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IBM lawsuit (Holocaust claim by Gypsies)

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, Published on: 18 February 2014

In January 2002 the Gypsy International Recognition and Compensation Action association (GIRCA) filed a lawsuit against IBM in Geneva’s Court of First Instance on behalf of five Roma (Gypsy) plaintiffs who were orphaned in the Holocaust.  The lawsuit alleged that IBM assisted the Nazis in Holocaust killings during World War II by providing the Nazis with punch card machines and computer technology that resulted in the coding, tracking and killing of Gypsies.  The plaintiffs sued IBM for “moral reparation” and US$20,000 each in damages.  The lawsuit was brought in Switzerland because IBM’s European headquarters during World War II were located in Geneva.  IBM has argued that its German subsidiary was taken over by Nazis during the war and that the parent company cannot be held responsible for how its machines were used during this time.  In 2004, a Swiss court of appeals overruled the Court of First Instance’s dismissal of the case for lack of personal jurisdiction over IBM.  In April 2005, the Court of First Instance dismissed the case, finding that the statute of limitations applied and the court was barred from hearing the case because too much time had elapsed since the alleged harm occurred.  The Supreme Court of Switzerland affirmed this ruling in 2006.


Before the Swiss lawsuit was filed, investigative journalist and author Edwin Black published a book, IBM and the Holocaust, in February 2001 detailing the role of IBM’s technology in the perpetration of the Holocaust.  In the same month, a class-action lawsuit against IBM was brought in US federal court by Holocaust survivors under the US Alien Tort Claims Act.  This lawsuit alleged IBM was complicit in crimes against humanity and violations of human rights during World War II.  The month after the US lawsuit was filed, it was voluntarily dismissed by the plaintiffs.  The plaintiffs stated that they wanted to facilitate implementation of the German Holocaust fund.  


- “Swiss reject IBM-Holocaust lawsuit”, Associated Press, 18 Aug 2006

- “A Swiss Court Decides to Allow Gypsies' Holocaust Lawsuit to Proceed”, Anita Ramasastry, Findlaw’s Writ, 8 Jul 2004

- “Gypsies win right to sue IBM over role in Holocaust”, Ian Traynor, Guardian [UK], 23 Jun 2004

- “Gypsies ask IBM for Holocaust reparation”, BBC News, 10 Jun 2001

- “IBM AND THE HOLOCAUST: The Book, The Suit, And Where We Go From Here”, Anthony J. Sebok, Findlaw’s Writ, 12 Mar 2001


- IBM: IBM Statement on Nazi-era Book and Lawsuit, 14 Feb 2001

- Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll PLLC: IBM Holocaust Case to be Voluntarily Dismissed, 29 Mar 2001

- Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll PLLC: Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll, P.L.L.C. Files Class Action Lawsuit Against IBM , 11 Feb 2001

- Crown Publishing Group: Online Catalog: IBM and the Holocaust


- [français] Swiss Court: [PDF] Extrait de l'arrêt de la Ire Cour civile dans la cause Gypsy International Recognition and Compensation Action (GIRCA) contre International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) (recours en réforme) 4C.113/2006, 14 Aug 2006

- [français] Swiss Court: [PDF] Extrait de l'arrêt de la Ire Cour civile dans la cause International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) contre Gypsy International Recognition and Compensation Action (GIRCA) (recours en réforme) 4C.296/2004 , 22 Dec 2004


- Lawsuit in USA: [PDF] Grossman, et al v. IBM, 11 Feb 2001 [class action complaint filed in US District Court for the Eastern District of New York]

Related companies: IBM