Messages 2011

Thomas J. Watson and the Nazis.

May 25th, 2011

Berkeley, California

Received by FAB


I am here, Thomas J. Watson.

Yes, it is I, the head of IBM in the Nazi era. Read this book [“IBM and the Holocaust” by Edwin Black], and you will discover why I am now in a hell of my own making. I set up my soul to be in this place of torture, darkness, and misery. When I think of the money I earned assisting the Nazi regime, and the subterfuge I engaged in to hide my involvement, it’s all like ashes in my mouth.

What did I accomplish? I damned my soul. Oh, if I could have only seen this! But I was fixated on making money, and I was clever in hiding my involvement. And the ultimate irony is that it is all known now. What is denied in one generation becomes established fact in future generations. So don’t be concerned. These things have to find their way in the world, and I think you can understand how hard it is for Americans to accept such a monstrous reality.

I can remember when I was a boy, dreaming about my future. Well, this is what it came to.


Thomas John Watson, Sr. (February 17, 1874 – June 19, 1956) was president of International Business Machines (IBM), who oversaw that company’s growth into an international force from 1914 to 1956. Watson developed IBM’s distinctive management style and corporate culture, and turned the company into a highly-effective selling organization, based largely around punched card tabulating machines. A leading self-made industrialist, he was one of the richest men of his time and was called the world’s greatest salesman when he died in 1956.

Watson’s merger of diplomacy and business was not always lauded. During the 1930s, IBM’s German subsidiary was IBM’s most profitable foreign operation, and a recent book argues that Watson’s pursuit of profit led him to personally approve and spearhead IBM’s strategic technological relationship with the Third Reich. In particular, critics point to the coveted “Eagle with Star” medal that Watson received at the Berlin ICCC meeting in 1937, as evidence that he was being honored for the help that IBM’s German subsidiary Dehomag (Deutsche Hollerith-Maschinen Gesellschaft mbH) and its punch card machines provided the Nazi regime, particularly in the tabulation of census data. The most recent study of the matter, however, argues that Watson believed, perhaps naively, that the medal was in recognition of his years of labor on behalf of global commerce and international peace. Watson soon began second-guessing himself for accepting the medal, and eventually returned the medal to the German government in June 1940. German Chancellor Adolf Hitler was furious at the slight, and he declared that Watson would never step on German-controlled soil again. As anticipated, Dehomag went into revolt, its management decrying Watson’s stupidity and openly wondering whether or not it would be best if the firm separated from its American owner. The debate ended when Germany declared war on the United States in December, 1941, and the German government took custody of the Dehomag operation. (Source - Wikipedia)