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IBM’s Technology Powered the Holocaust (kottke.org)
65 points by tobr 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 43 comments

IBM was the biggest seller of computers to the Apartheid regime in South Africa which helped them to implement the system ... the infamous "dompas" being one of them.

Ok you had me up until this part.

> It’s not difficult to see the relevance of this episode today. Should Microsoft-owned GitHub provide software to ICE for possible use in the agency’s state-sanctioned persecution of immigrants and asylum seekers?

Comparing the mechanised murder of 6 million people to the processing of criminals is a bit of a stretch.

They are not criminals. Immigration law has always been a civil matter. For reasons.

Enabling evil is a bad thing, whether the evil is to murder N million people or to separate children from their parents. Why is this hard to understand?

Technology doesn't care that you have no intention to kill millions of people, or that you do.

You realize that the victims of the holocaust were criminals, as defined by German law.

At the end of WW2 lgbt people “liberated” from the concentration camps were immediately jailed for being LGBT, using evidence from the gestapo.

Aiding Jews, Romani, jehovahs witnesses, lgbt, communists, dissidents, etc also made you a criminal.

Also, I’m fairly sure immigration law doesn’t carry the death penalty, yet there are kids dying and being abused in the ICE concentration camps.

Here’s a simple counterpoint to ICE: what would the outcry be if Mexico starts imprisoning and separating American overstayers in Mexico? What would happen if Mexico then “lost track of” the children from those families? Would you still be arguing it was not criminal?

The Jews did not willingly pile into the camps. They didn't send their children across dangerous terrain with coyotes and birth-control pills. They didn't have the option to go back at any time they wanted.

The grotesque analogies just polarize everyone more.

The detained immigrants didn’t choose to be piled into camps.

The hyperbole of all the immigrants arrested dashing through dangerous coyotes is nonsense.

Many of the “illegal” immigrants were born in the US. Many don’t speak Spanish. But sure, concentrating them in prisons and separating children from their parents isn’t about punishing them for being Mexican.

Don’t come out claiming I’m advancing a polarizing description of what happens with a claim that the victims of a deliberately racist camp system have chosen this.

I'm sorry, what? Anyone born in the US is a citizen, not an immigrant. Their parents may be citizens or immigrants (legal or otherwise).

Section 1 of the 14th amendment: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

If you're saying law enforcement agencies are depriving US citizens of liberty without due process I'm sure every news agency in the country would love to run stories with your evidence.


Cases such as you allege occur on a semi-frequent basis. People fall through the cracks, and the mechanisms by which the news ultimately reports on the truth is rather unfamiliar.

In both cases the question is if a company should assist in something unethical. The scale is very different but the principle is the same.

The question is hypothetical anyway. Markets select for profitability, not ethics.

Hitler didn’t start off killing 6 million people and by the time he got to that point, it was already too late to do anything about it. The time to put your foot down is well short of that. I don’t know where it is, but I think the stage where you’re kidnapping babies or putting them into cages is a reasonable place to do it.

The Holocaust wasn't IBM's fault. It was the fault of the rubber-stamp ink manufacturers, the fault of the railway wagon manufacturers, the barbed-wire manufacturers, and so on.

The title is as misleading as the slogan 'Guns kill People.'

In truth, the Nazis did the Holocaust. Whatever those things the Nazis may have used, the makers of those things were irrelevant.

The favored light rapid-fire cannon of WW II were manufactured to designs by neutrals, Sweden and Switzerland, licensed to manufacturers of both Allied and Axis powers. Did Oerlikon power the Holocaust, the liberation of Europe, the Greater Southeast Asia Co-Prosperity sphere, some or none of the above?

Did Oerlikon CEO receive Merit Cross of the German Eagle with Star? https://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=26634

Generally the true winners in the war are the ones that supply both sides. Numerous companies did this - some I surmise, with the blessing of the US government!

Wow, what a ludicrous jump at the end there. Whatever complaints you may have about ICE, there is no analogy between the mass extermination of 6M people by the Nazis and what is happening at the border.

Not yet. But those people are capable of anything and I'm fairly sure the person that is willing to separate a mother from a newborn would have no compunction with gassing either. 'Just following orders...'.

Even if IBM supplied machinery it required a whole pile of minions (apologies to cartoon fans) to operate and execute the strategy. Those very same people that are hands on in ICE 'detention centers'.

More wildly outrageous statements. Separating a mother from her child at the border hand-wave, hand-wave and tada before you know it you're gassing millions. I won't dignify these absurd statements with responses anymore.

> I won't dignify these absurd statements with responses anymore.

That's fine by me.

Note that people weren't gassed by the millions 'at once' nor by a single individual. And note that nobody did all of the work required to gass a single individual either. It was all little steps where everybody could claim it wasn't them that gassed the Jews. And that's exactly what is happening here. Same principle; same outcome; so far different level of severity.

But you can take this to the bank: if the government greenlights summary execution of illegal immigrants through some diffuse responsibility means there will be plenty of people willing to sign up to do the deeds.

Given your other comments in these threads you seem to be of the opinion that by drawing analogies like these we are diminishing what was done to the Jews. That is definitely not the intention. What is the intention is to point out that there is the potential for a repeat, and that this is exactly how it could happen.

> Whatever complaints you may have about ICE, there is no analogy

I disagree.

The analogy may or may not be very good, but there is an analogy that deserves to be treated on its merits.

The Holocaust was evil and horrible, but the lesson we sought to take from it wasn't that it was a singular evil that could never happen again. Instead, it was about the banality of evil (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eichmann_in_Jerusalem), that great evils are often the product of thousands of small steps that individually seem innocuous or trivial compared to what came before.

One point being made by the article is that providers of technology -- then IBM, but here github and the like -- carry a moral responsibility for the likely uses of that technology. If that point is correct and IBM is stained by its initial provision of card sorting machines to the Reich (well before the regime began mass killings), then Microsoft et al might carry the stain of crimes that haven't happened yet.

The original post did make a very specific analogy between ICE and following operations performed by the Reich:

- Identifying citizens who practice Judaism or have Jewish blood for purpose of asset confiscation, ghettoization, deportation, and extermination

- Efficiently transport Jews out of European ghettos along railroad lines and into death camps

while I agree with what you wrote to some degree, I think the article's writer did mean the above specific analogy.

I agree with the idea that "great evils are often the product of thousands of small steps that individually seem innocuous or trivial".

What I take issue with is these sort of insidious analogies (which, no surprise, tend to be analogies to Hitler or the Holocaust) where none exists except in the most circuitous of ways. Of course we need to be vigilant and, yes, the Holocaust stands out in our collective memory as the best proof of that. However, there is a vast difference between people going to the border of their own volition (put aside the question whether they are doing so under tremendous duress and exigent circumstances) vs the Jews during the Holocaust who could do basically _nothing_ to escape persecution. Immigrants could avoid whatever treatment they are receiving at the border by not going to the border altogether or going by other means. What exactly could the Jews during the Holocaust do? Nothing.

None of this is to say there aren't legitimate criticisms related to what's happening at the border. But drawing an analogy, however loose it is, just weakens the argument and serves to seriously understate what happened during the Holocaust.

Jews could leave Germany until 1941. In fact, they were encouraged to do so. Finding a country that would take them was the problem.

> Finding a country that would take them was the problem.

... was those Jews' immediate problem, just then. The problem was rather larger.

We will be seeing huge waves of refugees as Global Climate Disruption renders large areas of the globe newly uninhabitable. There are already Nazi-like movements to "keep them out". Plenty of people will be found who would rather they were killed or starved to death than allowed in.

The Holocaust is far from unique. Stalin executed or starved millions, maybe tens of -- for having the wrong grandparents. Mao starved tens of millions for the same offense. Pol Pot, similarly, albeit with fewer to draw on.

The behavior in question is not the killing, but the enabling of abuse. IBM aided the Nazis. Who aided Stalin and Mao? Doesn't matter. The topic at hand is our evil, ICE. Are they Nazis? Doesn't matter. Are they engaged in evil? Yes. Is corporate America eager to aid the evil they do? Yes.

"ICE are not executing Jews" distracts from the very valid analogy.

> The Holocaust is far from unique.

Only if you ignore the ideology behind it. Which doesn't make Stalin, Pinochet, Franco, Pol Pot or Mao less evil.

> "ICE are not executing Jews" distracts from the very valid analogy.

That the ICE isn't executing anyone also doesn't mean that they won't in the future. Heinrich Himmler – the SS leader – called the "bolshevist method of physically exterminating a people [...] un-Germanic and impossible" as late as 1940.

Ideologies come and go. It is all sophistry: People will always invent reasons why doing what they are inclined to do is justified, and then do it if not stopped. It is everyone's personal responsibility to stop them.

The Nazis didn't just randomly decide to exterminate the Jews and adopt facism as an excuse.

They did randomly decide to exterminate Jews, and Roma, and gays, and Catholic Poles. They were predisposed to fascism because it lent cover to gratuitous violence.

Fascism is never a reasoned position. It provides a social framework for people's worst impulses.

That wasn't random. The Nazis did have reasons, just not sane ones.

> Jews

were a culture-destroying race. Just by existing, they weakened the Aryan race. Also, they stabbed Germany in the back after it had won World War 1.

> Catholic Poles

weren't supposed to be exterminated. In fact, they would be much happier as a culture-less people of uneducated laborers under German rule. They were docile and incapable of leadership or cultural achievements anyway.

That "polish" intelligentsia? They actually had German blood. Some could be salvaged and regermanized. But many had to be killed to prevent them from working against Germany. This was very important because German blood made them quite awesome at everything, including treason.

> They were predisposed to fascism because it lent cover to gratuitous violence.

> Fascism is never a reasoned position. It provides a social framework for people's worst impulses.

The Nazis had their share of thugs but impulsivity isn't what leads to industrial genocide. The gas chambers weren't built on a whim. They were built to protect the executioners' mental health, operating a gas chamber is less "personal" than shooting someone.

The Holocaust didn't happen because Nazis liked killing people. They thought it was necessary.

I see that you really, really don't understand fascists.

"Had their share of thugs"? It is the very essence of fascism. They "thought it was necessary" because they preferred to think that way.

The Soviets had a completely different set of "reasons". The Chinese have another. ICE and Trump have a third. The behavior is the same. The behavior is the problem. The reasons are a distraction.

The reasons are the root cause, the behaviors are the symptoms. Treating symptoms doesn't solve problems.

> I see that you really, really don't understand fascists.

If gracious violence were the essence of facism, it wouldn't have arised in the 20th century but in prehistoric times.

There was plenty of gratuitous prehistoric and historic violence. Fascism can be seen as a throwback to the old mode.

The root cause is authoritarians in power. Ideology is how they try to distract you. Successfully, looks like.

If not being ignorant about history distracts me from recognizing that the NSDAP was founded because Hitler was in power, I'm fine with that.

How many of them were staying in the US legally?

that somehow would justify denied medical treatment?

Does it matter?

is there a cost related to the treatment?

if the answer is yes, then quite a few people probably care; regardless of the humanitarian element.

Who is paying it, if there is? The payers would tend to care.

I'm sure they would. And then there is of course simply the right thing to do.

People who are scared of immigrants because of medical costs are not only lacking in their humanity, they are also lacking in math skills. Long term immigrants are a big plus for society in a financial sense.

Link is to "24 immigrants have died in ICE custody during the Trump administration".

Current technology allows for much better fine-tuning of flagging and getting rid of humans. I recently commented on the usage religious/racial profiling of IBM in The Netherlands in WWII here [1]

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21212341

Agreed. A better analogy is to what is going on in Xinjiang. Apple's handover of access to all Chinese users' iCloud data should be viewed accordingly.

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