do but what does that have to do with corporate liability? What does that have to do with justice? There's blood money to be paid if (big if, granted) these charges are accurate and ibm was guilty.

There are still jews alive today who lived through ibm's best efforts - what about them?

If not then I would like to see you up on charges for anything anyone in your family ever did wrong.

Not one principal of ibm will suffer punitive damages because of this action regardless of its outcome. What is your point?

The purpose of the IBM equipment was never the 'killing of people'. If anything, it was the relocation of an ethnic group. IBM made money on that.

Pulling facts out of your ass is not a method of arguing one's position. Appealing to historical wrongs - whether they exist or not - does little except to align you squarely with the clue stricken in your audience.

How is the 'relocation of people' different than what the US did to Indians, or to Japanese?

There's a difference of degree. Even so, the us govt is responsible for the forced relocation of Japanese Americans which it has admitted to and paid reparations against.

Would you hold accountable Colt and Remington for making the gun that won the Wild Wild West by killing millions of Indians?

Another mistake the US govt has been forced to admit to and to redress. You would make an excellent witness for the prosecution. If you have specific items of proof to bring up against Colt and Remington, proof that they could have refused selling rifles to the US army with the express intent to kill indians but didnt, then offer that proof. I am sure the American Indian community will be interested.

If you think that what I said implied that the Holocaust did not happen, go back and read my comment again.

You have exceedingly poor reading comprehension skills.

Should Ryder refuse to rent trucks to everyone, just because one of their customers might turn out to be Tim McVeigh?

Forgive me: you're a simpleton.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

IBM hit for both teams (4.44 / 9) (#5)
by cp on Sun Feb 11, 2001 at 07:38:48 PM EST

IBM also provided the simultaneous-translation hardware used by the Allied powers in the Nuremberg Trials after the war.

Just shows the immorality of corporations. (3.16 / 12) (#6)
by Herbert PagetPaget on Sun Feb 11, 2001 at 07:40:43 PM EST

This shows a fundamental truth that we would do well to remember in this day and age - corporations are ammoral entities. Anyone that claims that companies are moral is deluding themself - a corporation is never altruistic. What may appear as altruistic behaviour on the surface is in fact thouroughly selfish. Bennetton may pride itself on being annoyingly right on and moral, but in fact it is even worse than IBM was in those days, for it is hypocritical. It is putting forth an image of PC goodness to improve its share price and get a market segment among wealthy, guilty feeling white liberals. They can go to hell.

In my view, companies should not be ethical, cannot be ethical, and nor should we expect them to be. The human being is incapable of behaving in a moral fashion when operating as part of a group. Morality is an individual trait, not extendable to society as a whole. The guiding principle of corporations should be the law, which they obey to an amazing degree. It is not in their interest, 99.99% of the time, do disobey the law. Therefore we should expect corporations to obey the law, and not abstract ethical ideals.

The conclusion I draw from this is that it is wrong and pointless to punish IBM for actions that were legal at the time. We cannot castigate them for what they did, unless their actions were illegal, in which case there should be recompense.

--Not a moronic #kuro5hin quote.

So which is it? (4.33 / 3) (#37)
by physicsgod on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 01:19:59 AM EST

In the title you use the word "immoral" with regard to corporations, and in the body you use "ammoral"(sic), so you mean that corporations are immoral, or amoral? If it's immoral you're going to have to justify that since I don't see many companies acting "contrary to established moral principles." And if it's amoral, what do you expect, corporations aren't thinking entities, they don't have morality and it'd be idiotic to expect them to. And let's not forget that it's corporations that allow you to express yourself here, so why don't you take a few deep breaths and find something useful to do with all your angst.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
Corporations CAN'T have morality. People can. (4.00 / 3) (#40)
by squigly on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 03:13:30 AM EST

A corporation is a building, equipment and a lot of employment contracts. The only way for IBM to do something immoral is for someone in the organisation to make an immoral decision.

If a company does something wrong, we shouldn't blame the entire organisation. Get the person who made the decision. Get the people who let him make the decision.

--
People who sig other people have nothing intelligent to say for themselves - anonimouse
[ Parent ]
Legally, a corporation is a "natural person&q (3.66 / 3) (#41)
by Estanislao Martínez on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 03:56:11 AM EST

A corporation is a building, equipment and a lot of employment contracts.

No. A corporation is an arrangement where investors provide capital for a business enterprise in exchange for a share of the profits and limited liability for their involvement.

Also, according to US Supreme Court decisions from the late 19th century, a corporation is a "natural person" and has all the rights and obligations of a person.

If a company does something wrong, we shouldn't blame the entire organisation. Get the person who made the decision. Get the people who let him make the decision.

That doesn't work. The damage a large corporation can do is much bigger than the damage a single person can do. It allows corporations to profit indefinitely from the illegal actions of their employees, even if the employee acts under direct orders of the corporation.

Anyway, what do you mean with "blame the entire organisation"? If you mean "blame every person in the company" then what you say I think is trivially true. If you mean "blame the corporation (the legal person)", then it's terribly wrong.

--em
[ Parent ]

inherently depraved (none / 0) (#75)
by anonymous cowerd on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 06:21:42 PM EST

So what you're saying is this, correct me if I'm wrong:

You and I, being individuals, can and do occasionally commit immoral acts, either by dumb error or out of willful perversity. Just like my old collie dog might occasionally run out of the yard and bite a passing jogger on the ass - well, she did that this one time, damn it. But a corporation is inherently depraved; hard-wired right in to its world view and system of thought is an utterly irresistible impulse to flout the simplest fundamentals of ethics with an amorality that, in an individual, would be describable only as "sociopathic," whenever there is so much as a penny's profit to be gained. So a corporation is akin to a rabid dog.

Well, I kept Colleen on a leash, and similarly we have those laws you talk about to rein in corporations, (though between that thief the Moron, and that Revelation-inspired nutcase Ashcroft, and that intellectually shameless shit Scalia their prospects in the near future don't look too healthy). But if I had a rabid dog, no matter how much I loved it, I'd feel obliged to put it down.

Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net

"This calm way of flying will suit Japan well," said Zeppelin's granddaughter, Elisabeth Veil.
[ Parent ]

o tempora, o Kiernan! (none / 0) (#100)
by streetlawyer on Tue Feb 13, 2001 at 05:27:08 AM EST

70% of our 80million readers think you're way off base on this one.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
Simple question... (4.44 / 18) (#7)
by br284 on Sun Feb 11, 2001 at 07:46:57 PM EST

Is there a meaningful difference between what IBM may have done in World War II, and that which Daimler (now Daimler-Chrysler), BMW, Mercedes, and Mitsubishi may have done? Should a company be punished for providing machines or other goods to another side during a war?

Personally, I feel that if we start going after companies with these sorts of histories, we start a descent down a very slippery slope where the only companies that are not harassed by lawsuits are those who only have consistently sold goods to the victors throughout history. It seems that once this starts, it gets real murky real quick and that by trying to correct the misactions of the past through present litigation will only result in less effecient businesses, and a fearfulness of getting into new territory, lest the goods being developed are used by the wrong side in a conflict. As a poster so eloquently pointed out, sixty years is an eternity to a company. Does it make any sense for us to go after IBM for what happened in World War II? If so, should we be farming out supercomputer development to them for nuclear nonproliferation purposes (Dept. of Energy's ASCI project), lest the technology developed be used on the wrong sides?

I'm of the opinion that IBM has no real responsibility in this matter, and rather than focusing on a sensationalistic angle ("Stalwart American Company Helping Nazis! More at 11."), we should focus more on the people responsible for the atrocities committed. Chase the people ordering the equipment, not the suppliers.

-Chris

*Read* the article, dammit (3.33 / 12) (#10)
by Estanislao Martínez on Sun Feb 11, 2001 at 07:55:37 PM EST

The claim is not that IBM supplied equipment to the Nazis-- that much is uncontroversial. The claim is that IBM *knew* what the Nazis were using the equipment for, and *collaborated* in making the Holocaust more efficient. Which is quite a strong claim.

--em
[ Parent ]

Illegal, though? (3.25 / 4) (#22)
by wookWook on Sun Feb 11, 2001 at 09:57:55 PM EST

Is it s strong claim? I don't see how doing good buisness is illegal. I think its terrible that IBM would do such an awful thing, but illegal?

If it is illegal, I don't think it should be.

[ Parent ]

Re: llegal, though? (4.66 / 3) (#43)
by eLuddite on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 05:38:05 AM EST

[...] The claim is that IBM *knew* what the Nazis were using the equipment for, and *collaborated* in making the Holocaust more efficient. [...]
Is it s strong claim? I don't see how doing good buisness is illegal.
You can always aid and abet someone's murder and get back to us with your legal findings. For brownie points, you can also try earning a profit from said murder.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Still... (3.75 / 4) (#50)
by wookWook on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 08:08:27 AM EST

There is a difference between aiding in a murder and providing the tools for murder. If someone orders a custom-made rifle from a gun shop and then uses it to shoot up a McDonalds, that isn't the fault of the shop owner.

Now, there are also laws in some places which say that if the customer says "I am going to use this gun to shoot up a McDonalds!", the store owner must report this. Now, I think that the store owner should without question report the incident, I don't think that the law should require him to. If he wants to be an asshole and not do so, that is his right as an asshole.

If the store owner says "Dude, if you're gonna shoot up this McDonalds, you really should buy some of these bullets, get this type of sight, etc...", THEN he should be held accountable.

Now, with international buisness, there are no such laws (as far as I know... I did a little research, but IANAL) regarding aiding in murder. Selling parts to the Nazis is just buisness. It stinks, and I personally would have problems doing so, but obviously IBM did not.

However, if the Nazis came to IBM and said "We're planning on exterminating anyone who isn't Arian by burning and gassing them, help us build a system to do so!", I am not sure what should happen. I would want IBM to be punished if they assisted the nazis under those circumstances, but how much of that is my personal anger? I am not sure.

THAT is the point here. People are letting their personal outrage and morals dictate law. Law is supposed to _protect_ people and organizations from the outrage of others (among other things :-P). And morals are outside of the scope of law; they shouldn't affect it.

If I am mad at IBM for selling stuff to the Nazis, I should let them know. I should organize a group, write some letters, picket and boycott. But, thats too hard :-( I'll just change the law. Millions of people died, its worth a small sacrifice in my personal freedom!

(thats sarcasm BTW)

--floss

[ Parent ]

Read a little more attentively (3.80 / 5) (#51)
by eLuddite on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 10:20:33 AM EST

There is a difference between aiding in a murder and providing the tools for murder. If someone orders a custom-made rifle from a gun shop and then uses it to shoot up a McDonalds, that isn't the fault of the shop owner.

You're doing it again. You're ignoring the root word "know."

What part of "knowingly providing technology intended to facilitate the persecution of civilians and the operation of concentration camps" do you not understand? If someone orders a custom made rifle from a gun shop and the gun shop owner knows that said rifle will be used to commit murder, the gun shop owner is going to jail.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Re: Read a little more attentively (4.00 / 1) (#79)
by Rei Toei on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 07:08:15 PM EST

What if somebody tells me he's going to shoot up a McDonalds, and I sell him a pen and paper so he can calculate his ammo needs.
Am I going to jail too?

[ Parent ]
Re: Read a little more attentively (5.00 / 1) (#82)
by eLuddite on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 08:06:20 PM EST

Wouldnt you feel some guilt for the guy's murder?

Well, whether you would or wouldnt, it is my pleasure to inform you that if you fail to pass information on an impending murder to the police, you can very easily find yourself prosecuted for conspiracy to murder. That isnt an application of a good samaritan law, that's conspiracy to murder, punishable with life.

By way of personal anecdote, the following actually happened to a friend of mine. If I lend you plane fare to Columbia, knowing full well that you intend to return with a pound of coke, I will be imprisoned for conspiracy to traffic.

Now, who's the bigger criminal, my friend for lending someone plane fare, or yourself for failing to report a murder in hatching?

Do I have to put up jpegs of my friend's tatoos?

If, in fact, IBM did knowingly help Nazis persecute Jews, if they did knowingly enter into a situation whereby they agreed to make death camps more efficient killing resorts - as they are charged to have done so - they will certainly be found guilty of a stupendous crime against humanity.

Where exactly is the gray area?

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

*Read* the comment, please (5.00 / 2) (#54)
by codemonkey_uk on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 11:53:58 AM EST

The comment was not that IBM did not know, but that "Daimler (now Daimler-Chrysler), BMW, Mercedes, and Mitsubishi" knew what their tanks / machines of war where to be used for.

The question is, is it right to punish companies that supply (sell/trade with) the loosing side. This could create a corporate culture where the big companies decide who will win, and only supply them with arms.

I'm not making a value judgment with my comment, just pointing out what I belive to be a misinterpritation of this comment in this comment.
---
Thad
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

"War Crimes" (4.00 / 1) (#64)
by ucblockhead on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 02:01:40 PM EST

The difference has to do with the whole concept of "war crimes". Countries are not typically held accountable for acts of war themselves. Germany was never punished for invading France and Japan was never punished for bombing Pearl Harbor. (We tried to go down that road in WWI with reparations, and it was a disaster.)

The tanks built by Mercedes and the planes built by Mitsubishi were part of their respective country's military establishments and were those no more part of a "war crime" then the tanks build by Chrysler. Countries are expected to build and buy military equipment.

The difference here is that the book is going way beyond the claim that IBM sold military equipment to the Nazis. Hell, Ford sold military equipment to Germany and Italy before WWII, and that is utterly uncontroversial. The difference is that this book accuses IBM of knowingly selling equipment designed for the commission of war crimes. (Not war, but war crimes.)

Now who gets to decide what "war crimes" are is a whole 'nother issue, but that is still the important distinction here. For example, selling Serbia a tank is a lot different from selling Serbia a database system that contains fields like "Percent Ethnically Cleansed".
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Re: *Read* the comment, please (3.50 / 2) (#84)
by eLuddite on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 08:32:27 PM EST

This could create a corporate culture where the big companies decide who will win, and only supply them with arms.

Good point. I didnt occur to me that the Jews had any chance of winning before you brought it up.

The Nazis did not wage a campaign of war against the Jews, they waged a campaign of genocide. The winners and the losers are always predetermined in a genocidal campaign, making it slashdot simple for "corporate culture" to decide one way or the other.

Corporate culture chooses the victim? Bzzt! Wrong answer.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

TheRegister (3.83 / 6) (#8)
by J'raxis on Sun Feb 11, 2001 at 07:48:30 PM EST

Also at TheRegister.

-- The Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]

The article links an excerpt from the book! (3.40 / 5) (#11)
by Estanislao Martínez on Sun Feb 11, 2001 at 08:15:29 PM EST

The article links an excerpt from the book.

That's an awesome link. Thanks.

K5 editors: if you are reading this, can you add a link to both the Register article and the book excerpt? Thanks.

--em
[ Parent ]

Sorry, I couldn't resist.... (4.47 / 23) (#14)
by cjs on Sun Feb 11, 2001 at 08:35:19 PM EST

Hitler: I demand zat vee deploy a seestem that vill enable us to identify and sort out zer Jews and I demand zat vee deploy zis seestem by zer next veek.

Third Reich IT Staffer: But mein Führer, vee haf not zer technical expertese to develop zees system in zees short amount of time!

Third Reich IT Staffer #2: And it is not coming out of zer IT budget!!

Third Reich Marketing Staffer: And vat about zer e-commerce capabilities??

Hitler: Vee are soo ready fur zer IBM.

Also in the Washington Post (3.00 / 6) (#15)
by mami on Sun Feb 11, 2001 at 08:49:27 PM EST

here

Moral companies? (3.50 / 8) (#17)
by Tatarigami on Sun Feb 11, 2001 at 09:10:50 PM EST

What worries me more than a company willingly selling products to be used for unethical purposes is the thought that companies might take on the right/responsibility to determine whether or not a particular customer will use the product ethically or unethically and decide by themselves if that potential customer is entitled to use their product...

If I'm not going to let church or state tell me what's right or wrong, you can bet your life I'm not going to let IBM tell me.

what if... (4.25 / 8) (#19)
by mami on Sun Feb 11, 2001 at 09:45:20 PM EST

it could be proven in some ten years from now, that a totalitarian governemt of country xyz housing a major corporation, crucial to the spread of the internet's technology, was involved in a genocide of ethnic/religious minority w. It will be easy to demonstrate, that the political leaders of xyz couldn't have implemented their deadly policies without the help of the organizational, searching and computing power of the web.

Would we blame the people, who are lauded today as the inventors of the hyperlink and TCP/IP protocoll and would we blame the companies, who developed web technologies, helped with their Open Source Code development in thousands of ways to promote the power of web, in such ways, that we abhore them for their accomplicity ? Call them the "Fuzis" (the imaginary "Nazi" of the next decades to come) who helped to erase minority w ?

All that the IBM technology did, was making the organization of the "Endloesung" easier to hide. If the technology wouldn't have been there, the Nazis would have tried similar things with paper and pencil, just messier and easier to detect.

Just remember that Hutus and Tutsis were quite successful in killing each other in short time at large numbers with simple machetes and NO organizational skills whatsoever. I think the majority didn't even have pencils and paper, just the knives.... Oh, and then, everybody knew it, the press reported, no one could say, we didn't know, right ? Not as in the good ol' days where we didn't have 24h/7d free press coverage world wide.

Makes sense ?



The web wasn't (4.00 / 1) (#44)
by ZanThrax on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 05:39:51 AM EST

designed for the purpose of allowing said random political leaders to wipe out said random group of people. The allegation isn't that IBM's technology was used by the Nazis, the allegation is that IBM knew what it was being used for, and had the german branch actively design toward that usage.

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.
[ Parent ]

The web wasn't (none / 0) (#55)
by mami on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 12:15:34 PM EST

Accepted, but by the same token, people who produce handguns and promote second amendment rights in combination with anonymity, also know that their "technology" is used by people for goals one might not agree with. It seems to take several centuries to realize that for any ordinary American.

Under those circumstances you might be more generous with the judgement over former IBM's leading technologists them realizing "too late" that the Nazis used their technology for the wrong goals. Happens all the time, IMHO.




[ Parent ]
WTF? (Rwanda) (3.00 / 2) (#89)
by Estanislao Martínez on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 09:45:28 PM EST

Just remember that Hutus and Tutsis were quite successful in killing each other in short time at large numbers with simple machetes and NO organizational skills whatsoever.

WTF? Have you ever even glaced at a single report on the Rwandan genocide?

A genocide, by definition, is centrally planned and organized. The Rwandan genocide is far from an exception-- it was very well organized. Read the report I link.

For instance, I quote from the report:

Singling out most Tutsi was easy: the law required that all Rwandans be registered according to ethnic group.
This is merely one of the organizational factors that made the possible to kill so many people of an ethic group so quickly. There are many others.

I find it hard to reach anything but negative conclusions from your claim that the Rwandans have "NO organizational skills whatsoever".

--em
[ Parent ]

I think I need to choose my words more carefully (4.00 / 2) (#110)
by mami on Tue Feb 13, 2001 at 11:33:46 PM EST

No, I haven't read that report (thank you for pointing me to it) , but I lived in Ruanda for some time, in Kigali and the country side, and have my own views about how terror there has been executed.

And I made this comparison for the sole purpose of comparing a "technological" advanced organization of a genocide (I mean this goes really far beyond I want to talk about here - but I do it to clarify my words).

Forgive my wording for NO organizational skills - they were wrong. I meant basically, that there was no technology at hand to organize a "smooth" mass execution of people in large numbers (just in comparison to what happened in Nazi Germany and sorry for the word smooth. I hope you get now what I meant to say)

I am reading the report. I don't want to repeat details about the report. Just referring to what you mentioned, like registering etc. Hutus and Tutsis are easily differentiated by physical appearance and registration was certainly not necessary to achieve the goal of knowing whom to kill.

The report mentions that and much more. I don't like to continue with that subject any further. I can assure you that killings by rebel groups of different ethnicities with or without firearms is a messy thing in African countries. Let's just leave it at that.

I might have difficulties in my wording. Sometimes I try to to speak in analogies and try to make sound horrible things a little bit less so, in using either a bit sarcasm or whatever. As I am not English native speaker, that might not cross over the way I intend. Sorry about that.

[ Parent ]
IBM helped *BEFORE* the War (4.41 / 12) (#23)
by Ross Patterson on Sun Feb 11, 2001 at 10:08:23 PM EST

Go read the article, folks (this isn't SlashDot, after all!). IBM "lost control of their German subsidiary" and Watson returned the medal in question before the good old USA decided that Hitler and Nazis were bad. Pretty good for a corporation that's only supposed to be responsible to it's shareholders!

Storm in a teacup... (2.87 / 8) (#24)
by Phage on Sun Feb 11, 2001 at 10:08:24 PM EST

Looks as if the lawyers have spotted a straggler that is now past it's prime and may be culled from the herd.

This means nothing. Far more influential people (by the standards of the day) than IBM dealt with (or even encouraged) the Nazis.

Just ask the Vatican or The English Royal Family.

Note that there is no troll intended. Both of these parties were open in their dealings and occaisonal support for Nazis when they were fashionable.


I don't find Heathens to be sexy, as a general rule.
Canthros

Spelling ! (1.00 / 2) (#25)
by Phage on Sun Feb 11, 2001 at 10:27:50 PM EST

Looks like I should have previewed that one more time !


I don't find Heathens to be sexy, as a general rule.
Canthros
[ Parent ]

The real lesson to be learned. (2.83 / 6) (#26)
by Apuleius on Sun Feb 11, 2001 at 10:36:24 PM EST

My family came from Berlin, and skeddadled from there as soon as Hitler rose to power. They explained to me that the reason they left fast was they were at Ground Zero and has the best access to all the warning signs. So I reallly hope this book isn't just a prelude to a shyster lawsuit. First of all, if not IBM, it would have been another company to make the tabulation equipment. We're talking about technology used since the US census of 1890.

And apropos the census, y'all remember this was how the Japanese Americans got rounded up. The lesson to learn is that little snippet of the Miranda card (yes, US centric allusion here): Anything you say can and will be used against you. You cannot give the Powers That Be all the information that defines you and not expect it to be abused.




There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
"Shyster" is antisemitic (3.28 / 7) (#28)
by cp on Sun Feb 11, 2001 at 11:28:56 PM EST

I wouldn't normally call you on something like this, but "shyster" still has too many antisemitic overtones to be appropriate in an article discussing Nazis.

[ Parent ]
Shyster? (4.14 / 7) (#31)
by J'raxis on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 12:22:07 AM EST

Other than this word sounding vaguely Yiddish, I never knew it had any Jewish connections. For anyone else wondering as I was, I found this on Google:

... A lawyer named Scheuster, whose practices were quite characteristics, made himself very obnoxious to Justice Osborne. Whenever another Yiddish lawyer attempted a shady trick the judge would openly denounce it as "Scheuster practice," and so it came that the first men in the profession to bear the name of "shyster," were the Yiddish lawyers of Essex Market Court, New York.
Here's the Dictionary.com entry for shyster which interestingly claims that the aforementioned Scheuster was an "almost certainly nonexistent mid-19th-century attorney."

-- The etymological Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]
[ Parent ]

Over-reaction (2.90 / 10) (#33)
by Phage on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 12:46:40 AM EST

Glad to someone is still awake.

There is nothing more annoying than those who will leap to the supposed moral high ground at the slightest provocation.


I don't find Heathens to be sexy, as a general rule.
Canthros
[ Parent ]

Notice the source? (4.16 / 6) (#35)
by cp on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 01:01:02 AM EST

That quote comes from The International Jew, Henry Ford's celebrated antisemitic treatise.

[ Parent ]
$#@!@# Google... (none / 0) (#90)
by J'raxis on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 10:03:53 PM EST

Ah, lovely... destroyed my faith in Google, thanks... ;)

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]
[ Parent ]

Shyster is Yiddish. (4.00 / 1) (#60)
by Apuleius on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 01:48:41 PM EST

And obviously scatological. I'm Jewish. And my relatives use that term all the time about unethical lawyers, Jewish or non.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
no it isn't (none / 0) (#99)
by streetlawyer on Tue Feb 13, 2001 at 05:21:42 AM EST

It's not Yiddish, and despite what Chomsky says, your possession of Jewish genes does not give you a mainline into etymology. It's a German scatological term, turned into an anti-Jewish slur in America, then naturalised by American Jews because the "sh" sound makes it appear like a Yiddish word. It appears in a few English/Yiddish dictionaries online, but absolutely no German/Yiddish or French/Yiddish ones, which is a huge clue.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
inappropriate (2.87 / 8) (#29)
by lb on Sun Feb 11, 2001 at 11:30:45 PM EST

I reallly hope this book isn't just a prelude to a shyster lawsuit.

Is this article *really* the best place for your anti-semitic attitudes?

[ Parent ]

Gee thanks. (3.50 / 2) (#59)
by Apuleius on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 01:46:11 PM EST

Shysters aren't unique to Jews. Hatred of shysters is just unique enough to Jews that we got to invent the slur against them.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Lack of credibility... (4.14 / 7) (#30)
by theboz on Sun Feb 11, 2001 at 11:40:44 PM EST

We have articles based on a book saying that IBM is responsible. Even in the article it said that the German subsidiary of IBM wasn't under good very control by IBM...and that they made census software. I don't think, at least initially, IBM would have been aware that their software would be used for anything more than a census. The article doesn't give any view into that other than saying, "The plaintiffs' lawsuit also asserted that IBM had refused to permit historians and others access to archival records that would demonstrate the company's complicit role in the Holocaust." Well excuse me, but I know how lawyers can twist words and facts to show what they want. If someone is suing you, it is within your best interests, even if you are completely innocent, to keep quiet. I don't see that as a sign of IBM's guilt, and I just see them moving on with business as usual.

Also, how does making census database software equate to genocide? How do we know that IBM even knew what it would be used for at first? It's a common thing within governments and businesses to want to keep track of their people. We have a census in the U.S. that they find out our ethnic history as well. So far they haven't used it for anything evil in my lifetime (although in World War II they did find Japanese descendants and rounded them up.)

Then, the fact that the article states, "Black's book details the complex ties and increasingly stormy relations between IBM and its German subsidiary, called Dehomag..." Let's see, those stormy ties couldn't possibly be referring to the fact that IBM didn't want their software used to commit genocide could it? Well, we don't know because the article doesn't say and I won't waste my money to buy this book.

I think we need to lay the evil committed in the past to rest. We should never forget that it happened or else we could end up back there again, but we should not pretend that we are living in that era. The majority of people who were affected by the nazis are dead. Those that are alive still should be greatful for that, and not bitter towards those that have had nothing to do with the attrocities committed against their friends and family many years ago. I think the surviving victims of the holocaust went through a lot, but if the ones that sue companies like IBM continue to live in the past they will never heal. Also, I have no respect for the people who are just doing this for the money. Anyone who tries to sue IBM or (put name of big company here) to get rich off of the suffering of those that were murdered are the worst of them all. These people are no better than Hitler himself. May all of their lusts for blood money bring their own blood on their hands instead.

Stuff.

Read the book excerpt. (3.75 / 4) (#42)
by Estanislao Martínez on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 04:58:35 AM EST

Even in the article it said that the German subsidiary of IBM wasn't under good very control by IBM...and that they made census software.

Read the book excerpt. The book is claiming that this is false-- that IBM in New York was involved itself through indirect means with the German subsidiary, that IBM New York was directly involved in a 1941 census in Romania to indentify jews, and that IBM took over its German subsidiary again after the war, thus grabbing a lot of profits made out of the genocide. The claim in the book clearly is that IBM was complicit.

--em
[ Parent ]

Census data... (4.00 / 1) (#68)
by ucblockhead on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 04:32:02 PM EST

One thing that I am very unclear on is how the census data gathered in Germany differed from the census data gathered in the US.

I don't actually know how the 1940 US census worked, but I do know that the last few US censuses have all asked about both the race and religion of each citizen.

It seems to me that the book needs to show more than just that IBM gave Nazi Germany a system that could track race. It needs to show that IBM created such a system specifically for the Nazis AND that IBM knew, or had reason to suspect, that the Nazis intended to use that system for evil purposes. The excerpt does not really show either.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
corperate responcibility (4.00 / 5) (#34)
by Nyarlathotep on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 12:50:06 AM EST

First, I have seen a lot of people claiming: IBM should not be held accountable for what it's german branch did during the war. Yes, well the German branch *should* be held accountable and that could mean IBM loses money when the stock price of their German branch goes down. IBM should lose money this way since they are profiting from thee German branches activities during the war, i.e. if you invest in a corperation which made money via genoside then you should lose money. These sorts of law suits are necissary to good capitalism, i.e. if investors are held accountable for the actions of their companies then they will only invest in good companies.

Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
Which investors? (5.00 / 1) (#62)
by ucblockhead on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 01:50:55 PM EST

Part of the trouble is that the investors that allowed this to happen aren't the investors who will lose money. Very few people who invested in IBM in the thirties are even alive today.

Instead, you end up punishing investors for investing in companies that did bad things in the past. Is this a good thing? Perhaps, perhaps not. I'm personally of two minds about this...

Using a more modern example, Nike uses a sort of overseas sweatshop labor that many feel is immoral and out to be outlawed. Any Nike investor today is actively promoting the use of that labor. If, in fifty years, this gets banned and Nike gets sued for today's practices, those investors won't be hurt, assuming they get out before the ax comes down. Instead, it will be those investors fifty years hence that get punished, even if Nike abandons the practice within the decade.

One could argue that this would make companies leery of questionable acts because they might be taken to task fifty years hence, but that gives them a lot more credit for long-term thinking then they deserve. Companies are run by managers who don't expect to be around in fifty years. Managers are far too likely to take the short term gain that makes them look good, profit-wise, while saddling their successers with long term problems.

-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
limited liability (5.00 / 1) (#91)
by Nyarlathotep on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 10:22:11 PM EST

Unfortunatly, you are correct that todays investors will be punnished for the actions of the company 50 years ago, but the argument could still be made that investors should not invest in companies they know to have done bad things.. sticky.. sticky.. sticky..

Regardless, the real solution would be to remove the limited liability protections for stock holders, i.e. if I buy controlling interest in a company and make the company dump toxic waist in your back yard then I should be punnished even if they find the waist 50 years later and I sold my stock the day after the dump. Actually, you should sue the company and the current stock holders should vote to pass the liability on to the stock holders of 50 years ago. (Hey, the other 49% should get taken to the cleaners too since they did not sell their stock in responce to my actions).

Capitalism just dose not work with limited liability. If a company really needs limited liability (like any company which polutes the enviroment) then they should be forced to broker a special deal with congress. I say these special deals should generally consist of the company giving up 50% control to the public if the public accepts liability then it should also take control. If you think about it 50% public control should be a small price to pay for the limited liability todays companies enjoy for free.

Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
[ Parent ]
Punishment delayed? (4.62 / 8) (#45)
by Miniluv on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 06:15:50 AM EST

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. 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.

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. Has anybody considered suing the train locomotive manufacturer who sold the German government the devices used to transport the aforementioned undesirables from their various and sundry locations in Germany, Poland, and so forth into the concentration and death camps? Have we sued the pesticide companies who originally invented Zyklon-B which was used in the systematic extermination of those undesirables? Of course we haven't, because they don't have the kind of money IBM does.

There are justified lawsuits currently in the court system of the United States, as well as other world jurisdictions, regarding the Holocaust and it's aftermath, however I would not consider any possible lawsuit to emerge against IBM justified. Lawsuits against insurance companies who exploited the lack of death records caused by the extermination camps as means to deny life insurance claims are justified, as an example.

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. Much the same as occured when many, many companies sold goods to South Africa during the apartheid, and these goods were used by the ruling minority to further the oppression of the majority.

What it boils down to is the fact there somebody is not always responsible, as much as we'd like to find a place to lay the blame.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'

ill-informed (4.14 / 7) (#47)
by streetlawyer on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 07:30:32 AM EST

Have we sued the pesticide companies who originally invented Zyklon-B which was used in the systematic extermination of those undesirables? Of course we haven't, because they don't have the kind of money IBM does.

IG Farben, the German chemicals company which produced Zyklon B, settled its Holocaust era lawsuit in 1998, by making an unidsclosed payment to the World Jewish Congress.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

addendum (4.66 / 6) (#49)
by streetlawyer on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 07:47:43 AM EST

in the interests of fairness, I'll add that the formal terms of the IG Farben lawsuit which the WJC filed had more to do with Farben's use of slave labour in its plants than the invention of Zyklon per se.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
As you state... (none / 0) (#72)
by Miniluv on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 05:13:08 PM EST

This isn't actually a point against what I stated, because the suit had virtually nothing to do with their contribution to the Nazi extermination effort, and instead their benefit from business practices made possible under a regime who treated groups of people as sub-human.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]
So, don't you think IG Farben knew ? (none / 0) (#77)
by mami on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 06:37:15 PM EST

What the Zykol B was used for in the KZ ? I thought the whole time about it reading these threads. I don't know, but I think it's impossible they didn't know. Well, they, let's say a couple of managers at IG Farben knew.

[ Parent ]
Of course they knew (none / 0) (#97)
by streetlawyer on Tue Feb 13, 2001 at 02:22:55 AM EST

When someone hands you a contract asking you to invent a poison gas for use in confined spaces, it's pretty hard not to know. The documentation on this one is pretty damning.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
Right, and still complicated to prove too. (none / 0) (#111)
by mami on Wed Feb 14, 2001 at 12:37:44 AM EST

Yes, you are right, after having read through so much material the last two hours, that is quite clear. But the development of the ZyklonB went on between 1920 to 1934, way before the "Endloesung" was planned. So, to exactly to pinpoint who knew, how much was delivered into which places and for what purpose, was quite some task. I think they found out quite precisely and they were judged.

Anyway the whole comparison is completely out of place. And the whole discussion came into play only, because people who accuse IBM for whatever, came up with the argument they _knew_ what the machines were used for. And I thought about how difficult it always is to pinpoint _exactly_, who knew what and when, I mean so exact, that it can stand in court. That's all.





[ Parent ]
Far from crystal clear (4.25 / 8) (#48)
by Estanislao Martínez on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 07:31:20 AM EST

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 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.

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.

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.

--em
[ Parent ]

Analogies... (4.75 / 4) (#57)
by ucblockhead on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 01:42:38 PM EST

In attempt to get beyond some of the hot-button terms here, I'm putting forward this analogy:

Suppose the US government came to IBM in 1942 and aid "please design for us a system that will help track the people of Japanese decent that we are going to round up". How culpable for the roundup is IBM if they do end up providing this system. (Keeping in mind that, if memory serves, the US government did end up paying some reparations for this.)

-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Great question! (3.00 / 2) (#78)
by Estanislao Martínez on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 06:48:20 PM EST

Suppose the US government came to IBM in 1942 and aid "please design for us a system that will help track the people of Japanese decent that we are going to round up". How culpable for the roundup is IBM if they do end up providing this system. (Keeping in mind that, if memory serves, the US government did end up paying some reparations for this.)

I like your thinking-- straight to the gray area ;)

In an ideal world, IBM and all other possible companies would refuse to do that. But of course, we don't live in an ideal world.

There is a fundamental difference between the two situations. IBM is a US company; thus, the US government is in a special position to pressure IBM into doing its bidding during wartime. The US government can threaten to use its extraordinary wartime powers to coerce IBM into doing its bidding-- for example, the government could nationalize IBM. This however doesn't hold for the situation the book claims, that IBM covertly managed its German subsidiary-- the German government can take over the subsidiary, thus IBM can lose property, but they can't touch IBM itself.

Thus, in the case that this should be considered a crime (which I leave open), there's the argument that IBM could not have had much of a choice but to do what the US government asked it to do (in which case it could conceivably deflect responsibility unto the government), while it clearly had a choice whether to involve itself with the Nazis.

Of course, the thing one would like to know is what happened to German corporations in a situation like this hypothetical IBM-US situation.

--em
[ Parent ]

Crimes - Humanity vs Legal Reality (4.00 / 1) (#70)
by Miniluv on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 05:09:54 PM EST

What I ask, without being a distinguish legal scholar myself, is what law did they actually violate. To my, admittedly uncertain, mind they may have committed moral wrong doing, however there is no direct correlation between moral wrong doing and legal culpability. You will note that what was occuring in Germany was not against German law at the time, the Government in power was perpetrating these atrocities.

In regards to IBM tailoring their product to suit the needs of their customer, what is so "wrong" about this? Isn't fielding a product that meets the needs of a specific customer called good business? IBM has long been known for their desire to tailor products to meet the needs of individual large customers.

The Smith & Wesson analogy is, in fact, far more relevant than you think. Smith & Wesson sells the guns through a chain of distributors, similar to the IBM relationship with their German subsidiary. Smith & Wesson knows exactly what their products can be used for, and they also tailor their products towards the needs of their users. Danny Kliebold may not have made requests, instead it was power users, militaries anybody?, who made those lethal feature requests that Mr. Kliebold and his companion benefitted so greatly from. So again, why are we not suing Smith & Wesson but we are suing IBM? Could it be IBM's current share price of $114.50?

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]

Here's some legal reality. (3.33 / 3) (#76)
by Estanislao Martínez on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 06:33:02 PM EST

What I ask, without being a distinguish legal scholar myself, is what law did they actually violate. To my, admittedly uncertain, mind they may have committed moral wrong doing, however there is no direct correlation between moral wrong doing and legal culpability. You will note that what was occuring in Germany was not against German law at the time, the Government in power was perpetrating these atrocities.

First of all, the claim of the book is that, even during the war, IBM covertly worked with its German subsidiary. This would be a violation of US law at the moment.

Despite the fact that what the Nazi goverment did was not illegal within its jurisdiction at the moment, people have been tried for crimes against humanity because of their actions as officials of the Nazi state, and corporations have been sued for knowingly aiding and abeting these acts. The Nazi state was a criminal state, beyond the fact that it gave its own crimes the stamp of legality.

It is quite a simple thing-- if you provide services that you know are being used for a genocide, you are to some degree an accomplice to that genocide.

In regards to IBM tailoring their product to suit the needs of their customer, what is so "wrong" about this? Isn't fielding a product that meets the needs of a specific customer called good business? IBM has long been known for their desire to tailor products to meet the needs of individual large customers.

This does not extend to the case where the "need" is the identification of victims for the purpose of criminally stripping them from life and property.

The Smith & Wesson analogy is, in fact, far more relevant than you think. Smith & Wesson sells the guns through a chain of distributors, similar to the IBM relationship with their German subsidiary. Smith & Wesson knows exactly what their products can be used for, and they also tailor their products towards the needs of their users. Danny Kliebold may not have made requests, instead it was power users, militaries anybody?, who made those lethal feature requests that Mr. Kliebold and his companion benefitted so greatly from. So again, why are we not suing Smith & Wesson but we are suing IBM? Could it be IBM's current share price of $114.50?

From the US Code, Title 18, Section 924(h):

(h) Whoever knowingly transfers a firearm, knowing that such firearm will be used to commit a crime of violence (as defined in subsection (c)(3)) or drug trafficking crime (as defined in subsection (c)(2)) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both.
I explained the trivial difference between Smith & Wesson and the IBM allegations in my post. Smith & Wesson and their distributors are licensed to sell guns, and these are intended for specific purposes: defense of life and property, law enforcement, military, hunting, etc. If they sell a weapon in the knowledge that it will be used for a violent crime, they have commited a crime themselves. That is different from knowing they can theoretically be used in a crime, which is, of course, a vacuous argument-- under such an argument, pretty much anything would be illegal to sell!

--em
[ Parent ]

At which moment? (4.00 / 2) (#83)
by Miniluv on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 08:16:13 PM EST

This is the crux of my argument, you state:
First of all, the claim of the book is that, even during the war, IBM covertly worked with its German subsidiary. This would be a violation of US law at the moment
Which particular moment are we discussing? When did the law get passed in relation to when the acts were committed? If the law was clear and in force when the acts were committed, then by all means go to court and attempt to prove intent, for that is in fact what is on trial here. If it wasn't in place this should never see a courtroom for it is central to US law that crimes committed before they are crimes are untryable.

Your statement regarding Nazi Germany being an "illegal state" is somewhat spurious because they were in fact a legal government. Hitler was, no matter how you wish to deny it, elected according to German law. The war crimes trials were, and this many not be 100% correct as I do not have time to research the details at the moment, based on law being written at the time and applied backwards. This is practice that has withstood scrutiny in international relations, but is clearly outlawed within the sovereign United States.

Also of note is:

This does not extend to the case where the "need" is the identification of victims for the purpose of criminally stripping them from life and property.
This is a moral question, not a legal one in the context you're discussing it. How about if IBM sold computers to the Soviet Union's Committee for State Security? They certainly identified victims and "criminally" stripped them of life and property. The thing is, it was consistent with laws internal to the country at the time. That's the situation we're dealing with here, and merely slapping genocide on as a label does not change the situation. The magnitude of a crime has no bearing on the status of it being criminal or not.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]
Don't change my words. (3.33 / 3) (#87)
by Estanislao Martínez on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 09:13:06 PM EST

First of all:

Your statement regarding Nazi Germany being an "illegal state" is somewhat spurious because they were in fact a legal government. Hitler was, no matter how you wish to deny it, elected according to German law.

I said no such thing. I said the Nazi Germany was a criminal state, and an egregiously criminal one, at that. "Criminal state" means a state that systematically commits crimes-- in the case of Nazi Germany, the confiscation of property and murder of innocent civilians because of their ethnicity.

Such a state may have been established by legal means, but that is an orthogonal issue.

This is a moral question, not a legal one in the context you're discussing it.

Don't you recognize the legal notion of "crimes against humanity"? IBM is being charged with knowingly aiding and abetting specific crimes against humanity through all of the Nazi regime.

I'd have to say that either you reject the notions of international law and crimes against humanity, or you have to accept that, if what the book argues is true, IBM committed a crime.

--em
[ Parent ]

Jurisdiction is at the heart of this (4.00 / 1) (#88)
by Miniluv on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 09:40:31 PM EST

What you continue to fail to address is the concept of jurisdiction. Where is said crime supposedly being committed? If IBM is to be tried they are to be tried within a jurisdiction they can be held culpable in. This means either the state they are incorporated in, a state they have done business in, or the country they are incorporated in. If any of those three are within the US then the crimes must fall within the United States code, acts which must have been passed before the crime was committed. If this is to be a nebulous, "crimes against humanity" trial along the same lines as Nuremberg, then no I reject it. Nuremberg was a case of politicians and military officers being tried for their direct actions according to rules written in a big hurry once the enormity of the situation was fully discovered and disclosed.

The law of the United States is not subject to such revisionism, it's prohibited in our Constitution. International law is a very murky area, and essentially it means whatever the folks with the big guns want it to mean. This often means the U.N., but in the past it has meant the League of Nations, the US, Great Britain and others have all stepped in and defined international law however they have wanted. If they're going to attempt to do this with what ought to be a fairly straightforward jurisdictional issue merely because the law forbids them from prosecuting otherwise then what exactly is the point? They could just as easily skip the trial and move straight to dividing the spoils.

You also rather neatly sidestepped addressing my question of the hypothetical IBM and the USSR. Why is one a question of crimes against humanity and the other hardly worth talking about? What about this particular instance makes the shadowy world of international law so worth enforcing when so many other situations have slid off into the depths of obscurity?

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]

What Nazi intentions initially were is unclear (4.00 / 1) (#94)
by Pseudonym on Tue Feb 13, 2001 at 12:01:46 AM EST

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.

Historians are still debating the questions of what the Nazi government's intentions were with respect to Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, the mentally ill and so on during the 1930s. Some believe that Hitler intended extermination all along, whereas some believe that the powers that be came to it gradually; the idea initially might have been to round them up into ghettos and expatriate them, with the idea of extermination (initially shooting and later gassing) happening later, during the war. (As an aside, holocaust deniers cite this debate to "prove" that historians doubt that the holocaust happened. The sensible among us will, of course, note that this is a nonsense argument. The question here is not whether it happened, but how it came about. I digress.)

What's my point? If IBM did tailor their machines for the German government during the 1930s, even if they knew what the German government was going to do with them at the time, they may well not have known that it was to facilitate murder.

The distinction may, of course, be a moot one. If I sell someone a gun so they can commit armed robbery with it and they later turn out to actually have used it to commit murder, I'm hardly in the clear morally or legally.


sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
Missed the boat (3.00 / 1) (#53)
by Quintin Stone on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 11:26:52 AM EST

    This is the equivalent of suing Smith and Wesson for enabling the actions of the two youths who shot up Columbine High School.
Had they used a S&W gun, that probably would have happened. Truth is, gun companies are commonly sued for the misuse of their products, now more than ever. There are even currently dozens of cities with active lawsuits against manufacturers and dealers, though none have yet gone to trial (several have been dismissed). Under Clinton, the threat of a lawsuit from HUD (and the promise of relief from city suits) cowed S&W into signing a contract on how it will conduct all business in the future. Unfortunately for them, most cities did not drop their lawsuits and much of their customer base now boycot the company in protest.

[ Parent ]
How to hyperbolize (4.00 / 1) (#71)
by Miniluv on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 05:11:54 PM EST

(several have been dismissed).
Do you not feel that the conjunction of that and none of these having gone to trial might be the more relevant fact? I could, quite easily, sue anybody for anything and have it make it onto a docket somewhere. What is relevant is whether the suit makes it into court, and subsequently whether I win. You may have a point, but you certainly did nothing to prove it there.

"Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
[ Parent ]
Okay (none / 0) (#107)
by Quintin Stone on Tue Feb 13, 2001 at 11:26:49 AM EST

Then would it help to say that some suits against gun manufacturers have also been won? None of the city suits have been, but instead personal suits by the victim of gun violence.

[ Parent ]
Oh, goody... (3.40 / 5) (#52)
by trhurler on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 11:14:54 AM EST

So, some lawyers, probably the same ones who hit up the tobacco companies, who have NEVER won a lawsuit related to Nazis but have garnered $70 MILLION DOLLARS in related settlements out of court by threatening to ruin companies' reputations, are engaged in what is commonly known as extortion, and is ILLEGAL if you or I do it.

Make no mistake: IBM's German subsidiary probably DID what they're accused of. If they hadn't, they'd probably have been rounded up and sent off to the camps along with the Jews. Similarly, US companies did whatever the US government said - because if you didn't, you went to prison. Odds are that there was no communication between the subsidiary and the US company, because their governments were at war and this would be considered treason by both sides, so even if they did it, you can't reasonably hold IBM responsible. The same is true of companies in ANY country at war. That's life. Nobody now present at IBM had anything to do with that, and I'm quite certain none of them willingly would. But hey, there's lots of MONEY to be stolen from people who earned it and given TO people who never even SAW Germany but whose parents came from there, right? And after all, nobody has the balls to risk being called pro-Nazi or antisemite or whatever crap labels they'll use. So hey, those lawyers can steal all the money we want as long as we give half to the "victims," and all the lawyers will retire multimillionaires at 35 or 40 having never actually done anything but settle out of court after threatening people with reputation assassination. A grand plan!

This is the most fucking asinine crap I've seen from lawyers in recent years. They should all be rounded up and sent off to camps; maybe they'd learn some shame.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

flawed (3.50 / 4) (#65)
by Estanislao Martínez on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 02:05:50 PM EST

Odds are that there was no communication between the subsidiary and the US company, because their governments were at war and this would be considered treason by both sides

Isn't showing that there *was* constant communication the point of the book? Why do you essentially assume there was no communication, when this is precisely one of the facts under dispute?

The book claims that IBM used it's Switzerland office and other neutral countries to communicate with Berlin.

even if they did it, you can't reasonably hold IBM responsible.

Yes you can. If IBM continued to secretly manage its German operation during the war, then they are responsible. Whether they did can be disputed, but it is clear that if you knowingly aid a genocidal power you are to some degree accomplice in the genocide.

Nobody now present at IBM had anything to do with that, and I'm quite certain none of them willingly would.

Apart from the incredible optimism (really, none of them would avoid a great opportunity for profits? Yeah, right...), do you believe that corporations are legally persons?

This has nothing to do with the current employees at IBM. This has to do with IBM the corporation, i.e. the entity which employs all those employees, pays dividend on shares to its stockholders, and provides them with limited liability, which is claimed to made profits from a genocide.

Suppose you discover that something IBM did 60 years ago did concrete, specific and provable damages to you (forgetting for a minute about the details of the current case; this is a different point), and they profited from it. The responsible management from back then is all gone. You can't sue the stockholders, and you obviously can't sue the current employees. Under your logic, then, you can't sue anybody, and IBM is free to continue to enjoy the profit it made from the damage without compensating you?

Thus, if indeed IBM committed a crime in the '30s and '40s, the fact that there's no employees left from then doesn't mean anything. The corporation is a legal person which is responsible for its actions.

--em
[ Parent ]

Well, (3.50 / 2) (#67)
by trhurler on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 03:11:47 PM EST

I certainly can't say what the book proves or doesn't prove, but I'm guessing, based on my own experiences with WWII history, that it can't prove ANYTHING to a standard usable in a courtroom.

At any rate, to answer your specific question about harming me 60 years ago, since it will probably illuminate my take on things like this:

I wasn't alive 60 years ago. My grandparents were. They have a right to redress of any such grievances. I do not. Guilt and victimhood are not genetic traits. Even if IBM is liable, which is never going to be known reliably, most of the so-called victims are in fact children or grandchildren of real victims. The time for this stuff was 50 years ago, when there were things like evidence, witnesses, and most of all, victims. This is just a ploy to enrich lawyers.

Think about this: $70 million dollars - all in out of court settlements. You can bet that between 25 and 50% of that is lawyers fees. The "victims," such as they are, aren't complaining, either - after all, they're mostly between the ages of 20 and 40, probably middle class, living good lives, and here come some guys saying they can give them free money, if only they'll put their names to this big lawsuit thingie...

I'm against freeloading, extortion, theft, and so on. I don't care if it is done by a highwayman, a lawyer, or a government - it is still wrong. By all means, redress grievances - but do it when it can be done properly, rather than waiting until there's nothing left but appeals to emotion and threats to peoples' reputations. Do it when a settlement means a settlement, rather than just a gravy train for lawyers and a few lucky descendants of those who, if records are correct, might have been involved.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Inheritance (2.00 / 1) (#74)
by Estanislao Martínez on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 06:01:25 PM EST

I wasn't alive 60 years ago. My grandparents were. They have a right to redress of any such grievances. I do not. Guilt and victimhood are not genetic traits. Even if IBM is liable, which is never going to be known reliably, most of the so-called victims are in fact children or grandchildren of real victims. The time for this stuff was 50 years ago, when there were things like evidence, witnesses, and most of all, victims. This is just a ploy to enrich lawyers.

So, say, a state stripping your grandparents of their property, doesn't mean that you were prevented from inheriting part of that property?

Can the estate of a direct victim of a genocide sue liable parties for damages to the estate?

--em
[ Parent ]

I think you've got it:) (5.00 / 1) (#81)
by trhurler on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 07:44:06 PM EST

So, say, a state stripping your grandparents of their property, doesn't mean that you were prevented from inheriting part of that property?
It does indeed mean that, but the same thing would be true if any of a billion other things had happened - that's life. Maybe they choose to give the property to someone else, or maybe they lose it in a fire, or maybe anything happens. As it happens, the government took it, perhaps wrongfully. The people wronged were my grandparents, rather than me - the wrong was in denying them what was theirs. Not mine. It could only become mine if they willed it to me and then died in possession of it. If my grandparents had a lawsuit going on, the estate should be able to carry it on, but the idea that after they're gone, I should be able to decide to sue the government on the grounds that it prevented me from inheriting something that wasn't even willed to me is ludicrous.
Can the estate of a direct victim of a genocide sue liable parties for damages to the estate?
After they're dead, no. If the lawsuit is started prior, then I think it should be able to complete, provided they approved of it in the first place. I don't know what the law actually says on this point, but the idea of suing in the name of dead people without even their consent is stupid - it is nothing more than a money grab. I find it revolting in the same way I find it revolting when children squabble over possessions that have no sentimental value and are clearly just after them for the money - that's disgusting.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
But this is simple! (3.66 / 3) (#86)
by Estanislao Martínez on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 09:02:06 PM EST

It does indeed mean that, but the same thing would be true if any of a billion other things had happened - that's life. Maybe they choose to give the property to someone else, or maybe they lose it in a fire, or maybe anything happens. As it happens, the government took it, perhaps wrongfully. The people wronged were my grandparents, rather than me - the wrong was in denying them what was theirs. Not mine.

Nonsense. You inherit property from your ancestors by default-- they have to take special legal steps if they want this *not* to happen. It is one thing if you don't receive that property because of choices made by your ancestors, or because of accidents, and another one if you don't receive it because a government took it away.

This is very simple. Your grandparents lived in Warsaw with your mother, and had a house and a small shop there, which yielded them a very decent standard of living. One day the Nazis take your grandparents to a concentration camp, confiscates the house and the shop, and does whatever it wants with it. Your mother escapes to the US, and starts her life anew, but as an immigrant, with a lower standard of living. 60 years later, you sue the German state because it was up to your grandparents and chance whether you should inherit the house and the shop, not up to the Nazi state.

The damage is very specific-- the Nazis precluded you from inheriting what you could inherit by default.

--em
[ Parent ]

Opportunity vs. Property (4.00 / 1) (#93)
by quantum pixie on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 10:58:22 PM EST

the Nazis precluded you from inheriting what you could inherit by default.

I think this is exactly the point. The Nazis prevented people from inheriting what they could have inherited. The descendents have only lost an opportunity - not actual property. It doesn't seem to make sense to talk about robbing someone of something they never possessed.

As for the descendents having a lower standard of living due to the Nazi's actions, you simply do not know this. There is no way available to us to determine how someone's life would be different if events of 50 years past were altered, and it is not a proper subject of litigation.

---------
Free qpt!
[ Parent ]
*yawn* (3.00 / 3) (#95)
by Estanislao Martínez on Tue Feb 13, 2001 at 12:02:47 AM EST

I think this is exactly the point. The Nazis prevented people from inheriting what they could have inherited. The descendents have only lost an opportunity - not actual property. It doesn't seem to make sense to talk about robbing someone of something they never possessed.

I think I made myself clear enough already on this. If you think it is OK for a government to take away property, and then deny retribution to the rightful inheritors of that property, then no amount of facts will convince you.

As for the descendents having a lower standard of living due to the Nazi's actions, you simply do not know this.

That was a merely hypothetical example, and in no way central to my argument

--em
[ Parent ]

*sigh* (4.00 / 1) (#96)
by quantum pixie on Tue Feb 13, 2001 at 12:58:00 AM EST

"rightful inheritors" is an imaginary notion. There is no actual right to receive property from dead ancestors.

Your entire argument is based on moral fiction.

---------
Free qpt!
[ Parent ]
Not quite (none / 0) (#105)
by trhurler on Tue Feb 13, 2001 at 11:26:08 AM EST

You inherit property from your ancestors by default
True under some circumstances and in some countries. Not always true.
Your grandparents lived in Warsaw with your mother, and had a house and a small shop there, which yielded them a very decent standard of living. One day the Nazis take your grandparents to a concentration camp, confiscates the house and the shop, and does whatever it wants with it. Your mother escapes to the US, and starts her life anew, but as an immigrant, with a lower standard of living. 60 years later, you sue the German state because it was up to your grandparents and chance whether you should inherit the house and the shop, not up to the Nazi state.
You cannot reasonably assume that these kinds of events have localized effects and don't change anything else. In your example, it is quite likely that I owe the very fact of existing at all to the Nazis, as perverse as that may sound! Are you going to tell me that I could have inherited something if I never existed?!

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Where'd that come from? (5.00 / 1) (#92)
by winthrop on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 10:35:15 PM EST

after all, they're...probably middle class, living good lives

Personally, I think IBM should have to pay reparations because most of their stockholders are probably upper class, sexual perverts.

I don't really believe that, but it makes as much sense as what you said. First, because it's irrelevant, unless you think that middle class people or upper class sexual perverts don't deserve equal treatment under the law. Second, because I just made it up.

Perverts, the whole lot.

[ Parent ]

HELLO (none / 0) (#98)
by z00td on Tue Feb 13, 2001 at 04:11:22 AM EST

I wasn't alive 60 years ago.
My grandparents were. They have a right to redress of any such grievances.


The plaintiffs in the suit are 5 survivors of the holocaust.

The time for this stuff was 50 years ago,

Is that some kind of statute of limitations claim??? You're saying these refugees from death camps should have had litigation as their first priority? That they even knew then? That they shouldn't have had any trouble assembling a legal team worthy of taking on a multinational corporation (in days when that meant something.) Come on.

In any case, the real question you should be expending your rationalization energies against is whether--regardless of who benefits--a corporation who takes an active, knowing role in abetting an unethical act should be made to endure real consequences.

[ Parent ]
Yes, yes... (4.00 / 1) (#103)
by trhurler on Tue Feb 13, 2001 at 11:03:49 AM EST

The plaintiffs in the suit are 5 survivors of the holocaust.
Who assuredly cannot show that they themselves suffered any direct harm as a result of IBM's alleged actions. They MIGHT have been able to do so 50 years ago, when there were, as I said before, things like evidence and witnesses. At this point, any attempt to get at the details is mere historical speculation, and certainly cannot meet any reasonable burden of proof. What records have survived are, at this point, of questionable authenticity, completeness, and integrity. That's no basis for a court proceeding.
Is that some kind of statute of limitations claim?
I don't know whether there IS a legal statute of limitations on such things, but given what I just said above, yes, there damned well ought to be. At this point, we will NEVER know with any reasonable certainty exactly what happened - and that's what a court proceeding requires. You cannot just say "well, we think you did this, and we have these records here, which we assure you are not doctored or in any way incomplete or inaccurate, and all the witnesses are dead or senile, so you are evil and wrong and we're going to take your money!"
In any case, the real question you should be expending your rationalization energies against is whether--regardless of who benefits--a corporation who takes an active, knowing role in abetting an unethical act should be made to endure real consequences.
You'd feel a lot differently if it was you about to take it in the ass for something you can't even verify your own company ever did. The problem is not really about the lawyers, although they ARE the reason this lawsuit is being pressed. The problem is that there's NO WAY to conduct this proceeding fairly. It is, BY DESIGN, a witchhunt designed to cause IBM to cave for PR reasons regardless of the truth.

But hey, since IBM is a Big Evil Corporation[tm], I'm sure that's ok with you. Proof? Who cares! Evidence? Nah, that's a pain. Witnesses? Well, they're dead. Here are some pieces of paper that we claim prove this and that. Trust us. Would we lie to you?

You're probably one of those people who think the Hague proceedings where no two witnesses can agree on what happened but the guy gets convicted anyway because he's presumed guilty are a good thing, aren't you? (By the way, yes, that's what is done - victims' testimony is treated as truth from on high, and everyone who disagrees is presumed to be lying. It's a real screwjob, which is why the new "world court" they're working on is such a disaster for human rights. But hey, they get revenge for people, so nobody complains too much, right? :)

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
i agree! (none / 0) (#73)
by TigerBaer on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 05:50:10 PM EST

Corporations these days never seem to receive punishment for their actions. Sure, the people running them at the time were responsible for the crimes, but the corporation must itself be held responsible. If not, what is to prevent just about anybody from telling us to punish the corporation not them by claiming what they did was in the corporation's interest. Then when we turn to the corporation and we realize it does not exist materially, so we cannot prosecute anything. Corporations are entities responsible for their actions.

Punish Nike.

[ Parent ]
Shyster is Yiddish. (5.00 / 1) (#58)
by Apuleius on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 01:44:59 PM EST

I'm Jewish. I oughta know the jargon, don't you think? Shyster lawyers aren't unique to the Jewish tribe, but I take pride that my tribe was the first to think of a slur to throw against them.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
Clicked on wrong link. (none / 0) (#61)
by Apuleius on Mon Feb 12, 2001 at 01:49:53 PM EST

This was in response to a comment.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Further information (5.00 / 1) (#108)
by ucblockhead on Tue Feb 13, 2001 at 11:37:34 AM EST

A couple of new news stories on this:

The leading Auschwitz historian denies that IBM technology was used there. (Though only at the one camp.)

Apparently IBM already contributed $3 million to a fund for holocaust victims as part of a large group of companies with German subsideries at the time.

And in my own mind, the more I think about this, the more I think that the author of this book vastly overrates the importance of these machines to the holocaust. He seems to be saying that without these machines, there'd have been vastly fewer deaths, which I find silly.

(This is not to deny the theoretical issue of whether companies can be liable for this sort of thing.)
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

IBM and Nazi Germany | 111 comments (97 topical, 14 editorial, 0 hidden)
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