The Tattoo Used in Auschwitz Was Originally An IBM Code Number

Here is another (controversial) chapter from my book 50 Things You’re Not Supposed to Know, published in 2003.

For more on me, look at The Memory Hole.

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IBM in Auschwitz Phone BookThe tattooed numbers on the forearms of people held and killed in Nazi concentration camps have become a chilling symbol of hatred. Victims were stamped with the indelible number in a dehumanizing effort to keep track of them like widgets in the supply chain.

These numbers obviously weren’t chosen at random. They were part of a coded system, with each number tracked as the unlucky person who bore it was moved through the system.

Edwin Black made headlines in 2001 when his painstakingly researched book, IBM and the Holocaust, showed that IBM machines were used to automate the “Final Solution” and the jackbooted takeover of Europe. Worse, he showed that the top levels of the company either knew or willfully turned a blind eye.

A year and a half after that book gave Big Blue a black eye, the author made more startling discoveries. IBM equipment was on-site at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Furthermore:

Thanks to the new discoveries, researchers can now trace how Hollerith numbers assigned to inmates evolved into the horrific tattooed numbers so symbolic of the Nazi era. (Herman Hollerith was the German American who first automated US census information in the late 19th century and founded the company that became IBM. Hollerith’s name became synonymous with the machines and the Nazi “departments” that operated them.) In one case, records show, a timber merchant from Bendzin, Poland, arrived at Auschwitz in August 1943 and was assigned a characteristic five digit IBM Hollerith number, 44673. The number was part of a custom punch-card system devised by IBM to track prisoners in all Nazi concentration camps, including the slave labor at Auschwitz. Later in the summer of 1943, the Polish timber merchant’s same five-digit Hollerith number, 44673, was tattooed on his forearm. Eventually, during the summer of 1943, all non- Germans at Auschwitz were similarly tattooed.

The Hollerith numbering system was soon scrapped at Auschwitz because so many inmates
died. Eventually, the Nazis developed their own haphazard system.

Reference: Black, Edwin. “The IBM Link to Auschwitz.” Village Voice, 9 Oct 2002.

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Look for more 50 Things You’re Not Supposed to Know in the next 50 days
under the tag “50 Things” on disinfo.com.

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  • Sanger

    Ive known about this for years. If you try to tell 'normal' people this, they think your crazy. If you try to tell them that Prescott Bush funded Hitler through Brown Bros. Harriman, they think your crazy. If you tell them about Project Paperclip, they think your crazy. It doesnt matter that all of them are FACTS.

    Im tired of the middle school propaganda and lame psy ops being perfectly executed to a lazy, gullible and illinformed (not to mention misinformed) populace. Im tired of those same people thinking Im crazy when I tell them FACTS. This country is so surreal in its ignorance. Something is perverse and seriously wrong. I suspect its conclusion will not be a pretty one. But what do I know, Im crazy, right?

    • PsyOps

      I couldn't agree more. Sometimes I wonder if most people spend most of their time in some sort of mass induced hypnosis so that even if you show them something right in front of their face they don't believe it.

      • Synapse

        The difference between facts and “facts” is a very vast one that plenty of people don't grasp. For example, it's a fact that there were plenty of people back before WWII who supported Nazi Germany who were sane but racist individuals. It's a bigger stretch to say that their great grand kid by default supports Nazis and is continuing his great grandfather's political support of a foreign ideology that isn't actually around anymore except where it's name is applied to other things.

        If you think you have the FACTS that PROVE a conspiracy, very often you're only one step away from religious nutjob who thinks he has a million and one FACTS that PROVE god's existence. It's easy to read more into something. It's harder to come back to Earth and say yeah, that's not particularly unexpected or extraordinary.

    • Word Eater

      Wait, what? Some people don't “believe” in Project Paperclip? At least that one is easy to verify, it has a Wikipedia page entry for Christ's sake (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Paperclip).

      I can understand the other items being a little harder to convince someone of because the facts are a bit obfuscated, but Paperclip? Seriously?

      It's all out there, it's just that the US stopped worrying about repercussions for its own actions a long time ago.

    • vi0let_femme

      If you’re crazy then so am I. 

  • Synapse

    It's very well known that IBM profited off of the holocaust and the Germans used their tabulation machines to keep track of prisoners this way. Is it any surprise that the numbers the machines would have used found their way to the prisoners themselves?

  • Jon Robinson

    the real question is – so what?
    Who cares?
    so IBM used to be the company that the Nazi party used to build machines that kept track of prisoners.
    what's the point? Why does this matter to me, today, now?

    Am I going to boycott IBM because of it? no of course not.
    it might be the same named company, but it's different people, different ideology, different company.

  • ADM

    Its all about that Immortal technique lyric:
    “Im a mecenary, I dont care how I get richer,
    like American companies that did business with Hitler”

  • ADM

    Its all about that Immortal technique lyric:
    “Im a mecenary, I dont care how I get richer,
    like American companies that did business with Hitler”

  • DefiantOne

    Considering that Nazi Germany hosted the olympics and that Hitler was Time Magazines man of the year I cannot see why any business associations or otherwise would be so surprising. 1933: Zionists sign a deal with Hitler – The Transfer Agreement (News broadcast Deborah Norville). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3we8Sg9oOs

  • DefiantOne

    Considering that Nazi Germany hosted the olympics and that Hitler was Time Magazines man of the year I cannot see why any business associations or otherwise would be so surprising. 1933: Zionists sign a deal with Hitler – The Transfer Agreement (News broadcast Deborah Norville). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3we8Sg9oOs

  • vi0let_femme

    If you’re crazy then so am I.