Case | HBS Case Collection | June 2007 (Revised March 2011)

Thomas J. Watson, IBM and Nazi Germany

by Geoffrey G. Jones and Adrian Brown

Abstract

Considers the strategy of U.S.-owned IBM, then a manufacturer of punch cards, in Nazi Germany before 1937. Opens with IBM CEO Thomas J. Watson meeting Adolf Hitler in his capacity as President of the International Chamber of Commerce. IBM had acquired a German company in 1922 and, like other American companies, found itself operating after 1933 in a country whose government violently suppressed political dissent and engaged in intimidation and discrimination against Jews. Explores the tensions between IBM's German affiliate and its parent and provides an opportunity to explore the options and responsibilities of multinationals with investments in politically reprehensible regimes.

Keywords: Business History; Values and Beliefs; Multinational Firms and Management; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Investment; Business and Government Relations; Germany;

Citation:

Jones, Geoffrey G., and Adrian Brown. "Thomas J. Watson, IBM and Nazi Germany." Harvard Business School Case 807-133, June 2007. (Revised March 2011.)