Hitler Announces Overdue German Census, Gives Nazis Accurate Data on Jews

Hitler Announces Overdue German Census, Gives Nazis Accurate Data on Jews

Adolf Hitler, 1941

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Adolf Hitler announces that a long-delayed census of the German people will occur. Although this sounds innocuous, it is not: a census will give the Nazis more accurate information about who is a Jew and where the Jews can be found.

The importance of IBM's German subsidiary Dehomag and the IBM machines in the Nazi persecution of Jews, as well as their later extermination efforts, probably cannot be underestimated.

IBM's Hollerith machines and their punch cards make it possible for the Nazis to organize and manage detailed information about who is and is not Jewish, to trace people's racial lineage, to calculate how much they own, to track their movements, and much more.

By mid-1944, the Nazis have Hollerith Departments (Hollerith Abteilung) "installed at the main concentration camps at Mauthausen, Ravensbrück, Flossenbürg and Buchenwald." The SS Hollerith cards include codes for the grounds for confinement (Jehovah's Witness = 01, homosexuals = 02, Jews = 05), birth date, gender, ethnicity (Reich German = 0, Ethnic German = 1, Foreigner = 2), labor capacity, occupation, and reason for departure (execution = 3, escape = 4, special treatment = 6).

This information is sorted and tabulated to make the administration of the massive camp system possible. Dachau alone will be using 24 IBM machines by the end of the war. These machines are, in many ways, both the origin of the "surveillance society" and an example of everyone's fears about what happens when powerful authoritarians have too much access to too much information about us.

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The Nazi Punch Card

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