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An Open Letter About IBM and the Holocaust 07/02/2002
12:06 PM
Baumel Full Retraction 2797 words Page 1 of 9

Edwin Black
Rockville MD 20850

February 11, 2002

Full Retraction and Apology by Historian Judith Baumel
regarding the book IBM and the Holocaust

Respected Holocaust historian Judith Baumel, a professor of
Jewish Studies at Bar Ilan University, associate editor of
the Holocaust Encyclopedia and author of several other
Holocaust books, has just issued a full retraction and
apology for an article she wrote for the Jerusalem Report,
on my book IBM AND THE HOLOCAUST. Baumel’s article contained
numerous false statements and distortions. The Jerusalem
Report is arguably Israel’s pre-eminent English-language
international magazine. Just after publication, Jerusalem
Report editors pulled Baumel’s article from its website and
web archive. The magazine also ran my letter of correction
without rebuttal.
At my request, historian Baumel has donated her 300
shekel editorial fee to Yad Vashem. Attached to this
statement is Baumel’s retraction/apology, a Yad Vashem
receipt for 300 shekels, plus an exchange of letters between
Edwin Black and the Jerusalem Report underscoring their
mutual goodwill. My purpose in disseminating this
retraction/apology and supporting materials is only to
correct the record and ensure that only accurate information
about this important Holocaust topic circulates. I continue
to enjoy and respect the Holocaust Encyclopedia. Of course,
I thank my friends and colleagues at Jerusalem Report,
especially for the leadership and professionalism shown by
its editor David Horovitz. The retraction documents follow.

Edwin Black
Author of IBM and the Holocaust

[Five documents with GIFs have been linked in this complex
MS Word file. If any of the GIFS do not load, such as logos,
signatures, or the Yad Yashem receipt, please contact the
author for snail mail or fax copies.]

Judy Baumel
Tabenkin 4
Ramat Gan, ISRAEL

Mr. Edwin Black
Rockville, Md.

Dear Edwin,
Re: An Open Letter about IBM and the Holocaust

In a summer issue of the Jerusalem Report, I wrote an
article about Edwin Black and his book IBM and the Holocaust
(Crown, 2001). This article was to be based on interviews
and my own historical expertise. The editorial process is
complex, involving many drafts. Unfortunately, my final
published article included errors and misstatements, which
need to be corrected and/or clarified. The publication
itself has already pulled this article from its website and
archive. This letter should be my final word on my article.

1. First and foremost, quotes in my article from
historian Peter Hayes and Omar Bartov respectively dismissed
IBM and the Holocaust as “padded and sloppy,” and
“undocumented conjecture.” I added other narrative comments
asserting the book contained “factual inaccuracies” and
“imprecise accounts.”
To clarify: I have never found any evidence or
documentation that IBM and the Holocaust contains any
“padded or sloppy” content, “undocumented conjecture,”
“factual inaccuracies” or “imprecise accounts” regarding
Hollerith machines. While my article only quoted negative
reviews, the majority of historian comments have indeed been

2. My article stated: “And when critics of his best-
selling book charge that he bases his case on sloppy
research, he counters that they’re just jealous.” Later in
the text, “. Are scholars who are panning the book actually
just jealous of his success, as he would like us to think.”
My article also quoted Edwin Black as saying, “Of course
they [historians] hate me, it’s a bestseller.”
To clarify: The first sentence — the “introduction” to
the review — was written by a Jerusalem Report editor,
based on the sentence in my review that reads “Are scholars
who are panning the book actually just jealous of his
success, as he would like us to think…” Mr. Black never
stated of his critics “they’re just jealous.” Moreover, Mr.
Black never stated to me that historians are jealous of him
or hate him and emphasized that he has many excellent day-to-
day social and professional relationships with historians.

3. My article stated: “In agreement with Crown, his
publishers, during the months before publication, Black had
his IBM manuscript sent to 35 readers throughout the world,
some of them historians, others research experts, to get pre-
publication feedback.”
To clarify: there was no such agreement with Crown.
Edwin Black undertook the widespread international pre-
publication review process on his own initiative with no
input from Crown, and at his own expense.

4. My article stated: Among the dozens of experts who
agreed to join the secrecy pact surrounding the book, why
was there only one world-caliber expert on the history of
Nazi Germany – Prof. Shlomo Aronson, of the Hebrew
University . and the glaring absence of most of the
prominent Holocaust scholars – both in Israel and abroad –
among his list of advance readers.”
To clarify: For any author to submit his book to
literally dozens of historians and experts for pre-
publication scrutiny is exceptional. Clearly, among his
publicly available list of pre-publications readers, there
are indeed several historians world-caliber in their field
including but not limited to Gerhard Hirschfeld, President
of the International Committee for the History of the Second
World War; Robert Wolfe, former Chief National Archives
expert for captured German records and Nuremberg
documentation; Franciszek Piper, historian, Auschwitz-
Birkenau State Museum; and Shlomo Aronson, Hebrew
University. In addition, there were many internationally
respected niche historians and experts, including but not
limited to Greg Bradsher, Holocaust-Era assets expert,
National Archives; Bob Moore, University of Sheffield,
author of Victims and Survivors: The Nazi Persecution of the
Jews in the Netherlands, 1940-1945; Erik Somers, historian,
Netherlands Institute for War Documentation; Robert Paxton,
professor emeritus, Columbia University author with Michael
Marrus of Vichy France and The Jews; Henry Mayer, chief
archivist, US Holocaust Museum. More names, as well their
endorsements, can be found on the author’s website and in
the book’s Acknowledgements. In addition to the 35 who
agreed to read the manuscript, the author telephoned or
emailed many others offering them the same opportunity.
Among them was Christopher Browning, Peter Hayes, Michael
Marrus, and Yoav Gelber, but these Holocaust historians were
either unwilling, or did not have the time. The author
required each reader to scrutinize every page of the
manuscript involving weeks and sometimes months of
review-which all his readers did.

5. My article stated: “Black’s advance publicity raises
a number of questions that historians have already
addressed. Finally there is the ongoing high-profile
publicity campaign, which has seen his book go through nine
printings since its debut.” My article also stated there
were: “dozens of publishers in 40 countries prepared for the
February 12 publication date.”
To clarify: There was no advance publicity. All the
scholars working with the author for years before
publication were sworn to secrecy and the book was embargoed
by the publisher. This is well-known. The publisher
therefore sacrificed all the benefits of advance publicity
and retail placement. In addition, there is no “on-going
publicity campaign.” Crown issued a single press release,
and provided the author a publicist for one week in
February. The author does not solicit interviews and did not
solicit the interview with me. Crown went to press with a
single 100,000 run, not nine reprints. There were of course
not dozens of publishers involved in 40 countries, but only
nine, which are named in the Acknowledgements. Since
publication of my article, two more have been added:
Japanese and Hungarian.

6. My article stated: “A closer look at the furious
historical debate over Black’s book deals not with the
publicity backdrop but with the contents and conclusions. A
major point involves Black’s insinuation that the Final
Solution could not have taken place without IBM technology.”
To clarify: I reviewed this very issue with the author
in a telephone call. The author denied this misreading and
read aloud to me the following phrase from p.11 of his
Introduction. “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.” This same point can be read
on the author’s website. Several reviewers have taken
special note of this stance in Black’s book-so it is well-
known. When the author read his p.11 statement to me over
the phone, I acknowledged to him that any claim that Black
asserted, “the Final Solution could not have taken place
without IBM technology” was indeed a misreading of his book,
adding “That clears it up.”

7. My article stated: These and other historians go on
to claim that Hollerith machines may have existed in several
camps, but they were usually used to calculate wages for SS
To clarify: Claims that IBM machines were used in a
concentration camp to calculate SS wages has actually only
appeared in one place, a New York-area newspaper, and this
was claimed by a single historian Omar Bartov, not several
historians. Bartov wrote not about plural camps but only one
camp, Dachau. Edwin Black disputed this assertion-and
several others made by Bartov, when the review came out,
saying there was not a shred of Nazi-era documentation
anywhere even suggesting that machines in the massive
Hollerithbunker at Dachau were used for SS wages. The
managing editor of the newspaper asked for documentation on
the Dachau claim and received none. Thereupon the newspaper
published the author’s letter of correction without rebuttal
or reply. The published letter of correction in the
newspaper stated: “We have been unable to locate a single
historian, survivor, archivist, or editor anywhere who can
produce even one Nazi-era document, oral testimony, or
memoir to support many of Bartov’s assertions. Indeed, we
found new documents, which only strengthen the book’s
documentation and make Bartov’s statements even more
impossible to justify. For example, Mr. Bartov flatly states
that the Hollerith machines at Dachau were used only for
payroll. No one at Dachau’s archives-nor anyone else we
contacted-knows of any document to support this notion.”
When this letter used the word “editor,” it included the
editors of the newspaper. Nor do I have any documentation
that supports the claim that IBM machines at Dachau were
used to calculate wages.

9. My article stated: In both the introduction and his
rebuttals, Black reminds readers and critics that he draws
heavily on an earlier article dealing with IBM’s Holocaust
involvement, written by technological expert David Luebke
and the late historian Sybil Milton, and appearing in 1994
in the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing. A closer
look at the Luebke-Milton article, though, shows a somewhat
different set of conclusions. Agreeing that Watson was not
an ideological Nazi sympathizer but more a greedy
capitalist, the authors state that the Holocaust was not
truly facilitated by the availability of IBM census-taking
technologies, as Black would like to have us think, and that
Hollerith technology was only incidental to the Final
To clarify: Edwin Black has never reminded any readers
or critics, in his “Introduction or rebuttals” or in any
other forum, that he drew heavily or relied upon the Milton-
Luebke article. It’s simply not true. His Introduction is at
his website under Excerpts. The Milton-Luebke article is
never mentioned anywhere in the book, except routinely in a
brief bibliographical sketch at the end of the book. David
Luebke is not a “technological expert,” he is a professor of
central European history at the University of Oregon,
previously with USHMM. In their article, there is no mention
of Watson-as a greedy capitalist or otherwise, and no such
conclusion. For perspective sake, note what the authors say
about their own very pioneering and highly speculative work:
“The precise role played by punched-card tabulation
technology remains a matter of speculation.” This vanguard
article was published not in a Holocaust journal but an
electronics journal, that is the Journal of the Institute of
Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The full text of the
authors’ own summary appears online at the IEEE site (Page doesn`t exist) It
“This article shows how a variety of administrative
tools – including two national censuses, a system of
resident registration, and several special racial databases
– were used to locate groups eventually slated for
deportation and death, as well as the possible role played
in this process by Hollerith tabulation technology. . While
the ‘final solution’ was in no sense caused by the
availability of sophisticated census-taking and tabulation
technologies, concrete evidence suggests that Hollerith
machines rationalized the management of concentration camp
labor, an important element in the Nazi program of
“extermination through work. ”
It should be noted that the journal article co-author
Luebke himself was one of Edwin Black’s pre-publication
readers. On publication of the book, Luebke issued the
following public statement: “IBM and the Holocaust is an
important and path-breaking book. Edwin Black is the first
to recount the full scope of IBM’s many entanglements with
the Nazi regime: its efforts to remain in Hitler’s good
graces despite his escalating persecutions of German Jews;
IBM’s efforts to retain control over its German subsidiary,
Dehomag; and the corporation’s campaign to preserve a near-
monopoly over tabulation technology in Europe well after the
outbreak of war in 1939. Just as important, Black exposes
the many ways in which Nazi authorities abused Hollerith
technology to facilitate the destruction of European Jewry-
from the tabulation of racial census data to the
exploitation of concentration camp prisoners and
“Extermination through Work.”
It is also relevant that Sybil Milton, until her
untimely death, herself was one of Edwin Black’s leading
supporters in his work. Indeed, during his research, Sybil
Milton wrote a letter, that I have seen, to IBM chairman Lou
Gerstner demanding the company open its archives to Edwin
Black. In her letter, she described Edwin Black in these
words: “I have known Mr. Black since the early 1980s. His
previous studies have focussed on Holocaust era finances and
Jewish affairs and speak for themselves. He is thorough and
fair in his analysis and writing.”

10. My article stated: “Finally, there is the veil of
secrecy surrounding the procedure he used in providing
advance review copies to historians, and the glaring absence
of most of the prominent Holocaust scholars – both in Israel
and abroad – among his list of advance readers. This strange
type of pre-publication “peer review,” in which the readers
are chosen by Black, raises more than a few questions about
the book’s reliability. Having spoken to several of them
after they had read the book, I found that they all
overlapped on one point: that Black took an interesting
subject and built it up beyond proportion, probably in order
to tell a better story.
To clarify: I did not speak to any of Edwin Black’s pre-
publication readers.

11. My sidebar to the article stated: “Black can move
from being on the attack to sounding emotionally fragile,
such as when his voice cracks when he speaks about the
devastation caused by the Nazis. It is hard to know whether
one is dealing with a mournful representative of the ‘second
generation’ or a consummate performer who knows just when to
cut from IBM statistics to tearful pathos.”
I apologize: At no time did I ever have any intention
of my phrasing being understood derogatorily and I apologize
to Edwin Black if it was understood as such. No son of
survivors deserves the unfortunate description of being
called a “consummate performer”, I should not have written
it, it was surely misunderstood, and I do not believe Edwin
Black is any way insincere when reflecting on the horrors of
the Holocaust.

Judith Baumel
Tel Aviv
January 14, 2002

[Incidental to her retraction and apology Judith Baumel has
donated 300 shekels to Yad Vashem, representing the
editorial fee she received from the Jerusalem Report for the
article. Attached is Yad Vashem receipt no. 05740, dated
January 14, 2002 for $300 shekels. –Edwin Black]

October 10, 2001
Attn: Edwin Black
From: David Horovitz
By fax to: 301-424-8008

Dear Edwin,

I am glad we have been able to resolve this matter
professionally and amicably. As soon as you expressed your
concerns, we immediately removed the Baumel article from our

All my best to you in the future.

David Horovitz,
Editor, The Jerusalem Report

P.O.B. 1805, Jerusalem 91017, Israel

Edwin Black
Rockville MD 20850

October 10, 2001

David Horovitz, editor
Jerusalem Report
P.O. Box 1805
Jerusalem Israel 91017
fax: 972-2-537-9489

Dear David:

Thank you for your prompt and professional response
regarding Judith Baumel’s
article on my book, IBM and the Holocaust, and for
publishing my letter of correction in your recent issue. I
note that the article is no longer on your website. Thank
you for resolving this issue between myself and the
Jerusalem Report. I wish the Jerusalem Report well.

Best wishes,
edwin black