The Premium on Life
It was only yesterday in the grand picture. Europe had just been conquered . The captured peoples of the nations on that continent were then tagged for counting. Premiums were taken on their lives.
This is the story of the International Tracing Service (ITS) , IBM, International Red Cross, insurance companies and your conscience. It is about the present struggle to see what is really inside the archives at Bad Arolsen in Germany. It concerns the use of slave labourers in Nazi Europe; and the benefiting by many insurance companies from deductions on the stipend pay of human slave labourers.
For sixty years, those records have been secret. Most of those human slaves are dead. Yet several of those same insurance companies, which received those premiums, exist among us today – yet under different names.
The point is that is one continent can be conquered, tagged and numbers than so can another. Especially when we give permission for the same companies and variables to keep operating among us.
To properly counts so many millions of people a very smart process needed to be implemented. A certain technology would need to be used to do the trick. A Abteilung Hollerith or Hollerith Department was set up in each camp’s Labor Assignment Office. IBM personnel serviced the machines on site in the camps. These documents often carry IBM’s stamp of authenticity, “Hollerith erfasst,” that is, “registered by Hollerith.”
The implications for Holocaust and Nazi-era research are staggering. Among the many by-products of the ITS revelations is vast additional proof of IBM’s minute-to-minute involvement in the 12-year Holocaust, new insights into the corporate beneficiaries of Germany’s slave and forced labor programs, an explosion of evidence that insurance companies participated in and benefited from the decimation of the Jews, and the dark details of persecution suffered by millions of individuals who would have otherwise disappeared into the bleak vastness of Hitler’s war against humanity. Some of the most important archival details of the nearly impenetrable archives have finally been revealed to this writer exclusively.
Because the ITS had previously focused only on individual victims, it never assembled the larger picture of which companies or entities were involved in Hitler’s industrial scale oppression. With digitizing, that is now possible. Assembling the big picture will be a problem for a host of major and even minor corporations, a gamut of insurance entities, and of course IBM, which automated and organized much of the process. Indeed, the slow pace is good news for them.
Without the power of IBM technology, the terrible details of Nazi crimes embedded within the ITS archives could not been preserved, and could not have been revealed with such stunning depth.
Even though millions did not survive, much of their story did. The details are embedded within the miles of records housed by the International Tracing Service (ITS) located at Bad Arolsen, Germany. But for sixty years, those records have been secret, available only to survivors and their nuclear families tracing loved ones, but even then only after years of heartbreaking persistence.
After a decades-long international effort, the sensitive ITS archives will soon be pried open. The unlocking follows a hard-negotiated accord among the eleven nations that comprise the commission that owns the archive. Those countries are the United States, France, England, Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, and Israel, plus the two former Axis powers, Italy and Germany. The International Red Cross was given custody and control of the archive, but only pursuant to the agreement.
Only an estimated twenty-five percent of the prodigious ITS collection relates to Jews. The remainder covers the fate of Gypsies, Poles, Dutch, and numerous other groups targeted for oppression and destruction.
Within Section 1, record subgroup 6 is a trove of prisoner cards organized by numbers and not names. These numbers were by and large assigned according to the Hollerith punch card system designed by IBM engineers. Forty-nine camps and ghettos are listed in this section, most assigned an alphabetically sequential number by the ITS. The Amersfoort police torture camp in Holland leads the list, numbered 1.1.1; the trio of Auschwitz camps in occupied Poland is 1.1.2, but those records hail mainly from the transport camp, with very little from the Birkenau death camp, and almost nothing from the Monowitz labor camp. The Warsaw Ghetto is listed as 1.1.44. Buchenwald is listed as 1.1.5.
Section 1’s subgroup 1.2.1 includes prisoner transport lists which were organized by IBM Hollerith and generally referred to in Nazi documents as “Hollerith transfer lists.” Subgroup 1.2.3 contains Gestapo registrations.
Section 2, dubbed “Forced Laborers,” with documents dating from 1939 to 1947, includes corporate involvement and insurance matters, and totals about 4,455,000 pages, or 13.5 percent. These files include the names of companies that benefited from slave labor. They are divided mainly by the Allied zone of occupation that captured the files. The American Zone is subgroup 2.1.1; the British Zone is 2.1.2. Nazi employment bureau records, such as the Employment Exchange in Warsaw numbered 2.3.3, are also contained in this collection. An IBM customer site in almost every concentration camp organized slave labor through the Abteilung Hollerith or Hollerith Department in each camp’s Labor Assignment Office. IBM personnel serviced the machines on site in the camps. These documents often carry IBM’s stamp of authenticity, “Hollerith erfasst,” that is, “registered by Hollerith.”
Sources with direct access to ITS files confirm that Hollerith punch cards or other Hollerith designations have been seen in many sections of the archive covering both wartime and postwar years. For example, postwar section 188.8.131.52 bears the notation “Hollerith cards of children.”
Among the millions of pages in Section 2 are many insurance records, covering sickness or health coverage of inmates, especially from local health insurance companies. Many of these so-called local health companies were, of course, part of larger, multinational insurance conglomerates. The local entities operated under disparate names that would not reveal their true ownership. Previously unknown but shown by the documents, wages of some laborers were handed over to local health insurance offices. Slave laborers in camps were, of course, paid no wages. But “forced laborers” taken to occupied lands were often paid a small stipend reduced by a traditional “withholding” to these local health insurance offices. This record section also features an abundant group of documents from a number of state-owned insurance firms, especially Austrian, Ukrainian, and Belgium firms.
That said, as the larger picture comes into focus, including labor and insurance information, the extent of IBM’s involvement will become more detailed.
Full Credit: Edwin Black