HOW THE NAZIS TEAMED UP WITH IBM FOR MASS MURDER, AND THE INCREDIBLE STORY OF THE FIRST ETHICAL HACKER

In the era of Big Data, few figures are more divisive as that of the hacker. On the one hand, malicious or “black hat” hackers cause billions of dollars of damage every year, breaking into private and public networks to steal money or personal data or simply to create chaos. On the other hand, so-called ethical or “white hat” hackers use their skills in service of the public good, either by probing computer systems for security weaknesses or leaking information on government corruption and other crimes. While mostly associated with the modern digital age, the art of hacking goes back nearly a hundred years. And one of the earliest hackers was also one of the most ethical, using his skills to save millions of French citizens from the Nazis during the Second World War. This is the remarkable story of René Carmille.

The era of Big Data is a lot older than you might think, tracing its origins back to the 1880s and a daunting problem facing the United States Government. The U.S. Constitution mandates that a census be taken every 10 years so that taxes and political representation can be updated according to the changing population. The first U.S. Census took place in 1790, and for the next 90 years census data was collected and processed entirely by hand. In 1880, however, the Census Bureau faced a major crisis: the U.S. population had grown so large that the 1880 census took a full 9 years to complete; by the time the data was ready to use, it was already time for the next census. At this rate, the Bureau feared, future censuses would never be able to catch up, rendering the whole exercise pointless.

Enter Herman Hollerith, an American engineer who had worked on the 1880 census. In 1889, Hollerith patented an ingenious system for speeding up the tabulating of census data, based on the technology of punched cards. While punched cards had previously been used to automate the weaving of complex textile patterns, Hollerith’s system was the first to apply them practically to the field of data processing. Hollerith was inspired by a system introduced by the railroads to help identify and catch train robbers and other criminals. As photography at the time was a slow, cumbersome process, train tickets were instead printed with a series of physical descriptors such as height, eye colour, and facial hair which the conductor could fill out using a standard ticket punch. In this manner, a rough description of each passenger could be recorded. Hollerith realized that this system could easily be adapted to the census, and designed his own punch cards to record census data and a piano-sized machine called a Tabulator to read and process it.

The Hollerith system worked as follows. Census takers would travel around the country and record data like the number, ages, and sex of the people in each household by punching holes in the corresponding fields on the Hollerith cards. These cards would then be sent back to the census bureau for processing. An operator would insert the cards into the Tabulator one by one through a hinged hatch rather like a modern flatbed scanner or photocopier. When the hatch was closed, a grid of spring-loaded metal pins was forced against the card. Where a hole had been punched the pin passed through and made contact with a pool of mercury, completing an electrical circuit. This data was counted and displayed on a series of clock-like dials on the face of the Tabulator, to be manually read and recorded by the operator. The genius of the Tabulator, however, lay in its ability to be rewired or “programmed” to count different combinations of data – for example, unmarried males under the age 30. Hollerith also invented a device called a Sorter consisting of 13 vertical metal bins with spring-loaded lids, each of which could be programmed to collect a different combination of data. So if, for example, the operator inserted a card which included an unmarried male under 30, the bin lid programmed with that combination would pop open so the operator could drop the card in.

The Hollerith system was adopted by the Census Bureau just in time for the 1890 census, and its impact was dramatic. The use of punched cards and tabulators cut the time required to process the census data from 9 down to two years. This dramatic improvement in efficiency lead to Hollerith machines becoming standard equipment at the Census Bureau, and in 1896 Hollerith founded the Hollerith Tabulating Machine Company to sell his machines commercially. Among his first clients were the Prudential Life Insurance Company and the New York Central Railroad, the latter of which processed nearly 4 million freight waybills every year and was an ideal fit for the Hollerith system. Over the next decade Hollerith introduced a number of key innovations which made his system increasingly more efficient and powerful, including redesigned punch cards, improved keypunches for filling out those cards, printers for automatically tabulating data, automatic card feeders and sorters, and plugboards to allow the tabulators to be reprogrammed without having to physically rewire the circuitry. These innovations created a brand-new industry, and Hollerith-style tabulators – now known as “unit record machines” – were adopted by a vast array of businesses for data-heavy tasks like processing invoices and payrolls. The Information Age had officially arrived.

But for Herman Hollerith, success was not to last. In 1903 the new director of the Census Bureau, Simon North, decided that Hollerith had too much of a monopoly on data processing and banned the company’s machines from the Bureau. Then, in 1911, through stock acquisition the Tabulating Machine Company was merged with four other companies to create the Computing-Tabulating Company. Finally, in 1923, this amalgamated company changed its name to International Business Machines – better known as IBM.

Under the direction of CEO Thomas Watson, IBM would go on to dominate the unit record and later the digital computer industry, controlling over 90% of all punch card equipment in the United States by 1950. One of the keys to IBM’s success was that they never sold their machines to clients; they only ever leased them. At one point IBM even considered charging its clients for every individual punch card they used, a practice which would have netted them even more obscene profits. However, for the United States Government this was a step too far, and in 1932 IBM was taken to court for violating the 1914 Clayton Antitrust Act. Though IBM argued that the cards – for which they held the patent – were technically a component of the machines they were already leasing to clients – in 1936 the Government ultimately ruled against them. While IBM was allowed to specify the design of the cards used in its machines, clients were free to acquire the cards themselves from any source they wanted – including manufacturing them themselves. However, even this attempt to extort clients over individual punch cards was far from the most unethical activity IBM would ever be involved in.

The outbreak of the Second World War saw a dramatic surge in business for IBM. Not only did millions of fighting men and tons of military equipment need to be processed for deployment overseas, but unit record equipment quickly found new applications in the field of cryptanalysis. IBM punch card equipment proved ideally suited to searching endless reams of enciphered enemy signals searching for the rare repeats that could help crack the cipher key – a tedious task that had previously been done entirely by hand. Dozens of IBM machines were used at Allied codebreaking centres like Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire and Arlington Hall in Washington D.C, where they helped to penetrate enemy ciphers like the Nazi Germany’s Enigma and Imperial Japan’s “Purple” and shorten the war by an estimated two years.

But IBM equipment would also be put to far more sinister uses. Like dozens of American companies like Ford, General Motors, Chase Manhattan Bank, and Coca-Cola, IBM did not allow the outbreak of war to interfere with its international business dealings – even those with Nazi Germany. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, the new government put out a tender for a census of the German people. By this point the Nazis had already expelled all Jewish lawyers, doctors, scientists, and other professional from their jobs, and it was abundantly clear that the true goal of this census was to identify and persecute the remaining Jews and other undesirables in Germany. Indeed, in a public statement, Reinhard Koherr, a statistician working for the Nazi Government, sinisterly announced that: “…in using statistics the government now has the road map to switch from knowledge to deeds.”

Nonetheless, Thomas Watson, the CEO of IBM, instructed the company’s German subsidiary DEHOMAG to bid on the contract, which they ultimately won. Over the next decade, hundreds of IBM unit record machines along with spare parts and punch cards were shipped to Germany, where they were immediately put to use in organizing what would eventually become the Holocaust. Machines were set up in the headquarters of the SS’s Rassenamt or Race Office and even in concentration camps like Dachau, where millions of German Jews, Roma, Communists, Homosexuals and other groups deemed politically or racially inferior were systematically identified, categorized, and earmarked for arrest, imprisonment, deportation, forced labour, or extermination. Shockingly, IBM and its subsidiary did far more than simply provide the Nazis with equipment, also sending hundreds of technicians to Germany to train SS personnel how to use and maintain the temperamental equipment. These technicians also developed custom punch cards and special codes to help the SS designate and process concentration camps, prisoner types, and causes of death. For example, Auschwitz was 001, Buchenwald 002, Dachau 003, and so on; 3 designated a homosexual, 9 an anti-social, and 8 a Jew; while 3 represented death from natural causes, 4 summary execution, 5 death by suicide, and 6 by “special treatment” – the Nazi euphemism for extermination via gas chamber. Given this intimate involvement, it is highly unlikely that IBM was unaware of what its machines were being used for, yet the flow of equipment and personnel continued unabated. In fact, so instrumental was IBM to the Nazis’ policy of genocide that in 1937 Adolf Hitler awarded Thomas Watson the Order of the German Eagle for services to the Third Reich, an honour bestowed on several other American Nazi sympathizers including Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh – and for more on the Lone Eagle’s relationship with the Nazis, please check out our sister channel’s, video “Lucky Lindy and Advancing Medical Science” on our channel Highlight History.

The outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 should have ended the company’s dealings with Nazi Germany, and indeed in June 1940 Thomas Watson returned his Order of the German Eagle. But while IBM publicly feigned remorse for its pre-war actions, in the background their collaboration with the Nazis carried on as before. In 1939 Watson authorized the shipment to Germany of special IBM alphabetizing machines, which were used to round up and execute millions of Jews, intellectuals, and other undesirables during the Nazi conquest of Poland. So complicit was Watson in this policy that he even bankrolled the construction of concrete bunkers at Dachau to protect its IBM machines from British air raids. The Nazi government also offered to buy DEHOMAG outright, giving IBM the opportunity to make a clean break from its subsidiary. But Watson refused, and DEHOMAG remained under the direct control of IBM headquarters in New York. In 1940, Watson directly managed the establishment of a Dutch subsidiary tasked with identifying and rounding that country’s Jews. Aided by the Netherland’s existing Hollerith machine infrastructure and a long Dutch tradition of recording religion in the national census, this effort succeeded in murdering 102,000 of the Netherland’s 140,000 Jews – an extermination rate of 73%. In every territory they conquered, the Nazis immediately carried out a census to identify and round up its racial and political enemies – a process made all the more efficient by IBM equipment. But when the Nazis rolled into France in June 1940, they finally met their match in an unassuming civil servant named René Carmille.

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Deep in Vatican Archives, Scholar Discovers ‘Flabbergasting’ Secrets

David Kertzer put down his cappuccino, put on his backpack and went digging for more Vatican secrets.

“There’s an aspect of treasure hunting,” said Mr. Kertzer, a 74-year-old historian.

Moments later he cut through a crowd lined up to see Pope Francis, showed his credentials to the Swiss Guards and entered the archives of the former headquarters for the Holy Roman Inquisition.

Over the last few decades, Mr. Kertzer has turned the inquisitive tables on the church. Using the Vatican’s own archives, the soft-spoken Brown University professor and trustee at the American Academy in Rome has become arguably the most effective excavator of the Vatican’s hidden sins, especially those leading up to and during World War II.

The son of a rabbi who participated in the liberation of Rome as an Army chaplain, Mr. Kertzer grew up in a home that had taken in a foster child whose family was murdered in Auschwitz. That family background, and his activism in college against the Vietnam War, imbued him with a sense of moral outrage — tempered by a scholar’s caution.

The result are works that have won the Pulitzer Prize, captured the imagination of Steven Spielberg and shined a sometimes harsh light on one of earth’s most shadowy institutions.

Mr. Kertzer’s latest book, “The Pope at War,” looks at the church’s role in World War II and the Holocaust — what he considers the formative event of his own life. It documents the private decision-making that led Pope Pius XII to stay essentially silent about Hitler’s genocide and argues that the pontiff’s impact on the war is underestimated. And not in a good way.

“Part of what I hope to accomplish,” Mr. Kertzer said, “is to show how important a role Pius XII played.”

The current pope, Francis, said “the church is not afraid of history,” when in 2019 he ordered the archives of Pius XII opened. But as Francis wrestles with how forcefully to condemn a dictator, this time Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Mr. Kertzer has unearthed some frightening evidence about the cost of keeping quiet about mass killings.

Mr. Kertzer makes the case that Pius XII’s overriding dread of Communism, his belief that the Axis powers would win the war, and his desire to protect the church’s interests all motivated him to avoid offending Hitler and Mussolini, whose ambassadors had worked to put him on the throne. The pope was also worried, the book shows, that opposing the Führer would alienate millions of German Catholics.

The book further reveals that a German prince and fervent Nazi acted as a secret back channel between Pius XII and Hitler, and that the pope’s top Vatican adviser on Jewish issues urged him in a letter not to protest a Fascist order to arrest and send to concentration camps most of Italy’s Jews.

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Ratline: The Vatican, The Nazis, & The CIA V2

In one of the more shocking episodes of the Cold War tens of thousands of Nazi war criminals and their fascist allies were smuggled out of Europe and resettled around the world in places like Argentina, Canada, Australia and the United States. Others were resettled throughout the middle east a few ended up as far away as South East Asia. They were considered too valuable by western intelligence to face justice for their crimes. 27 Million people were killed in the Soviet Union alone, 4 million in Poland,  I’ve written of the many uses these fascist exiles were put to in my previous articles. They were used as spies, propagandists and terrorists in the west’s secret war on the Soviet Bloc and even non-aligned countries like Yugoslavia. They went to work for Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, universities, and think tanks and were even used to turn out the vote for the Republican Party in the US. The Ukrainian fascists formed a powerful lobby in the US, Canada and Australia. In Canada for example the Ukrainian Nazi exiles are so powerful that they have placed one of their own at the head of Canada’s Ministry of  Foreign Affairs  Chrystia Freeland.  As the cold war neared it’s end these fascist movements in exile returned home seizing power with the help of Western Intelligence in Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, in the 1990’s and  Ukraine in 2004 and again in 2014. They also have a great deal of influence in the Baltic countries of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania where SS veterans hold yearly parades and are treated as heroes. Thus the fascist exiles have gone from a scandalous chapter in cold war history to the cause of a new cold war with Russia. They have played a vital role in the increasing danger of fascism worldwide.

   Students of CIA or MI6 history won’t be surprised to see them conspiring with Nazis and Fascists. The CIA has been involved in countless fascist coups from Guatemala in 1954 to Ukraine in 2014. CIA architect Allen Dulles was notorious for his nazi business ties before and during the war. The ratlines were only one element of CIA involvement with the nazis which included, Operation Sunrise (Dulles separate peace with the SS near wars end,) the recruitment of Reinhard Gehlen and his Org of nazi war criminals, the phony denazification of West Germany, Operation Bloodstone (placing nazis in american universities and think tanks), Operation Paperclip (recruiting Nazi Scientists) , the Free Europe Committees, fascist stay behind networks like GLADIO, and more. The   British did not even wait for World War 2 to end before siding with Greek Fascists in crushing the Greek Partisans who had single handedly defeated the Nazi occupation of their country. MI6 played a key role in using the fascist exiles to wage war on the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia between the disbanding of OSS in 1945 and the creation of the CIA in 1947. MI6  had worked with these same fascists before the war when the Ustashi and Stepan Bandera’s OUN Ukrainian fascists were both on their payroll. CIA architect Allen Dulles and his brother John Foster had like the british been in business with the fascists before during and after the war. 

   More shocking is the role of the Vatican in all this. Perhaps it shouldn’t be so surprising given the history of the Church. During the Middle ages clergy often played the role of diplomats, spies and technocrats in royal courts as they were comparatively well educated and often of noble lineage. In Italy the Vatican held vast territories and became a state pursuing it’s own ruthless realpolitik waging wars for territory. Popes like the Borgias became notorious for their ruthlessness and corruption. The church also became a vast business enterprise holding valuable lands, manufacturing goods, and eventually making a fortune in the slave trade. They would play a key role in the conquest of the Americas and the genocide that followed and would compete with the protestant missionaries in the conquest of Asia and Africa. The chance to seize the vast assets the church accumulated over the centuries became a driving force behind the Reformation and the bloody wars of religion that lasted centuries. Then came the French Revolution and democracy became a major threat to the wealth of the church. Worse it unleashed revolutions across Europe including Italy and the church lost most of it’s territory. The Vatican became as obsessed with battling revolution as it had once been with battling heresy. Then came World War 1 and the Russian Revolution which threatened to spread across Europe. If the church was terrified of liberal democracy you can imagine it’s horror at the triumph of “godless Communism.” To sum things up the Vatican had millennia of experience in espionage, propaganda, diplomacy setting up NGOs as fronts and other instruments of soft power and had been fighting for centuries to preserve it’s power and it’s vast fortune. It isn’t my intent to single out the Catholic Church as one could also write a book on Orthodox or protestant ties to fascism. Less well known are the Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim ties to fascism. American evangelicals for example have long played an important role in international fascist networks like WACL.

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How the Supreme Court Rewrote the Constitution Part VII: Concentration Camps and the End

This is the last installment in a series on the nadir, or low point, of the U.S. Supreme Court. This was the period from 1937 to 1944, when the court stopped protecting the Constitution’s limits on the federal government. Our Constitution has never fully recovered.

The firstsecondthirdfourthfifth and sixth installments related to how the justices initially tried to balance the demands of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal with the Constitution’s rules. In 1937, however, Roosevelt began to replace sitting justices with New Deal enthusiasts who had no prior judicial credentials. The remodeled bench successively discarded limits on federal spending, federal property ownership, and federal economic regulation. In at least one case, it abandoned habeas corpus and the right to a trial by jury.

This final installment addresses the court’s role in what was, aside from slavery, the most egregious violation of civil rights in U.S. history. It adds some observations on how the court’s abysmal record from 1937 to 1944 continues to affect us today.

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Sleeping With The Third Reich: America’s Unspoken “Alliance” with Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union

Prescott Bush was a partner of Brown Brothers Harriman & Co and director of Union Banking Corporation which had close relations with German corporate interests including Thyssen Steel, a major company involved in the Third Reich’s weapons industry. 

“…[N]ew documents, declassified [in 2003], show that even after America had entered the war [December 8, 1941] and when there was already significant information about the Nazis’ plans and policies, he [Prescott Bush] worked for and profited from companies closely involved with the very German businesses that financed Hitler’s rise to power. It has also been suggested that the money he made from these dealings helped to establish the Bush family fortune and set up its political dynasty” (The Guardian, September 25, 2004)

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Without US support to Nazi Germany, the Third Reich would not have been able to wage war on the Soviet Union. Germany’s oil production was insufficient to wage a major military campaign. Throughout the war, the Third Reich relied on regular shipments of crude oil  from US Standard Oil owned by the Rockefeller family.

The main producing countries in the early 1940s were: the United States (50% of global oil production), the Soviet Union, Venezuela, Iran, Indonesia, and Romania.

Without a steady supply of oil, Germany would not have been able to conduct Operation Barbarossa which was launched on June 22, 1941. The invasion of the Soviet Union was intent upon reaching and taking control of the oil resources of the Soviet Union in the Caucasus and Caspian sea regions: the oil of Baku.

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Hitler and The Two Popes

In the early 1930s, there was a concerted effort on the part of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party to consolidate power. The back end methods of this consolidation are well taught and well known, fear, intimidation, and street violence. However, the front part, the legitimate part, is less studied by the majority of the public.

Knowing that his radical Nazi party was in a precarious position electorally, Hitler set out to bring centrist parties into the fold. One such party was the Centre Party which had long been a bastion for political German Catholics. Hitler aimed to reduce the political power of the Catholic Church while receiving an international agreement with the Holy See. He achieved both brilliantly.

On their faces, it does not seem like the Pope and the Nazis would have much in common, and in many cases, they did not. There was one binding similarity between the two that brought them close together in the early 1930s: hatred for communism.

Both the new Nazi government in Germany as well as the Vatican in Italy were both publicly and diametrically opposed to communism. The Nazis were opposed to it for political reasons while the Catholics were opposed for religious reasons. Communism was a completely atheist system which had cracked down on Christianity in Russia and elsewhere leading to alarm in Vatican City.

(As a side note, the Papacy would remain staunchly anti-communist all the way through the Cold War.)

In 1933, Pius XI and one of his top advisors, Eugenio Pacelli who would succeed Pius XI as Pius XII, signed the Reichskonkordat with Germany. This sweeping document paved the way for Hitler to sweep the Catholic influence in Germany aside while giving him an international political victory on the world stage.

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Cold-case investigation names surprise suspect in Anne Frank’s betrayal

A six-year cold case investigation into the betrayal of Anne Frank has identified a surprising suspect in the mystery of how the Nazis found the hiding place of the famous diarist in 1944.

Anne and seven other Jews were discovered by the Nazis on Aug. 4 of that year, after they had hid for nearly two years in a secret annex above a canal-side warehouse in Amsterdam. All were deported and Anne died in the Bergen Belsen camp at age 15.

A team that included retired U.S. FBI agent Vincent Pankoke and around 20 historians, criminologists and data specialists identified a relatively unknown figure, Jewish notary Arnold van den Bergh, as a leading suspect in revealing the hideout.

Some other experts emphasised that the evidence against him was not conclusive.

Investigating team member Pieter van Twisk said the crucial piece of new evidence was an unsigned note to Anne’s father Otto found in an old post-war investigation dossier, specifically naming Van den Bergh and alleging he passed on the information.

The note said Van den Bergh had access to addresses where Jews were hiding as a member of Amsterdam’s wartime Jewish Council and had passed lists of such addresses to the Nazis to save his own family.

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