The Holodomor Famine

The word genocide conjures disturbing images of the Holocaust. Yet, another massive but often overlooked extermination of human life also occurred on the European continent. This little known genocide, orchestrated by Josef Stalin’s Soviet regime, is called the Ukrainian Holodomor Famine. The name Holodomor literally translates into “death by forced starvation,” and the death toll from this manmade famine was high–approximately 3,000 to 10,000 deaths, and 7 million victims. The official number however, is unknown today due to cover-ups orchestrated by the Soviet Union. The Holodomor Famine occurred between the years 1932 and 1933, and recently has been recognized as genocide by several nations including the United States, Canada and Mexico.

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the reemergence of Ukraine as an autonomous nation, the Ukrainian people have sought to remember the victims of this tragedy by building monuments dedicated to it all over the world. One such monument can be found in Parma, Ohio, on the grounds of a church named Saint Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral. Parma, Ohio may seem like an unlikely destination for a monument dedicated to those who lost their lives in the Holodomor Famine in 1932 and 1933. Yet upon further inspection, it seems to make more sense. The most important reason is tied into immigration. The City of Parma saw a large wave of Ukrainian immigrants during the years between the World Wars, and again after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Furthermore, there are a large number of Ukrainian immigrants the Parma, Ohio that might have been directly affected by the Holodomor Famine. Many knew or were related to someone who was a victim of this tragedy. The monument was created in October 1993 in order to mark the 60th anniversary of the famine.


IBM and the Holocaust

Mankind barely noticed when the concept of massively organized information quietly emerged to become a means of social control, a weapon of war, and a roadmap for group destruction. The unique igniting event was the most fateful day of the last century, January 30, 1933, the day Adolf Hitler came to power. Hitler and his hatred of the Jews was the ironic driving force behind this intellectual turning point. But his quest was greatly enhanced and energized by the ingenuity and craving for profit of a single American company and its legendary, autocratic chairman. That company was International Business Machines, and its chairman was Thomas J. Watson.

Der Führer’s obsession with Jewish destruction was hardly original. There had been czars and tyrants before him. But for the first time in history, an anti-Semite had automation on his side. Hitler didn’t do it alone. He had help.

In the upside-down world of the Holocaust, dignified professionals were Hitler’s advance troops. Police officials disregarded their duty in favor of protecting villains and persecuting victims. Lawyers perverted concepts of justice to create anti-Jewish laws. Doctors defiled the art of medicine to perpetrate ghastly experiments and even choose who was healthy enough to be worked to death-and who could be cost-effectively sent to the gas chamber. Scientists and engineers debased their higher calling to devise the instruments and rationales of destruction. And statisticians used their little known but powerful discipline to identify the victims, project and rationalize the benefits of their destruction, organize their persecution, and even audit the efficiency of genocide. Enter IBM and its overseas subsidiaries.

Solipsistic and dazzled by its own swirling universe of technical possibilities, IBM was self-gripped by a special amoral corporate mantra: if it can be done, it should be done. To the blind technocrat, the means were more important than the ends. The destruction of the Jewish people became even less important because the invigorating nature of IBM’s technical achievement was only heightened by the fantastical profits to be made at a time when bread lines stretched across the world.

So how did it work?

When Hitler came to power, a central Nazi goal was to identify and destroy Germany’s 600,000 Jews. To Nazis, Jews were not just those who practiced Judaism, but those of Jewish blood, regardless of their assimilation, intermarriage, religious activity, or even conversion to Christianity. Only after Jews were identified could they be targeted for asset confiscation, ghettoization, deportation, and ultimately extermination. To search generations of communal, church, and governmental records all across Germany-and later throughout Europe-was a cross-indexing task so monumental, it called for a computer. But in 1933, no computer existed.

When the Reich needed to mount a systematic campaign of Jewish economic disenfranchisement and later began the massive movement of European Jews out of their homes and into ghettos, once again, the task was so prodigious it called for a computer. But in 1933, no computer existed. When the Final Solution sought to efficiently transport Jews out of European ghettos along railroad lines and into death camps, with timing so precise the victims were able to walk right out of the boxcar and into a waiting gas chamber, the coordination was so complex a task, this too called for a computer. But in 1933, no computer existed.

However, another invention did exist: the IBM punch card and card sorting system-a precursor to the computer. IBM, primarily through its German subsidiary, made Hitler’s program of Jewish destruction a technologic mission the company pursued with chilling success. IBM Germany, using its own staff and equipment, designed, executed, and supplied the indispensable technologic assistance Hitler’s Third Reich needed to accomplish what had never been done before-the automation of human destruction. More than 2,000 such multi-machine sets were dispatched throughout Germany, and thousands more throughout German-dominated Europe. Card sorting operations were established in every major concentration camp. People were moved from place to place, systematically worked to death, and their remains cataloged with icy automation.

IBM Germany, known in those days as Deutsche Hollerith Maschinen Gesellschaft, or Dehomag, did not simply sell the Reich machines and then walk away. IBM’s subsidiary, with the knowledge of its New York headquarters, enthusiastically custom-designed the complex devices and specialized applications as an official corporate undertaking. Dehomag’s top management was comprised of openly rabid Nazis who were arrested after the war for their Party affiliation. IBM NY always understood-from the outset in 1933-that it was courting and doing business with the upper echelon of the Nazi Party. The company leveraged its Nazi Party connections to continuously enhance its business relationship with Hitler’s Reich, in Germany and throughout Nazi-dominated Europe.

Dehomag and other IBM subsidiaries custom-designed the applications. Its technicians sent mock-ups of punch cards back and forth to Reich offices until the data columns were acceptable, much as any software designer would today. Punch cards could only be designed, printed, and purchased from one source: IBM. The machines were not sold, they were leased, and regularly maintained and upgraded by only one source: IBM. IBM subsidiaries trained the Nazi officers and their surrogates throughout Europe, set up branch offices and local dealerships throughout Nazi Europe staffed by a revolving door of IBM employees, and scoured paper mills to produce as many as 1.5 billion punch cards a year in Germany alone. Moreover, the fragile machines were serviced on site about once per month, even when that site was in or near a concentration camp. IBM Germany’s headquarters in Berlin maintained duplicates of many code books, much as any IBM service bureau today would maintain data backups for computers.

I was haunted by a question whose answer has long eluded historians. The Germans always had the lists of Jewish names. Suddenly, a squadron of grim-faced SS would burst into a city square and post a notice demanding those listed assemble the next day at the train station for deportation to the East. But how did the Nazis get the lists? For decades, no one has known. Few have asked.

The answer: IBM Germany’s census operations and similar advanced people counting and registration technologies. IBM was founded in 1898 by German inventor Herman Hollerith as a census tabulating company. Census was its business. But when IBM Germany formed its philosophical and technologic alliance with Nazi Germany, census and registration took on a new mission. IBM Germany invented the racial census-listing not just religious affiliation, but bloodline going back generations. This was the Nazi data lust. Not just to count the Jews — but to identify them.

People and asset registration was only one of the many uses Nazi Germany found for high-speed data sorters. Food allocation was organized around databases, allowing Germany to starve the Jews. Slave labor was identified, tracked, and managed largely through punch cards. Punch cards even made the trains run on time and cataloged their human cargo. German Railway, the Reichsbahn, Dehomag’s biggest customer, dealt directly with senior management in Berlin. Dehomag maintained punch card installations at train depots across Germany, and eventually across all Europe.

How much did IBM know? Some of it IBM knew on a daily basis throughout the 12-year Reich. The worst of it IBM preferred not to know — “don’t ask, don’t tell” was the order of the day. Yet IBM NY officials, and frequently Watson’s personal representatives, Harrison Chauncey and Werner Lier, were almost constantly in Berlin or Geneva, monitoring activities, ensuring that the parent company in New York was not cut out of any of the profits or business opportunities Nazism presented. When U.S. law made such direct contact illegal, IBM’s Swiss office became the nexus, providing the New York office continuous information and credible deniability.

Certainly, the dynamics and context of IBM’s alliance with Nazi Germany changed throughout the twelve-year Reich….Make no mistake. The Holocaust would still have occurred without IBM. To think otherwise is more than wrong. The Holocaust would have proceeded — and often did proceed — with simple bullets, death marches, and massacres based on pen and paper persecution. But there is reason to examine the fantastical numbers Hitler achieved in murdering so many millions so swiftly, and identify the crucial role of automation and technology. Accountability is needed.

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Why Are Massive National Security Breaches So Ridiculously Easy?

While attending the court-martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning in Fort Meade yesterday, I was reminded once again that the biggest security breach in US history was as challenging and intricate as instant coffee. Witness after witness from the subcontracted world of “information assurance” took the stand to declaim the military’s ironclad information security (“InfoSec”) protocols and to also mumble about how these rules were never enforced. Installing the instant-message chat program mIRC may have been “not authorized,” but that didn’t keep the military itself from issuing bulletins on how to install it. Reporters from The Guardian long ago sketched the scene in the “SCIF”—“senstitive compartmented information facility”—at FOB Hammer where Manning worked in Army Intelligence as a scene of freshman-dorm indiscipline, with passwords posted on sticky-notes and everyone watching movies and playing online games, against the regs, on their computers. Manning famously exfiltrated the files on CD-ROMs marked “Lady Gaga”  got them onto a memory stick which he later uploaded in his secret hideout, a busy Barnes & Noble in suburban Maryland, over an open WiFi signal. There really was no infosec to speak of at Pfc. Manning’s deployment, and the selectivity of punishing him for unauthorized behavior that was pandemic—if not as bold and meaningful as his—will surely come into play when it’s sentencing time.


10 War Crimes of the US Civil War

When we think of war crimes, we think of the Nazis and Stalin’s henchmen. The American Civil War has been covered many times on Listverse, but history classes tend to overlook the presence of genuine crimes against the understood rules of proper war-time conduct. Here are 10 of the most heinous( examples. )


Sinkhole commission discusses public safety, long-term goals for Bayou Corne residents

A 13-member committee comprised of industry experts and scientists from around the world held their first meeting Friday to discuss how the Blue Ribbon Commission is going to tackle a 13-acre sinkhole that has forced the evacuation of 350 residents of a rural bayou town in Assumption Parish.
The commission’s mission is to ensure the long-term protection of the residents remaining in Bayou Corne and establish benchmarks for when evacuated residents can safely return to their homes.

“The Blue Ribbon Commission Will draw on experts from around the world to help guide leaders in Assumption Parish with specific benchmarks to protect the safety and lives in the Bayou Corne community,” Jindal said when announced the commission’s formation.
Experts believe a Texas Brine brine cavern was drilled too close to the edge of the Napoleonville salt dome and the sidewall of salt dome collapsed. Sinkholes are usually formed when the underground roofs of salt caverns cave in, Hecox said.