Few people know over 13,000 Deaf people — and not just the Jewish Deaf — were killed by the Nazis in the late 1930’s.
Not only were the Deaf the first to find the executioner’s hand under Fascism, they were also viewed as inferior “useless eaters” by the ruling party.
Since the Deaf were unable to communicate in the Germanic mother tongue they were not heard or understood by the majority and fell prey to early graves.
The BBC has a wonderful companion website to help us always remember the Deaf who died. Here are three incredible blocks of quotes from the amazing show:
EducationErna Young who was sterilised as a young girl — estimated that some 17,000 deaf people were sterilised between 1933 and 1945 – the youngest was only 9 years old. Given that there was no national register of deaf or disabled people in Germany, many were given over to the authorities by teachers of the deaf – the very people trusted with their care and support. Some Nazi educationalists even began to question the right of deaf children to be educated at all, believing the education of the ‘inferior’ to be wasteful.
Deaths of ‘Useless Eaters’
– a deaf Holocaust survivor In 1939, the Nazi policy towards deaf and disabled people took an even more sinister and horrific turn.
Hitler decided that Germany should be rid of ‘useless eaters’ and that deaf and disabled children should be killed.
Newborn babies with physical ‘defects’ were removed from their mothers and killed. Children who were judged to have mental or physical disabilities were taken to special children’s wards and killed by lethal injection or starvation. The parents were often informed that their children had died of natural causes. It is estimated that nearly 2000 deaf children were killed in this way.
The T4 Program Also in 1939, Hitler agreed to the creation of the T4 Program, which targeted disabled and deaf adults living in institutional care homes. A questionnaire was filled out for each resident to indicate who should be removed to the hospital killing centres in Germany and Austria.
The residents were never examined by a qualified doctor — the questionnaire was, in effect, the person’s death warrant. Deaf Jews were even more despised than the non-Jewish Deaf and the Deaf Jewish visual history continues to finds life and a voice in hands on the web.
Fritz Stern, a Holocaust survivor, and former professor of history at Columbia University where he dedicated his life’s work to unearthing the surreptitious cycles of Fascism churning beneath human behavior recently said this:
Some people [in prewar Germany] recognized the moral perils of mixing religion and politics, but many more were seduced by it. It was the pseudo-religious transfiguration of politics that largely ensured [Hitler’s] success, notably in Protestant areas.
In Fritz Stern’s 50 year-old book, The Politics of Cultural Despair: A Study in the Rise of the Germanic Ideology, he provides an even harder warning against politics and religion intermingling to beget social policy:
The ideologists of the conservative revolution superimposed a vision of national redemption upon their dissatisfaction with liberal culture and with the loss of authoritative faith. They posed as the true champions of nationalism, and berated the socialists for their internationalism, and the liberals for their pacifism and their indifference to national greatness.
We are in a tenuous time in America and the moment is fast approaching when good people will have to stand up and say “Enough!” to those who attempt to shackle us in a religious ideology while repressing us with a government policy that prevents us from protecting those unable to protect themselves.
History cannot lead us down the right path, but it can warn us against taking the righteous one.