Hacking the Holocaust: Remembering the data pirates, forgers, and social engineers who saved thousands.

Blog by Ava Ex Machina: “…Within the tech industry in particular, we work every day to build systems that ingest more and more of our personal information that while it might be used to sell us products, can also increasingly be used to index and endanger our most vulnerable communities. Software engineers are often unaware of how the systems they build and maintain can either help us live better lives, or be used to commit repeats of history’s most horrifying atrocities. But as Holocaust history also shows us, engineers and hackers can use their skills to take direct action too.

During that same Nazi-punching era of WWII, ordinary people used their abilities and access to proprietary systems, data, and information security knowledge to refuse to be complacent, and instead sabotage the Axis to save lives. It’s my hope that sharing some stories of those who “hacked” the systems that were meant to execute the atrocities of the Holocaust will help us remember that there are always more ways to resist.

René Carmille — was a punch card computer expert and comptroller general of the French Army, who later would head up the Demographics Department of the French National Statistics Service. As quickly as IBM worked with the Nazis to enable them to use their punch card computer systems to update census data to find and round up Jewish citizens, Rene and his team of double-agents worked just as fast to manipulate their data to undermine their efforts.

The IEEE newspaper, The Institute, describes Carmille as being an early ethical hacker: “Over the course of two years, Carmille and his group purposely delayed the process by mishandling the punch cards. He also hacked his own machines, reprogramming them so that they’d never punch information from Column 11 [which indicated religion] onto any census card.” His work to identify and build in this exploit saved thousands of Jews from being rounded up and deported to death camps….(More)”.