Willy Heidinger, manager of IBM's German subsidiary Dehomag, sends a message to IBM president Thomas J. Watson about plans to build massive bomb shelters to protect the Dehomag equipment vital for the Nazis' ability to organize and control the German population.
Heidiner writes: "
The authorities have approached us with demands that sufficient care should be taken to protect our plant and operations against air attack.
In view of the fact that we are located close to a railway station, such demands seem justified...we believe we should recommend immediately the setting up of air raid shelters."
These Nazi authorities know that war is coming already, and now so does Watson, who authorizes the construction of two massive bunkers that will protect the IBM machines, cards, and operators from future Allied bombing raids.
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 will provide the Nazis with the ability 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 much more.
By mid-1944, there will be Hollerith Departments "installed at the main concentration camps at Mauthausen, Ravensbrück, Flossenbürg and Buchenwald." The Hollerith cards used by the SS will include codes explaining the reasons why a person has been confined (Jehovah's Witness = 01, homosexuals = 02, Jews = 05), birth date, gender, ethnicity (Reich German = 0, Ethnic German = 1, Foreigner = 2), labor capacity, occupation, and even the reason for departure (i.e. execution = 3, escape = 4, special treatment = 6).
The Nazis will be able to sort and tabulate all of this information, thus making the administration of their massive concentration camp system possible. By the end of the war, Dachau alone will be using 24 IBM machines.
These machines and their ability to provide detailed information about anyone at the press of a button will, in many ways, become 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.