The IBM Link to Auschwitz

Researchers Uncover Records of the Company's Work at Death-Camp Complex

The exact addresses and equipment arrays of the key IBM offices and customer sites in Nazi-occupied Poland had already been uncovered. But no one had ever been able to determine whether there was an IBM facility at, or even near, Auschwitz—until now. Auschwitz chief archivist Piotr Setkiewicz finally pinpointed the first such IBM customer site.

Auschwitz was actually three concentration camps, surrounded by some 40 subcamps, numerous factories, and a collection of farms. The original Auschwitz became known simply as Auschwitz I, and functioned as a camp for transit, labor, and detention. Auschwitz II, also called Birkenau, became the extermination center, operating gas chambers and ovens. Nearby Auschwitz III, known as Monowitz, existed primarily as a slave labor camp.

The newly unearthed IBM customer site was a huge Hollerith Büro. It was situated in the I.G. Farben factory complex, housed in Barracks 18, next to German Civil Worker Camp 7, about two kilometers from Monowitz. Archivists found the Büro only because it was listed in the I.G. Werk Auschwitz phone book on page 50. The phone extension was 4496. "I was looking for something else," recalls Auschwitz's Setkiewicz, "and there it was."

You could look it up: This page from the wartime Auschwitz phone book lists the Hollerith Bureau, which used IBM technology.
Auschwitz Archives photo
You could look it up: This page from the wartime Auschwitz phone book lists the Hollerith Bureau, which used IBM technology.

Many of the long-known paper prisoner forms stamped Hollerith Erfasst, or "registered by Hollerith," indicated the prisoners were from Monowitz. Now Auschwitz archivist Setkiewicz has discovered about 100 Hollerith machine summary printouts of Monowitz prisoner assignments and details generated by the I.G. Farben customer site. Comparison of the new printouts to other typical camp cards shows the Monowitz systems were customized for the specific coding Farben needed to process the thousands of slave workers who labored and died there. The machines were probably also used to manage and develop manufacturing processes and ordinary business applications. The machines almost certainly did not maintain extermination totals, which were calculated as "evacuations" by the Hollerith Gruppe in Krakow. "The Hollerith office at IG Farben in Monowitz used the IBM machines as a system of computerization of civil and slave labor resources," said Setkiewicz. "This gave Farben the opportunity to identify people with certain skills, primarily skills needed for the construction of certain buildings in Monowitz." At press time, the diverse Farben codes and range of machine uses were still being studied.

Even some IBM employees are frustrated by IBM's silence. Michael Zamczyk, a longtime employee of the company in San Jose, California, also is a survivor of the Krakow ghetto in the early 1940s. Revelations about IBM's ties to Hitler, which first came into public view in February 2001, spurred him to try to learn more about the company that he works for.

"Originally," he said, "I was just trying to determine if it was IBM equipment that helped select my father to be shipped to Auschwitz, and if the machines were used to schedule the trains to Auschwitz."

Zamczyk said he started writing letters and e-mails, but to no avail. "Now I feel that IBM owes me, as an IBM employee, an apology," he said. "And that is all I am looking for." But Zamczyk said he's frustrated. "The only response I got," he said, "was basically telling me there would be no public or private apology. But I am still waiting for that apology and debating what to do next."

Meanwhile, wartime documents continue to be uncovered in Europe.

Edwin Black is author of IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation (Crown Publishers 2001 and Three Rivers Press 2002). This article is drawn from his just released German paperback edition. Information relating to the new Auschwitz discovery will be appended to future editions of the English-language editions.

IBM's original statement on Black's book.

IBM's 2002 statement

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