Embarg d Crown Title Links IBM, Nazis
Bridget Kinsella -- 2/12/01

Under a shroud of secrecy, today Crown published IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation by Edwin Black. It is the first book to connect IBM's technical ingenuity with the infamous efficiency of Hitler's Final Solution. "There have been czars and tyrants before him. But for the first time in history, an anti-Semite had automation on his side," writes Black.

According to Black, not only did the company's punch-card system help the Nazis keep track of large groups of people, but with the knowledge of top management in America, IBM's European subsidiaries actually perfected the means for the Nazis to quickly collect census data and use it to
IBM technology behind
the Final Solution?
carry out their goals. Black d s not claim that the Holocaust would not have happened without IBM, but makes the case that the best IBM technology at the time increased the number of victims. The book asserts that Hitler awarded IBM chairman Thomas Watson a medal for his company's work and explores Watson's motivation and the company's efforts to work with the Nazis without attracting public or government scrutiny.
While other books and scholars have discussed connections between American companies and Nazi Germany, Crown editorial director Steve Ross explained, Black "points out that supplying the Nazis with wool or oil is quite different from playing a critical role in the success of the Reich's mission, by allowing Hitler to automate his grand plan."

The level of secrecy surrounding IBM and the Holocaust is astounding. Black, author of The Transfer Agreement: The Dramatic Story of the Pact Between the Third Reich and Jewish Palestine, began the project five years ago, after he visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., with his Holocaust survivor parents and spotted a punch-card device bearing an IBM logo. He enlisted the help of 100 researchers, all sworn to secrecy. Two years ago, agent Lynne Rabinoff started shopping around Black's very brief and sketchy proposal, which did not name the company. It made the rounds of the major houses, and "everyone signed non-disclosure agreements," Rabinoff told PW. "So many people have been respectful to the integrity of the project, and it has not leaked." Eight foreign editions are being released simultaneously today.

Ross said the U.S. edition has a 100,000 first printing. Since it didn't want news of the book to leak out, Crown guarded in-house knowledge of the project, involving department heads only when necessary. And they all signed confidentiality agreements. "The sales force sold the book to their accounts without knowing what it was, only that it was called--until publication date--'Crown Special Publication,'" explained Ross. "They knew that it was about the Holocaust, and that it would go on sale simultaneously in 10 languages in 40 countries around the world."

Crown planned to break news of the book in yesterday's Washington Post and with the first serial in the London Sunday Times. This morning, the author was scheduled to appear on the Today show. Later this week, stories will run in Newsweek and on Dateline.