Third Reich to Fortune 500: Five Popular Brands the Nazis Gave Us


IBM is one of the few IT companies whose history dates back to the 19th century, a time when information technology presumably involved putting a helmet on your carrier pigeon. On the one hand, this means they've been a Fortune 500 company since 1924, giving them a 60-year head start on the likes of Microsoft and Macintosh. On the other hand, over a century of history gives you a lot of opportunities to make some monstrous PR blunders.

Job with Nazis:
You're probably thinking, "Wait a minute. IBM was American! The closest America ever got to the Nazis was when Indiana Jones wore that uniform as a disguise in Raiders of the Lost Ark!"

Actually, prior to the war, American business took what can be generously described as a morally ambivalent stance on the whole Hitler thing. American groups, such as the Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Institute, directly funded Nazi eugenics projects in the early '30s (where the goal was to find ways to breed a master race). Of course, once the war started, most American businesses cut ties with Hitler. IBM, on the other hand, decided to stick around and see where he was going with this whole final solution thing.

And, this is the point where things take a horrific turn. To get through this, we're going to try to offset the horror with some kittens playing on computers. We'll just look at them while we type.

Back in those days, the only way to keep track of huge databases was with an extremely complicated system involving punch cards, and IBM was the best at constructing and maintaining those databases. IBM's punch card databases could keep track of anything: financial ledgers, medical records, Jews.

OK, give us a moment here ...


According to a book a guy wrote about it, as soon as the Nazis invaded a country, they would overhaul the census system using IBM punch cards. Then they'd track down every Jew, Gypsy and any other non-Aryan until they were all rounded up onto cattle carts. And, next stop wasn't Space Mountain.

So how evil were they?
The unabashedly anti-corporate documentary The Corporation shows actual footage of IBM punch cards used in prison camps, about two minutes into this video:

That tracked people based on their religion, their location and even how they'd be executed. For instance, Prisoner Code 8 was Jew, Code 11 was Gypsy. Camp Code 001 was Auschwitz; Code 002 was Buchenwald. Status Code 5 was execution by order, and Code 6 was gas chamber. Holy shit, people. Seriously, IBM. What the fuck?

Hold on, we're going to watch this video of a kitten fighting a laptop seven or eight times.

These days, IBM claims they were a victim of circumstance. They had a subsidiary in Germany long before Hitler took over. They say the company just fell under Nazi control, like every other company over there at the time. The records show that's not completely true, though. IBM sent internal memos in their New York offices acknowledging that their machines were making the Nazis more efficient, and they made no efforts to end the relationship with the German branch.

IBM has never made an apology or admitted any need to apologize at all, hoping instead that with time everyone would just forget about it. And, we pretty much have, because, hey, they make such awesome computers!


Bayer, the massive pharmaceutical company that's most famous for making Aspirin, also is behind such wonder drugs as Levitra and, at one time in their history, heroin.

Yes, we can go on for ages about how wonderful aspirin is to stop heart attacks, or how Levitra can give you wood for weeks, but really, Bayer is most important for given heroin its name. The drug was promoted as having "heroic" properties, which is ironic since it by all accounts turns you into a shivering shell of a man.

Bayer also lent its name to a German soccer team, and to be honest, we're not sure if it's such a good idea to have your team named after a company that sold smack. Just imagine what the mascot would have to look like. We're thinking a Pete Doherty decked out in a blue suit with furry antennae who passes out halfway through the chicken dance.

Pete Doherty, sans costume. We think.

Job with Nazis:
Then again, it's probably even worse to name your team after the company that made Zyklon B gas, the stuff that killed millions of people in the concentration camps. Yep, Bayer was once part of a large conglomerate, IG Farben, that churned out thousands of killer Zyklon-B gas canisters. The gas was originally invented by Fritz Haber, a man whose life is so incredibly pathetic that you almost forgive him for indirectly causing millions of deaths, while looking as evil as humanly possible.

Seen here soon after uttering the phrase, "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die."

After he oversaw the first use of chemicals in warfare, his wife killed herself in their garden with his service revolver in protest. Once Hitler took over, Haber decided to renounce Judaism to fit in, only to be told that he was still Jewish according to the Nazi rule book because his mother was Jewish. He died of a heart attack while fleeing the country he spent his life serving. The chemical he originally invented to kill insects was used to kill a number of his relatives in the Concentration Camps.

You know what? We think we're going to just pack up and sail off to a deserted island somewhere. We'll just walk away from this whole humanity thing. Us and our kittens.

So how evil were they?
On one hand, the company that actually manufactured the gas was just partially owned by IG Farben, and Bayer was just one part of IG Farben. It's like the way we don't think of General Electric as a military contractor, because they make so many other things.

Bayer, though, has continued some of its old douchebaggery into the modern era. First off, Aspirin was invented by a Jewish man, Arthur Eichengrun, whose name Bayer still refuses to acknowledge. To this day, the "official" history of the company denies Eichengrun's involvement in the invention of aspirin, and states that an Aryan invented the drug, because as we all know, Aryans are better at everything.

One such Bayer-employed Aryan was a nice, thoughtful fellow by the name of Josef Mengele, who Bayer sponsored to seek out medical discoveries in the important field of torturing people to death.

We have some hard questions for Bayer. Actually, just one question, which is, "What the fuck, Bayer? Dude."

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