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Sunday, 10 June, 2001, 12:14 GMT 13:14 UK
Gypsies ask IBM for Holocaust reparation
A Gypsy family moved on by the police in London
Roma remain a persecuted minority to this day
A Geneva-based Gypsy - or Roma - organisation is planning to sue the technology giant IBM over its alleged role in aiding the Nazi Holocaust.

Official figures put the Gypsy death toll in the German death camps - sometimes referred to as the "forgotten holocaust" - at over 600,000, but Gypsy groups say the number was over a million.


For Gypsies the action is a major step forward. It is a sign of how Gypsies are starting to speak with one voice

Lawyer Henri-Philippe Sambuc
The Gypsy International and Compensation Action is claiming $10,000 per Gypsy orphan from the genocide, the Swissinfo web site reported.

It says IBM custom-built technology to help the Nazis profile the populations of occupied countries, automating the persecution of Gypsies, Jews, homosexuals and other targeted groups.

The action follows the publication of a book earlier this year which says the US company, via its German subsidiary, was more involved in the holocaust than it previously admitted.

Pro-Gypsy lawyer Henri-Philippe Sambuc
Sambuc helps Roma speak with one voice
Edwin Black's book, IBM and the Holocaust, argues that state of the art punch-card machines allowed the mass killing to reach the scale it did.

A collective law suit by five survivors was brought against the company in the US after the publication of the book, but was dropped after the US Government gave assurances it would negotiate the issues directly with IBM.

Lawyer for the Gypsy group Henri-Philippe Sambuc, however, accused the firm of knowing its technology was being used to commit crimes against humanity.

"The specificity of the machines required IBM to participate directly in meeting the needs of its clients," he said.

Nazi concentration camp
Hundreds of thousands of Gypsies were murdered in Nazi camps
"They knew exactly the purpose of their products."

IBM's European headquarters were based in Geneva during the war.

In 1941 the US parent company distanced itself from the German subsidiary, but Mr Sambuc says it continued to supply the punch-card technology through neutral countries, specifically Switzerland.

Revolution

Mr Sambuc insisted that recent Holocaust compensation funds have consistently awarded Gypsies a much smaller percentage of the money than they were entitled to.

"For Gypsies the Geneva action is a major step forward," he said.

"It is a sign of how Gypsies, spread across Europe and beyond, are starting to speak with one voice."

"It is a revolution for Gypsies to go before a judge and demand protection and recognition of their rights."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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