WASHINGTON (Mar. 29)
A class-action lawsuit against IBM for its role in aiding the Nazis is being withdrawn following German complaints that the suit impeded restitution payments to Holocaust victims.
The lawsuit, filed Feb. 12, charged that IBM provided technology that aided Hitler in the persecution and genocide of millions during the Holocaust. IBM was intimately involved with the actions of its German subsidiary, profited from the work and covered up its actions, the lawsuit alleged.
The U.S. State Department said Germany indicated that the lawsuit endangered the “legal peace” condition of an agreement reached last year under which German companies created a fund to pay Holocaust victims. The agreement stated that companies who paid into the fund — including IBM’s German subsidiary – - would not face further legal claims for their activities during the Holocaust.
Soon after the IBM lawsuit was filed, the State Department approached Michael Hausfeld, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, to try to negotiate an agreement between the parties.
“The dismissal of this lawsuit should alleviate” any concern that the issue could be used to delay payments, Richard Boucher, a spokesman for the State Department, said in a statement.
Hausfeld said the lawsuit was being withdrawn so Germany would have “no excuses whatsoever” to withhold payments.
Hausfeld called the German complaints “pure blackmail,” and said that if IBM’s archives are not opened the lawsuit could be refiled.
Recent months have seen a renewed focus on the potential culpability of American companies that helped Germany during World War II. The filing of the IBM lawsuit coincided with the release of “IBM and the Holocaust,” a book arguing that custom-built IBM technology helped the Nazis by generating lists of Jews for deportation.
IBM was pleased by news of the lawsuit’s withdrawal, and had always believed that the suit had no merit, spokesperson Carol Makovich said.
The company hired a full-time archivist in 1998 to examine its documents, and in 1999 started donating relevant World War II documents to two universities.
IBM has donated material to New York University’s Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies and to Hochenheim University in Stuttgart, Germany.
“If we find other relevant records we will donate them,” Makovich said.