I N   T H E   N E W S


Swiss Court Approves Hearing in Gypsy Suit Against I.B.M. with Respect to the Holocaust



PRAGUE, Feb. 4, 2003. -- A Swiss court has cleared the way for hearings in a $12 billion lawsuit against the computer giant I.B.M. by a group of Gypsy organizations, which are arguing that the company helped the Nazis automate the Holocaust.

About 600,000 Gypsies, mainly from Central and Eastern Europe, are thought to have been killed by the Nazis and their allies during the Holocaust, and the Gypsies have long argued that they are its forgotten victims. In a ruling made public this week, a Geneva court said preliminary hearings in the case could go ahead on March 20.

Despite a wave of recent settlements in Germany and Switzerland involving surviving victims of the Holocaust and their descendants, Gypsies have been largely excluded from compensation payments and other funds.

"The point is not to make a profit from the Holocaust," said Pastor May Bittel, a Swiss Gypsy who is president of Gypsy International Recognition and Compensation Action, an association of more than 600 Gypsy organizations, which brought the lawsuit.

"We want this business to be exposed, and we want our people to taste justice after so many years," Pastor Bittel said in a telephone interview.

If successful, the suit could bring payments to the few living Gypsy Holocaust survivors, and could finance health, social and educational projects for the estimated 1.2 million survivors and their descendants in Europe.

As a group, Europe's Gypsies are the poorest of its poor, and a recent United Nations report said that in parts of Europe Gypsies live in poverty approaching that found in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Gypsies are basing their case largely on accusations in a controversial book by Edwin Black, "I.B.M. and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation," published in 2001. Mr. Black argues that before and during World War II, I.B.M. provided the punch-cards and early computers that allowed Nazi Germany to organize the attempted extermination of the Jews and Gypsies of Europe.

I.B.M., which is based in New York, allegedly ran the operation to help the Nazis from an office in Geneva, according to the Gypsies' lawsuit.

Brian Doyle, a spokesman for I.B.M. in New York, said the company believed the case was "without merit." A previous lawsuit by Jewish Holocaust survivors against I.B.M. was dropped when the plaintiffs' lawyer said he feared the suit would block a settlement with Germany and Switzerland on other Holocaust compensation.

I.B.M.'s founder, Thomas J. Watson, received a medal from Hitler in 1937.

"With these machines, the Nazis went much more quickly and killed far more people," said Pastor Bittel, "and I.B.M. designed the material for the Nazis and it knew full well it was aiding the Holocaust."

Reviewing Mr. Black's book in The New York Times, Gabriel Schoenfeld said Mr. Black was "struggling to force his evidence into a box in which it does not fit," although he added that the book showed there was "room for a serious study of I.B.M.'s complicated and by no means innocent relationship with Nazi Germany."




Basis for the Lawsuit in the Plaintiff's (Gypsies) View
IBM-HolocaustIn February 2001, Edwin Black, son of Polish survivors from concentration camps, published a book "IBM and the Holocaust " in which he reveals the commercial relationships between IBM and the Hitler's regime. IBM did not stop to deliver its mecanographic technology to its German subsidiary, during all the Nazi time (1933-1945), through its subsidiaries based in neutral countries, specifically Geneva. Geneva was the administrative centre of these operations during the war.

This technology - whose IBM detained the quasi-monopoly - was a technical tool of first importance as well for the management of the war efforts as for the administrative operations of industrial destruction of the Jewish and Gypsy populations.

GIRCA (Gypsie International Recognition and Compensation Action) has consequently decided to unify the main Gypsy organisations in order to sue IBM. It is the first action of that type undertaken by the Gypsy communities.

The legal action against IBM has been lodged by GIRCA in front of the Geneva First Instance Court on January 31st, 2002. Its goal is to make recognize by the Swiss Courts the complicity of IBM with the crimes against humanity committed between 1933 and 1945. 5 European Gypsies have assigned to GIRCA their rights in moral tort and loss of financial assistance.