WWII- A Mickey Mouse war

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It was January 7,1942, just about a month after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Fearing imminent chemical attack on American soil, the government issued thousands of gas mask to civilians. But the smallest citizens couldn’t fit into the regulation-sized masks. They were too heavy and too big. Plus, aren’t those things scary?

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The production of the Disney gas masks began in 1942, a month after the Japan surprised Americans and attacked Pearl Harbor.

The Sun Rubber Company produced approximately 1,000 Mickey Mouse gas masks with the company’s designer Dietrich Rempel and Disney’s stamp of approval, Walk notes in his essay.

The Sun Rubber Company’s war efforts earned them an Army-Navy ‘E’ rating for excellence in wartime production in 1944.

The protection of children during WWII against chemical warfare produced efforts to make child-friendly gas masks in other countries as well.

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The United Kingdom also manufactured Mickey Mouse gas masks, although they were not designed to look like the popular cartoon character.

The British version is just a blue and red gas mask but, the name was retained for the product as part of the game designed to entice children to wear it.

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As no chemical warfare ever befell the United States, many of the gas masks were distributed to senior war officials at the end of the war as keepsakes or simply vanished over time, the gas masks were handed to senior officials and others as mere keepsakes.

 

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The Pink Triangle

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Hitler considered homosexuals “infectious” and sought to isolate or exterminate them to ensure his pure German master race. Most of what the Nazis called “die Rosa-Winkel” (the Pink Triangles), died – possibly up to 15,000 of them – either from exhaustion or starvation in the camps or on long marches led by the Nazi SS as allied forces closed in.

Shortly after the Nazis became the only legal party in the Third Reich, homosexual men and women became the target of police raids and interrogation. Under a section of the existing 1871 German Penal code, known as Paragraph 175 (§ 175), homosexual men could be arrested and tried. Paragraph 175 made sexual acts between men a punishable act.

Although the code was operational prior to 1933 it was largely ignored throughout Germany. The ‘unnatural’ sexual act of sodomy itself was difficult to prove unless actually caught while still in progress, making criminal charges cumbersome in many cases.

Before Hitler became Chancellor, the act was almost repealed in parliament as a result of the pioneering campaigning by sexologist Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld.

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When the Nazi party came to power the act was adjusted to include further punishment for homosexual men and the code was used as the main instrument to arrest both known homosexuals and later, men suspected of homosexual acts. The photo below is a police identity picture showing a German man arrested in October 1937 for violating Paragraph 175.

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By June 28th 1935, and in effect from September 1st 1935, the new § 175 had been revised to include indecency and two further additions: 175a and 175b.

By 1944 a suggestion of homosexuality was all that was required for an arrest and many more men found themselves arrested and imprisoned.

To differentiate between the various groups in the camps, the Nazis devised a simple system of easy identification. Besides the individual numbering system of tattooing each prisoner on entry, various cloth symbols and letters were sewn onto uniforms and worn at all times to aid instant recognition.

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Letter A:
Initially homosexuals were identified by the letter ‘A’, which was sewn on to their left breast or trouser leg. The ‘A’ stood for Arschficker, which is the German word for ‘Ass-F*cker’. Later replaced by a triangle system as shown in the chart above recovered from the Dachau camp in Germany.

The Nazis soon developed a system of several different coloured triangles: yellow for Jews; red for political ; green for criminals; purple for Jehovah’s Witnesses; black for a-socials; brown for gypsies; blue for emigrants and pink for homosexuals. Jewish homosexuals were made to wear both the yellow triangle and the pink triangle, which undoubtedly left them feel ‘the lowest of the low’.

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In some of the early concentration and ‘security camps’ a blue bar worn on the breast and sleeve identified homosexual inmates. It also identified catholic and political prisoners

The pink triangle, or Rosa Winkel, was the most associated symbol for men held under § 175. Inmates were made to wear a large piece of pink cloth on the breast side of their clothes  and a larger one across their backs. The pink triangle was made 2cm larger than any of the other identification triangle so that guards and other prisoners could clearly see when a homosexual prisoner was approaching.

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Prisoners with the pink triangle made little contact with other prisoners for fear of further persecution. By associating with the pink triangles, other detainees would have almost certainly drawn unwanted attention on to themselves and the best way of avoiding further abuse was clearly to remain as invisible as possible.

In the Berlin Nollendorfplatz subway station, a pink triangle plaque honors gay male victims.

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Between 1933 and 1945, an estimated 100,000 men were arrested as homosexuals, of whom some 50,000 were officially sentenced.Most of these men served time in regular prisons, and an estimated 5,000 to 15,000 of those sentenced were incarcerated in Nazi concentration camps.It is unclear how many of the 5,000 to 15,000 eventually died in the camps, but leading scholar Rüdiger Lautmann believes that the death rate of homosexuals in concentration camps may have been as high as 60%. Homosexuals in the camps were treated in an unusually cruel manner by their captors.

A flag as an apology

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The text of this ‘good luck flag’, which belonged to the Japanese General Shunkichi Ikeda, reads: ’A tiger walks 1,000 miles, but always returns again’. A group of Japanese women from his place of birth embroidered this thousand-stitch saying, meant to bring him luck and prosperity.

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Whenever the General went into battle with his troops from the Japanese Imperial Army, the flag went with him. In early 1945, General Ikeda was stationed in Sorong, a town in New Guinea in the Dutch East Indies.

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His men were attacked by the Allies. Two wounded American pilots were taken prisoner. They were beheaded two days later. Who committed this gruesome act? General Ikeda was ultimately responsible but after the war when he was interrogated in 1946, he could not remember anything about the incident.

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He realized what a hopeless position he was in and gave this flag to his interrogator A. Leijten as a gift. Little is known about what happened to General Ikeda after that; he died in 1948.

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Berthold von Stauffenberg- The Brother of Claus.

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Most people will have heard of Claus von Stauffenberg, one of the main conspirators of the 20th of July assassination plot. Many books have been written about him and several movies were made about him, one the most recent ones ‘Valkyrie’ with Tom Cruise in the title role.

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But there was another von Stauffenberg involved in the 20th July plot,Berthold Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg.

I am not going to go to deep into his early life but will focus more on his last days and will also go in to the question of how heroic the von Stauffenberg brothers really were.

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Berthold was the oldest of four brothers (the second being Berthold’s twin Alexander Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg) born into an old and distinguished aristocratic South German Catholic family. His parents were the last Oberhofmarschall of the Kingdom of Württemberg.

In 1939, he joined the German Navy, working in the High Command as a staff judge and advisor for international law.

Berthold’s apartment at Tristanstraße in Berlin, where his brother Claus also lived for some time, was a meeting place for the 20 July conspirators, including their cousin Peter Yorck von Wartenburg. As Claus had access to the inner circle around Hitler, he was assigned to plant a bomb at the Führers briefing hut at the military high command in Rastenburg, East Prussia, on 20 July 1944. Claus then flew to Rangsdorf airfield south of Berlin where he met with Berthold. They went together to Bendlerstraße, which the coup leaders intended to utilize as the centre of their operations in Berlin.

Hitler survived the bomb blast and the coup failed.

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Berthold and his brother were arrested at Bendlerstraße the same night. Claus was executed by firing squad shortly afterwards.

After his arrest, Stauffenberg was questioned by the Gestapo about his views about the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question”. Stauffenberg told the Gestapo that “he and his brother had basically approved of the racial principle of National Socialism, but considered it to be ‘exaggerated’ and ‘excessive’” Stauffenberg went on to state.

“The racial idea has been grossly betrayed in this war in that the best German blood is being irrevocably sacrificed, while simultaneously Germany is populated by millions of foreign workers, who certainly cannot be described as of high racial quality”

Berthold was tried in the Volksgerichtshof (“People’s Court”) by Roland Freisler on 10 August and was one of eight conspirators executed by strangulation, hanged in Plötzensee Prison, Berlin, later that day. Before he was killed Berthold was strangled and then revived multiple times.The entire execution and multiple resuscitations were filmed for Hitler to view at his leisure.

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Although their acts could be seen as heroic but both of the brothers had signed to the idea of the Nazi regime, and it was clear from the outset what that regime’s policies were.

Claus von Stauffenberg and his regiment took part in the attack on Poland. He supported the occupation of Poland and its handling by the Nazi regime and the use of Poles as slave workers to achieve German prosperity as well as German colonization and exploitation of Poland. The deeply rooted belief common in the German aristocracy was that the Eastern territories, populated predominantly by Poles and partly absorbed by Prussia in partitions of Poland, but taken from the German Empire after World War I, should be colonized as the Teutonic Knights had done in the Middle Ages. Stauffenberg said, “It is essential that we begin a systemic colonization in Poland. But I have no fear that this will not occur”.

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By July 1944 it was pretty clear that the Germans were going to lose the war. And I wonder if it had been different, would the von Stauffenbergs (or any of the other conspirators)have been such willing participants in an assassination plot?

The Tate-LaBianca murders

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On the night of August 8, 1969, Charles “Tex” Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian were sent by Charlie to the old home of Terry Melcher at 10050 Cielo Drive. Their instructions were to kill everyone at the house and make it appear like Hinman’s murder, with words and symbols written in blood on the walls.

As Charlie Manson had said earlier in the day after choosing the group, “Now is the time for Helter Skelter.”

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What the group did not know was that Terry Melcher was no longer residing in the home and that it was being rented by film director Roman Polanski and his wife, actress Sharon Tate. Tate was two weeks away from giving birth and Polanski was delayed in London while  working on his film, The Day of the Dolphin. Because Sharon was so close to giving birth, the couple arranged for friends to stay with her until Polanski could get home.

After dining together at the El Coyote restaurant, Sharon Tate,  celebrity hair stylist Jay Sebring, Folger coffee heiress Abigail Folger and her lover Wojciech Frykowski, returned to the Polanski’s home on Cleo Drive at around 10:30 p.m. Wojciech fell asleep on the living room couch, Abigail Folger went to her bedroom to read, and Sharon Tate and Sebring were in Sharon’s bedroom talking.

Just after midnight, Watson, Atkins, Krenwinkel, and Kasabian arrived at the house. Watson climbed a telephone pole and cut the phone line going to the Polanski’s house. Just as the group entered the estate grounds, they saw a car approaching. Inside the car was 18-year-old Steve Parent who had been visiting the property’s caretaker, William Garreston.

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As Parent approached the driveway’s electronic gate, he rolled down the window to reach out and push the gate’s button, and Watson descended on him, yelling at him to halt. Seeing that Watson was armed with a revolver and knife, Parent began to plead for his life. Unfazed, Watson slashed at Parent, then shot him four times, killing him instantly.

After murdering Parent, the group headed for the house. Watson told Kasabian to be on the lookout by the front gate. The other three family members entered the Polanski home. Charles “Tex” Watson went to the living room and confronted Frykowski who was asleep. Not fully awake, Frykowski asked what time it was and Watson kicked him in the head. When Frykowski asked who he was, Watson answered, “I’m the devil and I’m here to do the devil’s business.”

Susan Atkins went to Sharon Tate’s bedroom with a buck knife and ordered Tate and Sebring to go into the living room. She then went and got Abigail Folger. The four victims were told to sit on the floor. Watson tied a rope around Sebring’s neck, flung it over a ceiling beam, then tied the other side around Sharon’s neck. Watson then ordered them to lie on their stomachs. When Sebring voiced his concerns that Sharon was too pregnant to lay on her stomach, Watson shot him and then kicked him while he died.

Knowing now that the intent of the intruders was murder, the three remaining victims began to struggle for survival. Patricia Krenwinkel attacked Abigail Folger and after being stabbed multiple times, Folger broke free and attempted to run from the house. Krenwinkel followed close behind and managed to tackle Folger out on the lawn and stabbed her repeatedly.

Inside, Frykowski struggled with Susan Atkins when she attempted to tie his hands. Atkins stabbed him four times in the leg, then Watson came over and beat Frykowski over the head with his revolver. Frykowski somehow managed to escape out onto the lawn and began screaming for help.

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While the microbe scene was going on inside the house, all Kasabian could hear was screaming. She ran to the house just as Frykowski was escaping out the front door.

According to Kasabian, she looked into the eyes of the mutilated man and horrified at what she saw, she told him that she was sorry. Minutes later, Frykowski was dead on the front lawn.Watson shot him twice, then stabbed him to death.

Seeing that Krenwinkel was struggling with Folger, Watson went over and the two continued to stab Abigail mercilessly. According to killer’s statements later given to the authorities, Abigail begged them to stop stabbing her saying, “I give up, you’ve got me”, and “I’m already dead”.

The final victim at 10050 Cielo Drive was Sharon Tate. Knowing that her friends were likely dead, Sharon begged for the life of her baby. Unmoved, Atkins held Sharon Tate down while Watson stabbed her multiple times, killing her. Atkins then used Sharon’s blood to write “Pig” on a wall. Atkins later said that Sharon Tate called out for her mother as she was being murdered and that she tasted her blood and found it “warm and sticky.”

According to the autopsy reports, 102 stab wounds were found on the four victims.

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The next day Manson, Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, Steve Grogan, Leslie Van Houten, and Linda Kasabian went to the home of Leno and Rosemary Labianca. Manson and Watson tied up the couple and Manson left. He told Van Houten and Krenwinkel to go in and kill the LaBiancas. The three separated the couple and murdered them, then had dinner and a shower and hitchhiked back to Spahn Ranch. Manson, Atkins, Grogan and Kasabian drove around looking for other people to kill but failed.

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Manson targeted people with whom he was directly or indirectly associated. They were all attacked in their residences. The only victim Manson is known to have attacked personally is Bernard Crowe, who was shot, but survived. The other victims were attacked by his followers and were usually viciously stabbed several times. A few were also shot with a .22 Hi Standard “Buntline Special” revolver

Life Jacket of a different kind- The story of a Dutch Nagasaki survivor.

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A flash and a deafening rumble. On 9 August 1945, the American Air Force exploded an atomic bomb 500 metres above Nagasaki. The Japanese city was wiped away, 39,000 people died and approximately 65,000 were wounded.

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Three days earlier, the Americans had also dropped an A-bomb on Hiroshima, but Japan still refused to surrender.

A Dutch prisoner of war, J. van Houten, who had been deployed to work in a shipyard near Nagasaki owned by Mitsubishi, fled with his fellow prisoners to the hills surrounding the burning city. There was no time to grab anything. Van Houten was not wearing a shirt and it got very cold that evening. To his surprise, out of the blue, he heard a young Japanese soldier ask ‘Tsumetai ka?’, which means more or less: ‘Are you cold?’ When he responded yes, the soldier gave him this raincoat.

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After a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan surrendered on 15 August 1945 and the Second World War came to an end.

Rotterdam Razzia

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In the early hours of 10 November 1944, 8,000 German soldiers flooded the streets of Rotterdam. They lay a cordon around the city, took up position on the bridges and squares and shut down the telephone service. They distributed pamphlets ordering all men ages 17 to 40 years to report for tewerkstelling (employment in the service of Germany.

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The men were instructed to bring specific things they would need and to wait on the street with their luggage. All other residents were told to stay inside their homes until the raid was over. For two days, the Germans searched through the city: street-by-street, house-by-house.

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There was no escape possible. Aktion Rosenstock was the German code name for what took place that day: the largest razzia (roundup) carried out by the German occupier in the Netherlands during the Second World War.

To put this into context, the south and the East of the Netherlands had been liberated a few months before.

In the icy rain, 50,000 men (from a total population of 600,000) were taken away to work as slave labourers.

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One of them was Gerard Pakker. He was sent to a coal mine near the German city of Essen. In January 1945, he managed to escape. After a roundabout journey lasting two months, penniless and in tattered clothing, he finally arrived home. The first thing his mother exclaimed was: ‘Oh poor child, just look at you!

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Sex Sells- Even in WWII

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Don’t worry I haven’t  changed my History blog into a WWII porn site. Because we live in a PC world I had to include a warning.

It is said that the the average men thinks about sex every 7 seconds. Put that in a war context ,with testosterone bouncing left,right and center in men who haven’t seen their girlfriends,wives or any member of the opposite sex  in weeks possibly months and longer , the notion of using Sex as a weapon would have been powerful.

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It is no wonder that Sex was used as a propaganda tool, not only to distract but also to warn for all sorts of venereal diseases, and careless pillow talk which could get vital information in the wrong hands.

This blog has some examples of Sex propaganda from the allies and axis powers.

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During World War II there were many different forms of propaganda to support the war effort in Japan. Sometimes the Japanese used sexual images in order to influence Allied soldiers to pick up surrender leaflets. The leaflet below depicts a bare-breasted female in an inviting pose. The bearer of the present ticket is considered as “willing to surrender to the Japanese army”. The Japanese army will charge itself with ensuring his life in condition that he shows this ticket to Japanese soldiers, with a white flag or raised arms, carrying his rifle stock upwards.

The Japanese propaganda used against the Allied forces aimed to draw their attention away from the war effort and influence them to surrender or go home. Most of the tactics used in this kind of propaganda were sexual and depicted nude women. Sometimes pictures of nude women were placed on tickets of armistice so as to try to get enemy soldiers to pick them up. Moreover the nude gave the soldier an excuse to retain possession the ticket: “It’s not a surrender ticket, it’s a nudie picture”. Then, the reasoning would be that, in a moment of high duress, he might be more likely to break down knowing he could just use the ticket to surrender. Other times, though, it was just to make the men remember the women they had left at home and hopefully get them thinking about sex and make them want to go home again.

The Japanese text on the leaflet translated to English:

Surrender ticket
The bearer(s) of this ticker has surrendered.
It is strictly forbidden to kill him (them).
Commander, Japanese Army forces

Lieutenant Colonel Mahmood Kan Durrani who was an Australian prisoner of the Japanese quotes a lecture given by a Japanese officer on how leaflets should be prepared. One of his six recommendations was:

“The leaflet should have, if possible, the picture of a beautiful woman, after the method used by the Germans in the First World War. This device would ensure that the soldier would be attracted and would be unable to resist looking at the picture over and over again. This would rouse his passion, and his heart would be inclined for love and to hate fighting.”

Ticket to Armistice - Japanese leaflet dropped on Allied troops, 1942

The aim of these posters was to create the illusion that while the British soldiers fight and die, the Americans enjoy the company of their women in England..

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The other Mussolinis

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Cynical me would have probably given this blog the title “Hey, karma is a b*tch” but I am aware that my audience is bigger then just me and therefore I aim to remain unbiased.

Bruno Mussolini (22 April 1918 – 7 August 1941) was the son of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and Mussolini’s wife Rachele.

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On 7 August 1941, the 23-year-old Mussolini, commander of the 274a Squadriglia (274th Squadron), was flying in one of the prototypes of the “secret” Piaggio P.108B bomber, MM22003,near the San Giusto Airport in Pisa, when the aircraft flew too low and crashed into a house.

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The Piaggio P-108 Bombardiere was a promising aircraft. Its four powerful engines and substantial 7,700-pound bomb payload gave it strategic capabilities, the only bomber produced in wartime Italy that could make that claim. However, the P-108 was produced in only limited numbers due to a lengthy development program, demands placed on Italian industrial capacity, and the scarcity of resources.

The youthful officer apparently failed to gain altitude and crashed into a house. Along with two crewmen, the pilot was killed. Five other crewmen were injured.

Just after 11 that morning, Benito Mussolini was stepping into his private elevator at the Palazzo Venezia in Rome when one of his aides rushed up. ““There’s been a crash at Pisa, Duce! Your son Bruno is wounded, and his condition is critical.” The dictator steadied himself against the sliding iron door and asked quietly, “Is he dead?” When the answer confirmed his worst fear, Mussolini was wracked with grief. He was a changed man.

The oldest son, Lieutenant Vittorio Mussolini, was heard to say some time later, “There was a Mussolini before Bruno’s death, and a Mussolini after it. Prior to August 7, 1941, despair was not part of his emotional range. The tragedy turned him into a different man whose lost stare, at times, provoked pity.”

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Mussolini hurried to the Santa Chiara Hospital in Pisa and gazed for a long time at the face of his dead son. Rachele was also devastated, but she remembered the most painful aspect of the ordeal as her husband’s silence. “It was as if he had turned to stone,” she said later.

Quiet though he may have been, at times Mussolini was prone to an occasional outburst prompted by his grief. Colonel Gori Castellani commanded the 247th Squadriglia of the Regia Aeronautica, the Italian Air Force, to which Bruno and Vittorio were assigned. When the colonel came to the distraught father’s office to extend his condolences, Mussolini bellowed, “I know why you are here! I know that you and everyone are pleased that I have suffered this loss. I don’t want to hear anything from you! You can get out!”

An inquiry absolved Bruno of any fault in the fatal accident, and he was subsequently awarded the Gold Medal for Aeronautic Valor. The New York Times reported that the investigation revealed the cause of the accident to be “…the improper functioning of the gas switch, due to the great distance between the motors and the pilot’s post.”

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An elaborate funeral was held at the Fascist Party headquarters in Pisa, and Bruno’s body was interred in the family crypt in the San Cassiano cemetery in the town of Predappio. Ironically, this father who deeply mourned the loss of his own son was responsible for the similar grief suffered by so many other families.

IBM and the Holocaust

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Punch cards, also called Hollerith cards after IBM founder Herman Hollerith, were the forerunner of the computers that IBM is famous for today. These cards stored information in holes punched in the rows and columns, which were then “read” by a tabulating machine. The system worked like a player piano . First designed to track people and organize a census, the Hollerith system was later adapted to any tabulation or information task.

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From the first moments of the Hitler regime in 1933, IBM used its exclusive punch card technology and its global monopoly on information technology to organize, systematize, and accelerate Hitler’s anti-Jewish program, step by step facilitating the tightening noose. The punch cards, machinery, training, servicing, and special project work, such as population census and identification, was managed directly by IBM headquarters in New York, and later through its subsidiaries in Germany, known as Deutsche Hollerith-Maschinen Gesellschaft (DEHOMAG), Poland, Holland, France, Switzerland, and other European countries.

Among the punch cards published are two for the SS, including one for the SS Rassenamt, or Race Office, which specialized in racial selections and coordinated with many other Reich offices. A third card was custom-crafted by IBM for Richard Korherr, a top Nazi statistician and expert in Jewish demographics

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who reported directly to Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler and who also worked with Adolf Eichmann. Himmler and Eichmann were architects of the extermination phase of the Holocaust. All three punch cards bear the proud indicia of IBM’s German subsidiary, DEHOMAG. They illustrate the nature of the end users who relied upon IBM’s information technology.

Iin 1937, with war looming and the world shocked at the increasingly merciless Nazi persecution of the Jews, Hitler bestowed upon Watson a special award — created specifically for the occasion — to honor extraordinary service by a foreigner to the Third Reich.

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The medal, the Order of the German Eagle with Star, bedecked with swastikas, was to be worn on a sash over the heart. Watson returned the medal years later in June 1940 as a reaction to public outrage about the medal during the bombing of Paris. The return of this medal has been used by IBM apologists to show Watson had second thoughts about his alliance with the Reich. But a newly released copy of a subsequent letter dated June 10, 1941, drafted by IBM’s New York office, confirms that IBM headquarters personally directed the activities of its Dutch subsidiary set up in 1940 to identify and liquidate the Jews of Holland. Hence, while IBM engaged in the public relations maneuver of returning the medal, the company was actually quietly expanding its role in Hitler’s Holocaust. Similar subsidiaries, sometimes named as a variant of “Watson Business Machines,” were set up in Poland, Vichy France, and elsewhere on the Continent in cadence with the Nazi takeover of Europe.

Particularly powerful are the released copies of the IBM concentration camp codes. IBM maintained a customer site, known as the Hollerith Department, in virtually every concentration camp to sort or process punch cards and track prisoners.

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The codes show IBM’s numerical designation for various camps. Auschwitz was 001, Buchenwald was 002; Dachau was 003, and so on. Various prisoner types were reduced to IBM numbers, with 3 signifying homosexual, 9 for anti-social, and 12 for Gypsy. The IBM number 8 designated a Jew. Inmate death was also reduced to an IBM digit: 3 represented death by natural causes, 4 by execution, 5 by suicide, and code 6 designated “special treatment” in gas chambers. IBM engineers had to create Hollerith codes to differentiate between a Jew who had been worked to death and one who had been gassed, then print the cards, configure the machines, train the staff, and continuously maintain the fragile systems every two weeks on site in the concentration camps.

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Recently -released photographs show the Hollerith Bunker at Dachau. It housed at least two dozen machines, mainly controlled by the SS.

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The foreboding concrete Hollerith blockhouse, constructed of reinforced concrete and steel, was designed to withstand the most intense Allied aerial bombardment. Those familiar with Nazi bomb-proof shelters will recognize the advanced square-cornered pillbox design reserved for the Reich’s most precious buildings and operations. IBM equipment was among the Reich’s most important weapons, not only in its war against the Jews, but in its general military campaigns and control of railway traffic. Watson personally approved expenditures to add bomb shelters to DEHOMAG installations because the cost was born by the company. Such costs cut into IBM’s profit margin. Watson’s approval was required because he received a one-percent commission on all Nazi business profits.

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Two telling U.S. government memos, now published, are remarkable for their telling irony. The first is a State Department memo, dated December 3, 1941, just four days before the attack on Pearl Harbor and as the Nazis were being openly accused of genocide in Europe. On that day in 1941, IBM’s top attorney, Harrison Chauncey, visited the State Department to express qualms about the company’s extensive involvement with Hitler. The State Department memo recorded that Chauncey feared “that his company may some day be blamed for cooperating with the Germans.”

The second is a Justice Department memo generated during a federal investigation of IBM for trading with the enemy. Economic Warfare Section chief investigator Howard J. Carter prepared the memo for his supervisors describing the company’s collusion with the Hitler regime. Carter wrote: “What Hitler has done to us through his economic warfare, one of our own American corporations has also done … Hence IBM is in a class with the Nazis.” He ended his memo: “The entire world citizenry is hampered by an international monster.”

At a time when the Watson name and the IBM image is being laundered by whiz computers that can answer questions on TV game shows, it is important to remember that Thomas Watson and his corporate behemoth were guilty of genocide. The Treaty on Genocide, Article 2, defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group.” In Article 3, the treaty states that among the “acts [that] shall be punishable,” are the ones in subsection (e), that is “complicity in genocide.” As for who shall be punished, the Treaty specifies the perpetrators in Article 4: “Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article 3 shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials, or private individuals.”

In February 2001, an Alien Tort Claims Act claim was filed in U.S. federal court against IBM for allegedly providing the punched card technology that facilitated the Holocaust, and for covering up German IBM subsidiary Dehomag’s activities. In April 2001, the lawsuit was dropped. Lawyers said they feared proceeding with the suit would slow down payments from a special German Holocaust fund created to compensate forced laborers and others who had suffered due to the Nazi persecution. IBM’s German division paid $3 million into the fund, although the corporation made clear that it was not admitting liability with its contribution.

In 2004, the human rights organization Gypsy International Recognition and Compensation Action (GIRCA) filed suit against IBM in Switzerland. However, the case was dismissed in 2006 due to an expiration of time under the statute of limitations.

Edwin Black is the author of IBM and the Holocaust, The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation, newly released in the Expanded Edition.

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