Suit Alleges IBM Assisted Nazis

Monday, February 12th 2001, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — A lawsuit alleges U.S. computer giant IBM took part in ``crimes against humanity'' by allowing its machines to be used in Nazi death camps.

The suit seeks to force IBM to open its archives and pay ``any ill-gotten gains ... from it conduct during World War II,'' roughly estimated at $10 million in 1940s money, said Michael Hausfeld, lead lawyer in the case.

The suit follows dozens filed in recent years against various entities to get compensation for survivors, including those who lost bank accounts, were used as slave labor, or had insurance policies that were never honored. Hausfeld told reporters the IBM suit is another step in the process, but that any money awarded would go to things like Holocaust education and not to plaintiffs.

``Over the course of time, what we have attempted to do was revisit and reopen the Holocaust to determine not only who were the major perpetrators, but also who were the necessary accomplices.'' Hausfeld said.

``IBM USA implemented, aided, assisted or consciously participated in the commission of crimes against humanity and violations of human rights ... by providing technology, products and service it knew would be used to facilitate persecution and genocide,'' the suit charges.

Hausfeld said he does ``not yet'' have documents proving U.S. officers of IBM knew this, and that is one reason the suit asks the company to open its archives.

The suit coincides with the release of a book on the subject and IBM last week alerted its employees about the book with an internal memo.

The book, by Washington-based researcher Edwin Black, is titled ``IBM and the Holocaust.'' It claims that punch-card machines built by IBM were a key factor enabling the Nazis to make their killing operations more efficient.

That is also the focus of the lawsuit, filed Saturday in New York.

The company hasn't yet seen either the book or the lawsuit and isn't commenting in detail, Ian Colley, IBM's European spokesman in Paris, said Monday.

``If this book points to new and verifiable information that advances understanding of this tragic era, IBM will examine it and ask that appropriate scholars and historians do the same,'' the company said in its statement to employees last week.

IBM's German subsidiary during the Nazi era, Deutsche Hollerith Maschinen GmbH, was taken over by the Nazis. A machine made by the company — believed to have been used in the 1933 German census, the year the Nazis took power — is on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

The German division, which after the war became IBM Germany, has paid into Germany's government-industry initiative to compensate people forced to work for the Nazis during the war.

Colley said IBM itself has turned over all its information on the company's Nazi-era operations to universities.

``We obviously find anything to do with the Nazi regime abhorrent and will be the first to condemn the activities of anyone who was associated with the Nazi regime,'' Colley said.

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