Locating the Victim: An Overview of Census-Taking, Tabulation Technology, and Persecution in Nazi Germany
Issue No. 03 - Fall (1994 vol. 16)
<p>Nazi persecution of racial victim groups presupposed not only precise legal definitions and close cooperation among multiple governmental agencies, but also sophisticated technical procedures for locating those groups according to complex age, occupational, and racial criteria. This article shows how a variety of administrative tools - including two national censuses, a system of resident registration, and several special racial databases - were used to locate groups eventually slated for deportation and death, as well as the possible role played in this process by Hollerith tabulation technology. Patterns in the expulsion of Jews from Germany suggest that aggregate census data may have been used to guide this process as well. The precise role played by punched-card tabulation technology remains a matter of speculation. However, it is certain that as early as 1933, Nazi officials and statisticians envisioned a future in which the racial characteristics and vital statistics of every resident would be monitored through tabulation technology in a system of comprehensive surveillance. While the' "final solution" was in no sense caused by the availability of sophisticated census-taking and tabulation technologies, concrete evidence suggests that Hollerith machines rationalized the management of concentration camp labor, an important element in the Nazi program of "extermination through work."</p>
D. M. Luebke and S. Milton, "Locating the Victim: An Overview of Census-Taking, Tabulation Technology, and Persecution in Nazi Germany," in IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 16, no. , pp. 25-39, 1994.