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IBM software bill frustrates Holocaust payout

Big Blue in more Nazi-era controversy

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IBM, which only two weeks ago was accused of providing technology that facilitated the final solution, now stands charged with delaying insurance payments to Holocaust survivors by demanding $1 million in software costs.

The wrangle concerns database software used by the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims, which is trying to match the names of 1940s policy holders with lists of Nazi victims.

Associated Press has obtained a copy of a letter sent by Holocaust Era chairman Lawrence Eagleburger to IBM chairman Louis Gerstner, which argued that Big Blue's claim was based on the development costs of software supplied to a different group, called the Volcker Commission. This group was involved in similar work of matching dormant Swiss bank accounts with Holocaust victims in order that money can be paid to their living relatives.

The Volcker Commission owes money for the software to IBM/Tadiran, an Israeli subsidiary of Big Blue, and since the insurance commission needs the same software, it is being asked to pay $1 million. According to Big Blue this represents sublicensing costs written into the original contract, something which Eagleburger disputes in his letter.

"The (insurance commission) does not have the funds necessary to pay the Volcker Commission's debt," Eagleburger wrote.

"What money we have or will get is to pay claims and to pay Yad Vashem [Israel's Holocaust Memorial] for doing the computer work."

IBM has said it want to begin discussions on the matter, which would only be a routine software licensing dispute but for a lawsuit filed in New York two weeks ago alleging IBM was complicit in the Holocaust.

The lawsuit alleges IBM's German subsidiary knowingly provided technology and services used in genocide, particularly punch card machines used in the management of death camp operations. ®

Related stories

IBM implicated in Nazi extermination of Jews

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Associated Press story [via The Toronto Star]

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