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A United States judge has ruled that lawsuits can go ahead against several companies accused of helping South Africa's apartheid-era government. IBM, Ford and General Motors are among those corporations now expected to face demands for damages from thousands of apartheid's victims.
They argue that the firms supplied equipment used by the South African security forces to suppress dissent. The companies affected have not yet responded to the judge's ruling. [...]
US District Judge Shira Scheindlin in New York dismissed complaints against several companies but said plaintiffs could proceed with lawsuits against IBM, Daimler, Ford, General Motors and Rheinmetall Group, the German parent of an armaments maker.
"Corporate defendants accused of merely doing business with the apartheid government of South Africa have been dismissed," she said.
The plaintiffs argue that the car manufacturers knew their vehicles would be used by South African forces to suppress dissent. They also say that computer companies knew their products were being used to help strip black South Africans of their rights.
The judge disagreed with IBM's argument that it was not the company's place to tell clients how to use its products.
Through Dehomag, (IBM's German subsidiary) IBM equipped Nazi Germany [...] One use of the Hollerith machine was to compile data on German Jews - who they were and where they lived. The anti - semitism of the Nazis was clear from the outset with the adoption of discriminatory laws against German Jews throughout the 1930s. None of this appeared to trouble the conscience of the IBM executives, in fact, so close had the commercial relationship grown between IBM and the Nazis, that Hitler awarded a special medal to Watson in Berlin in 1937.
The actions of Watson and IBM during, or even before this period, were far from unique amongst US capitalists and the corporations they owned and controlled. Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, was an outspoken anti - semite, who, allegedly, gave financial support to the Nazi Party in the early 1920s. Hitler was certainly an admirer of Ford and even borrowed passages from Ford's book 'The International Jew' to use in Mein Kampf. In 1922, The New York Times reported that Hitler kept a large picture of Ford in his private office, as well as books written and published by Ford. Once in power, Hitler was to decorate Ford with the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, Nazi Germany's highest award to foreigners.
("IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation") [...] tells the story of the involvement of this major US corporation in the establishment of Hitler’s Third Reich and the destruction of European Jewry.
Author Edwin Black shows how technology developed in America by Herman Hollerith—a punch card and punch card sorting system—enabled the Nazis to organise their war machine and carry through the efficient and systematic genocide of the Jews. At the time of the Nazi dictatorship, IBM had a near worldwide monopoly over the technology and the production of its vital ingredient—the punch cards.
Edwin Black is not new to the subject of the Holocaust. His parents were both Jews of European decent and survivors of the Holocaust. Black first encountered the punch card technology at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, where he saw a Hollerith card sorting machine on exhibition. He explains that it was then that questions started to nag at him—what role did this machine play for the Nazis? What was the role of IBM? This became the starting point for his investigation. In 1998, he began to pursue these questions vigorously, recruiting a team of researchers, interns, translators and assistants, until it comprised more than 100 people.
In his introduction, Black explains “I was fortunate to have an understanding of Reich economics and multi-national commerce from my earlier book, The Transfer Agreement, [which dealt with the secret pre-war agreement between Zionism and the Nazis that enabled a limited number of Jews to leave Germany for Palestine] as well as a background in the computer industry, and years of experience as an investigative journalist specialising in corporate misconduct. I approached this project as a typical if not grandiose investigation of corporate conduct with one dramatic difference: the conduct impacted on the lives and deaths of millions.”