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Interesting look at the auto industry.

by Ziks511 / December 21, 2008 4:59 AM PST

Car Wars: Fifty Years of Greed, Treachery, and Skulduggery in the Global Marketplace
By Jonathan Mantle

"Ferdinand Porsche, widely revered as the inventor of the VW Beetle, stole the plans for the "people's car" from a Czech designer with Hitler's help. General Motors manufactured jet engines for Hitler's army, then got $33 million in tax exemptions from the U.S. government for damages sustained by Allied bombing of its German factories. Packed with these and other tales of greed and treachery, Car Wars is a must-read lesson in industrial strategy and a fascinating, behind-the-scenes history of the world's best-known automobiles."

The Volkswagen was originally called the KdF Wagen, KdF being the Nazi workers vacation organization. The letters stand for Kraft durch Freude or Strength through Joy. The payments were recorded in a purchase book, the original stamp book where each stamp indicated a value paid. Nobody ever got a car that way. KdF Wagens were allotted to officials and diplomats, though after the war some people got a $200 discount for the book. During the war VW was producing the Kubelwagen (the Bucket wagen) which was the German equivalent of the Jeep.

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There's a similar story with IBM.
by drpruner / December 21, 2008 5:29 AM PST

Their German division continued to produce a "mainframe" computer which was of great use when the Nazis needed to keep track of ... ummmm ... "laborers".
No one questioned Watson's wholehearted support of the Allied war effort, once it got underway. His actions just before the war smacked of keeping a financial foot in both camps.

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Stories can be very entertaining, but frequently are not
by Kiddpeat / December 21, 2008 10:33 PM PST
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true indeed
by jonah jones / December 21, 2008 10:52 PM PST
[edit] IBM's role in WWII and the Holocaust]
In 2001, author Edwin Black published IBM and the Holocaust (ISBN 0-609-80899-0), a book that described and documented how IBM's New York headquarters and CEO Thomas J. Watson acted through its overseas subsidiaries to provide the Third Reich with punch card machines that could help the Nazis to track down the European Jewry (especially in newly conquered territory). The book quotes from numerous IBM and government memos and letters that describe how IBM in New York, IBM's Geneva office and Dehomag, its German subsidiary, were involved in supporting a wide range of Nazi activities. The book also includes IBM's internal reports that admit that these machines made the Nazis much more efficient in their efforts. A 2003 documentary film The Corporation showed close-ups of several documents including IBM code sheets for concentration camps taken from the files of the National Archives. Prisoner Code 8 was Jew, Code 11 was Gypsy. Camp Code 001 was Auschwitz, Code 002 was Buchenwald. Status Code 5 was executed by order, code 6 was gas chamber. One extensively quoted IBM report written by the company's European manager during WWII declared ?in Germany a campaign started for, what has been termed ? ?organization of the second front.?? The memo added, ?In military literature and in newspapers, the importance and necessity of having in all phases of life, behind the front, an organization which would remain intact and would function with ?Blitzkrieg? efficiency ? was brought out. What we had been preaching in vain for years all at once began to be realized.?

Although IBM actively worked with the Hitler regime from its inception in 1933 to its demise in 1945, IBM has asserted that since their German subsidiary came under temporary receivership by the Nazi authorities from 1941 to 1945, the main company was not responsible for its role in the latter years of the holocaust.[23] Shortly after the war, the company worked aggressively to recover the profits made from the many Hollerith departments in the concentration camps, the printing of millions of punchcards used to keep track of the prisoners, the custom-built punchcard systems, and its servicing of the Extermination through labour program. The company also paid its employees special bonuses based on high sales volume to the Nazis and collaborator regimes. As in many corporate cases, when the US entered the war, the Third Reich left in place the original IBM managers who continued their contacts via Geneva, thus company activities continued without interruption. IBM has consistently refused calls by Jewish, Gypsy, survivor, and veterans groups to apologize for its involvement with the Nazi regime. The book won two major 2001 awards from the American Society of Journalists and Authors: Best Book of the Year and Best Investigative Article of the Year for IBM and Auschwitz which was based on the book. IBM has never contradicted any of the evidence or facts in the books or the many documentaries, but claimed it has no real information on the period. IBM and the Holocaust has been featured in hundreds of news articles, magazine stories, TV shows and documentaries, virtually none with rebuttal from IBM. The company has referenced a New York Times editorial which states that Black's case "is long and heavily documented, and yet he does not demonstrate that I.B.M. [sic] bears some unique or decisive responsibility for the evil that was done."[24]

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"Prisoner Code 8 was Jew,
by drpruner / December 22, 2008 5:34 AM PST
In reply to: true indeed

Code 11 was Gypsy."
Did you happen to notice the code for Bibelforscher?
There also would have been one for Communist and one for homosexual.

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Thanks Jonah, that's the book I was trying to remember.
by Ziks511 / December 26, 2008 8:02 AM PST
In reply to: true indeed

I hate not having my library to hand.


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did you drop it on the floor?
by James Denison / December 27, 2008 2:11 AM PST

Having it to foot is not very "handy".

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You're correct. I was using modern terminology.
by drpruner / December 22, 2008 5:31 AM PST

Whatever they did have was hot stuff, just the sort of thing one would want to keep away from an arch-enemy.

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They were card sorters.
by Kiddpeat / December 22, 2008 8:00 AM PST

That wasn't exactly "hot stuff", and they had little, if any, strategic value. They were useful for administrative tasks. IBM was not in the computer business during the period in question.

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Actually, KP, they were high-speed mechanical...
by Paul C / December 22, 2008 8:13 AM PST

...tabulating machines, which at the time was "hot stuff," and they did have many useful military applications, logistical planning, inventory control and cryptanalysis being just three of them.

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(NT) They had some weird name, which I have forgotten.
by drpruner / December 22, 2008 9:06 AM PST
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You mean like these??
by Steven Haninger / December 22, 2008 9:12 AM PST

We used Hollerith coded punch cards with encrypted communications systems when I was in the USAF in about 1970. These were primarily for inventory management. I remember one of the biggest problems we had with the punches was hanging chad. Wink
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Greenfield Village in Michigan has
by drpruner / December 22, 2008 9:37 AM PST
In reply to: You mean like these??

a working Jacquard loom.

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Interesting and quite complex but what I'd
by Steven Haninger / December 22, 2008 9:44 AM PST

really like to see invented was a sewing process that didn't allow shirt buttons to come loose after one or two wearings. Happy

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buy Chinese
by jonah jones / December 22, 2008 11:37 AM PST

my wife bought me a shirt, pulled it out of the nylon sleeve and 2 buttons fell off

saved the washing powder at least Wink


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by Paul C / December 22, 2008 5:25 PM PST
In reply to: You mean like these??

Don't under any circumstances mention the term "hanging chad." There are some things that are truly better left unsaid... Devil

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My friend agrees.
by drpruner / December 23, 2008 6:53 AM PST

Right, Chad?

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They were card sorters with the ability to print reports.
by Kiddpeat / December 22, 2008 10:18 AM PST

They sorted punched cards, and printed reports. They could probably pull totals and subtotals on a sorted report. They may have been "hot stuff" for business, but they were not "hot stuff" for technical or military applications.

Please explain how they could be used for cryptoanalysis. Crypto needed the ability to run a program. Outside of sorting and totaling, these machines could not be programmed. I have used their successors, and they were not powerful in any sense of the word.

Logistical planning and inventory are administrative functions. The word I used was strategic. I don't think administrative has ever been considered strategic, but let's assume that it is. How did the German military make use of these machines strategically? How did they help the German military win military campaigns?

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So logistics isn't a strategic function?
by Paul C / December 22, 2008 6:37 PM PST

That reminds me of the WWII general who, after receiving a briefing on logistics at Eisenhower's HQ in the summer of 1944, is said to have stated, "I don't know exactly what in hell this 'logistics' is, but I want all of it I can get."

Two examples come to mind: 1) In the summer of 1942, Rommel's Afrika Korps broke through the British in North Africa and raced eastwards. As the Germans neared Cairo, the British embassy frantically burned its secret papers and prepared a naval evacuation. However, due to a serious lack of fuel, food, ammo and spare parts (by then, Rommel had fewer than 20 fully operational tanks left), the advance ground to a halt at the small trading stop of El Alamein. The Germans, of course, would get no further.

2) In France in 1944, the Allied breakout from Normandy that began on 20 July at St. Lo was sustained not by Patton's armor alone, but immeasurably by the many GIs - mostly from all black outfits, BTW - who kept the soldiers at the front lavishly supplied with what they needed to keep pushing on. Eventually, that assault also slowed and stopped due to the inability of the logisticians to supply the advance along the "broad front" that the Allied command had mandated. The resultant winter bloodbath at places such as Arnhem, the Bulge and the Hurtgen Forest can largely explained by the inability of the Allies to maintain their rapid advances of the summer and fall, when the Germans were losing faster than we could win.

Logistics - the art of giving the warfighter what he needs, when and where he needs it and in the quantities he needs - truly has been a strategic consideration in warfare; and as warfare has grown ever more technological and mechanized, its role is even more vital than ever.

Now, on to the use of mechanical tabulating machines: In any language, there are patterns of letters within words, and words within sentences. These patterns tend to repeat themselves more frequently in a body of language that is devoted to one specific topic, such as military and diplomatic communication. Prior to the advent of electronic computers, human cryptanalysts used to spend enormous amounts of time seeking to find these patterns and use them as a basis for deciphering messages. High speed mechanical tabulating machines were used to separate those patterns from the body of an encrypted message; freed from the need to pore over the messages and manually identify those patterns, the cryptanalysts' time was put to more productive use actually attacking the cipher system itself. See David Kahn's superb book The Codebreakers for a better explanation.

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Since you are unable to cite examples of the strategic use
by Kiddpeat / December 22, 2008 10:54 PM PST

of the IBM card sorters and printers, I must assume that there is no evidence of such use. QED

Attempting to make a point about administrative functions when I already granted the possibility of strategic value, for the sake of argument, is pretty pointless.

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Assumption is not proof KP, therefore no QED since nothing
by Ziks511 / December 26, 2008 7:57 AM PST

was actually demonstrated with any degree of certainty.

The company that gave birth to IBM had a division in Germany which made tabulation machines of various types used by the RHSD (the Reichsicherheitsdienst or Reich Security Office which handled the extermination camps) and the Reich Railways as well as most corporations above a certain size, and many other government entities. According to Martin Gilbert in his history of the Holocaust machines made by what became IBM corporation were used extensively in processing the information on prisoners generally, and particularly the large numbers of Concentration Camp prisoners involved in the Holocaust, and scheduling trains, and keeping track of the availability of rolling stock like railway cattle cars.

The company that gave birth to ITT owned a large section of Focke Wulf who were busily shooting down American bombers. Henry Ford gave significant sums of money to the NAZI Party both before and after Hitler's "election", and Ford's German division operated throughout the war, as did General Motors which made most of the road transport for the Wehrmacht and the SS. Prescott Bush was a large investor in the Hamburg Amerika Line which was the Nazi forced-coalescence of all trans-Atlantic shipping services.

Now all of these circumstances occurred before anyone knew clearly what the actual intentions of the Nazis were (because most people who could wade through the truly execrable translation of Mein Kampf available in English, didn't believe what was written there). By definition the German divisions of American companies ran their own operations during the hostilities, though it's possible there was some communication through Swiss intermediaries.

I think that General Motors trying to recover money supposedly lost by its German division during the war, however, was appalling. It's entirely different *after* finding out what the Nazis were actually up to, than making decisions before anybody had a clue. The US government and numerous corporations were very helpful to the British government from 1938 forward, though the liquidation of British owned businesses and assets in 1940 generally realized about 20 cents on the dollar. Exhausting all British assets was the first step to justifying Lend Lease to the American people.


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All of what you cite is irrelevant.
by Kiddpeat / December 26, 2008 9:31 AM PST

The main issue in the subthread was the strategic value of IBM equipment (tabulating machines) in the German war effort (i.e. Was IBM selling strategic technology to an arch-enemy of the US?). No strategic value, including your post, has yet been documented. Thus, the QED which continues to stand.

Your undocumented assertions of other involvement by IBM or its predecessors is irrelevant and not particularly useful or interesting. Perhaps some day soon you will begin documenting your assertions. Ditto with assertions involving GM.

Corporations, like people, are not responsible for the acts of their predecessors. The United States, and the world, owe a large debt of gratitude to the people who fostered the development and commercial use of the computer. Our arts and sciences have been vastly advanced by this technology, and obscure historical anomalies do not detract from that historical fact.

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With respect to crypto, you have not explained at all
by Kiddpeat / December 22, 2008 11:02 PM PST

how a card sorter can find patterns. The simple answer is that it can't. These machines had no ability to analyze letters within words, or words for patterns. Attempting to do so would simply produce meaningless lists which put things into alphabetical order, and which could not be traced back to a meaningful context. All they could do was sort things into order. That is not finding a pattern.

I'm still waiting for an explanation of how they could be used for crypto purposes. Did the allies use them that way? Not that I know of, and the allies were heavily involved in crypto during this period. Where are the historical examples? Did the allies miss the capability inherent in card sorters? The simple answer is NO. There is no capability.

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You have completely misunderstood how Hollerith punch cards
by Ziks511 / December 26, 2008 8:16 AM PST

used to work. each little square meant something, like Name- Jewish- Male- Country of Origin- Transit camp- Destination- and a thousand different categories.

They didn't read text, they read information already deciphered by human beings and encoded by category on the cards which were then sorted by the machines and the cards could then be read to make lists of names for transport, routing, and all sorts of other statistical information. The machines could also be used to find the railway cars to do the transporting, and to re-route trains around bombed lines or junctions.

It was only the Allies who were beginning to create machines that were more flexibly programmable viz. Colossus in England, and the work under John von Neumann at MIT which contributed to the Atom Bomb.


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In fact, as you no doubt know, one
by drpruner / December 23, 2008 6:56 AM PST

of the references I saw said it was IBM gear that let the Brits break Enigma.

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It is interesting that IBM itself
by Kiddpeat / December 24, 2008 2:27 AM PST
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That's news to me. The Enigma effort began with the Poles
by Ziks511 / December 26, 2008 8:57 AM PST

in the late 1920's who worked out the machinery, called Bombes to try various code keys to decipher the Enigma intercepts. Work moved from Poland to France and then to England. The Polish leader of the group was Marian Rajewski (a man) but he was frozen out by the Brits who took the equipment and put their own people on the project at Bletchley Park, which is about to be turned into condominiums as we write this.

Bombes were electro-mechanical computers based on telephone exchange equipment. The British succeeded in making larger and larger versions by the simple additive process of adding more and more alphabetical dials which speeded up the ability to try more separate variations more quickly. Because the Enigma machine would never encode a letter as itself that offerec an entry point into decryption. They also learned from the Poles the trick of stacking sheets of paper with the alphabet on it perhaps 40 or 50 times with certain letters punched out based on the content of the original message. On a light table this revealed which letters were more likely to be in the text and these were then used as settings for the machines.

Because the machines were electro-mechanical they consisted of rows and rows of dials with 26 letter settings and 0 to 9 number settings (total 35 for each dial) which would clack around progressively trying each combination of letters. If they were close to discovering the key (the settings for the rotors on the Enigma coding machine and it's plug board settings) the Bombe would stop, and the settings would be combined with other settings to try to get a clear decipherment.

Incidentally, Bombes were where we get the term "de-bugging" from, because insects crawled into the nice warm machines and got squashed between the rotating and stationary contacts, so the machines had to be cleaned several times a day.

Alan Turing was one of the mathematicians at Bletchley concerned with the Enigma decrypts.

The place where Hollerith machines might have been used was in sorting through certain forms of information like Unit numbers and Weather codes and various German acronyms.

The movie U-571 was really about an unplanned Royal Navy operation which recovered the Enigma machine and all the associated paperwork including code signs (printed in water soluble ink on paper towelling like paper) safely from U-110, and several lightning attacks made on various weather ships and a Norwegian island which also had the encoding equipment and the code keys for 2 or 3 months at a time. There was liaison between the Brits and the Yanks, but the Brits were in charge of Enigma and German codes, and the Yanks were in charge of Purple and JN-25 and Japanese codes. Bletchley did have a Japanese hut, and I met one of the women who worked there during the war in 1998 when we were living in Britain.

She was very surprised I knew anything about the Government Code and Cipher School which is what the operation was initially called. It was moved from Special Intelligence Service headquarters at 54 Broadway to Bletchley Park at the beginning of the war. Bletchley is one of the uglier 19th Century mansions in England, but it and the jury built huts (more like barns but less tall) that housed its various subsections Army Navy Airforce SS, Railway, Japanese etc. Should be preserved as a monument to Britain's survival and ingenuity in WW2 in my opinion, not turned into luxury accommodations. It's like building on Civil War Battlefields which happens too frequently in the US. It too seems like a desecration of the memory of those who fell there.


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depends how you define "computer" i guess
by jonah jones / December 22, 2008 11:34 AM PST

[edit] 1925?1949: IBM's early growth
During the next twenty-five years, IBM's organization and product lines grew steadily. Despite the Great Depression of the 1930s, IBM continued to develop and manufacture new products, and after the Social Security Act of 1935 secured a major government contract to maintain employment data for 26 million people. IBM's archive website[5] describes this as "the biggest accounting operation of all time," and it opened the door for a variety of other government contracts.

In 1928, IBM introduced a new 80 column rectangular-hole punched card.[6] This format became the standard "IBM Card" that was used by the company's tabulators and computers for many decades.

The rise of Nazi Germany and the onset of World War II had a profound impact on IBM. Like many U.S. businesses, IBM had relationships and contracts with the German military/industrial technocracy. This topic is addressed in more detail below (see IBM's role in WWII and the Holocaust).

Browning Automatic Rifle
M1 CarbineAfter America entered World War II, IBM played an active role in the U.S. war effort. According to the IBM archive website:

When World War II began, all IBM facilities were placed at the disposal of the U.S. government. IBM's product line expanded to include bombsights, rifles and engine parts ? in all, more than three dozen major ordnance items. Thomas Watson, Sr., set a nominal one percent profit on those products and used the money to establish a fund for widows and orphans of IBM war casualties.[7]

In particular, IBM manufactured the Browning Automatic Rifle and the M1 Carbine. Allied military forces widely utilized IBM's tabulating equipment for military accounting, logistics, and other war-related purposes. There was extensive use of IBM punch-card machines for calculations made at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project for developing the first atomic bombs; this has been notably discussed by Richard Feynman in his book, Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!. During the War IBM also built the Harvard Mark I for the U.S. Navy, the first large-scale automatic digital computer in the U.S.

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The definition of computer has been established.
by Kiddpeat / December 22, 2008 11:14 PM PST

It is not ambiguous. A computer is a programmable machine capable of executing a stored program. Useful computers were not developed until the mid to late 1940s. That is why I cited Eniac earlier. These machines were never supplied to Nazi Germany. Card sorting equipment is not, and never was, a computer. It was more akin to a very limited mechanical calculator.

With respect to military use for accounting and logistics, I have already noted that card sorters were useful for administrative functions. They were not calculators. That is what Eniac and other early computers added to the mix.

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Which is it?
by JP Bill / December 22, 2008 11:41 PM PST
Card sorting equipment is not, and never was, a computer. It was more akin to a very limited mechanical calculator.

With respect to military use for accounting and logistics, I have already noted that card sorters were useful for administrative functions. They were not calculators. That is what Eniac and other early computers added to the mix.
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