Nazis do Detailed Census of all Jews in Warsaw Hot

Nazis do Detailed Census of all Jews in Warsaw

Warsaw, 1939

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The Nazis conduct a detailed census of all the Warsaw Jews captured last month in the German invasion of Poland. The information from this census is made useful through the use of IBM sorting and tabulating machines which allow the Nazi authorities to quickly and easily obtain any information on anyone they want.

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 overestimated. IBM's Hollerith machines and their punch cards are making it possible for the Nazis to determine who is and is not Jewish, to trace people's racial lineage, to calculate how much they own, to track their movements, and far more.

By mid-1944, the Nazis will Hollerith Departments in all of their largest concentration camps: Mauthausen, Ravensbrück, Flossenbürg and Buchenwald.

The Hollerith cards created and used by the SS provide codes describing the grounds for a person's 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 (i.e. execution = 3, escape = 4, special treatment = 6).

All of this information is sorted and tabulated by the Nazis because it makes the administration of the massive camp system spread across the Reich and occupied territories possible. The Dachau concentration camp alone will be using 24 IBM machines by the end of the war.

These IBM machines and the way the Nazis are using them are, in so many ways, the origin of the "surveillance society" as well as an example of people's fears about what happens if powerful authoritarians have too much access to too much information about us.


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