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Crying Hands

Eugenics and Deaf People in Nazi Germany

Horst Biesold

Publication Year: 1999

Horst Biesold’s Crying Hands treats a neglected aspect of the Holocaust: the fate of the deaf in Nazi Germany. His book covers a story that has remained almost unknown. In the United States, even in Germany, few are aware that during the Nazi era human beings–men, women, and children–with impaired hearing were sterilized against their will, and even fewer know that many of the deaf were also murdered. --From the Foreword by Henry Friedlander When the Nazis assumed power in Germany in 1933, they wasted no time in implementing their radical policies, first by securing passage of the Law for the Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Diseases. Among those designated by this law as “congenitally disabled” were deaf people. Horst Biesold’s newly translated book examines this neglected aspect of Nazi “racial hygiene” through interviews with more than 1,000 deaf survivors of this brutal law that authorized forced sterilizations, abortions, and eventually murder. Crying Hands meticulously delineates the antecedents of Nazi eugenics, beginning with Social Darwinism (postulated in the mid-nineteenth century) and tracing the various sterilization laws later initiated throughout the world, including many passed and practiced in the United States. This exceptional scholarship is movingly paralleled by the human faces fixed to the numbing statistics, as in story after story those affected recount their irretrievable loss, pain, and misplaced shame imposed upon them by the Nazi regime. Through their stories, told to Biesold in German Sign Language, they have given voice to the countless others who died from the specious science practiced by the Third Reich. And now their own trials finally have been acknowledged.

Published by: Gallaudet University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Publisher’s Introduction

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pp. vii-x

THE GERMAN deaf community’s devastation by eugenics, educators, and National Socialism in the 1930s and early 1940s forms the subject matter of Crying Hands. Preparation of an American edition of this work, translated from...

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Preface to the German Edition

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pp. xi-xvi

THIS WORK could have been written only because there were more than twelve hundred deaf people who experienced and survived the most horrifying experiences andwere willing to communicate them to a hearing person, despite the public silence that had been dictated...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xvii-xix

THIS STUDY was accepted in 1986 by the University of Bremen as a dissertation qualifying the author for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Special thanks are due to the examiners, Professor Dr. Wilfried Wagner, Department of History, and Professor Dr. Wolfgang Jantzen, Department of Education of the Disabled...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-12

HORST BIESOLD’S Crying Hands treats a neglected aspect of the Holocaust: the fate of the deaf in Nazi Germany. His book covers a story that has remained almost unknown. In the United States, even in Germany, few are aware that during the Nazi era human beings—men, women, and children—with impaired hearing were sterilized against their will, and even fewer know that many of the deaf were also murdered...

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1. From Social Darwinism to National Socialism

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pp. 13-27

THIS BOOK reconsiders deaf education during the era of National Socialism.1 A leading historian on the education of hearing-impaired children in Germany has written that “German deaf education was set back decades as a consequence of National Socialism and the war,” but this is hardly an adequate explanation for the monstrous events...

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2. The Concept of Hereditary Deafness under National Socialism

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pp. 28-41

SCIENTIFIC literature on the incidence of hereditary deafness was inconsistent in the years preceding Nazi rule. Moreover, Nazi race hygienists distorted what little evidence there was about the frequency of hereditary deafness (as well as its applicability to particular individuals) to fit their ideological goals and preconceived beliefs. The first German records on...

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3. Teacher-Collaborators

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pp. 42-83

THE TESTIMONY I gathered suggests that educators in Germany’s special schools actively supported racial hygienemeasures against deaf people; they did not share the “rescue mentality” claimed by historians for special education teachers.1 It is worthwhile to begin this discussion...

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4. Forced Abortions

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pp. 84-90

THE FASCIST rulers and their accomplices from medicine, jurisprudence, and education intended the Law for the Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Diseases to block the creation of “impaired” life, in keeping with their view of race ideology. They took the first step toward the elimination of life, however, with the passage of the Law to Amend...

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5. Deaf Collaboration: REGEDE

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pp. 91-108

THE REICH UNION of the Deaf of Germany (REGEDE) was a social organization of and for deaf Germans founded inWeimar in 1927. It lost its independence under theNazi regime. REGEDE was incorporated into the National Socialists’ public welfare program at Easter of 1933...

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6. Deaf Resistance

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pp. 109-129

HERBERT WEINERT, a racial hygienist and teacher of deaf students from Dresden, wrote in the 1930s that “countering” deaf people’s “subversive agitation” was a significant aspect of the race hygiene program. He termed such work “a special assignment . . . since [resistance to the sterilization law] always reflects negatively...

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7. The Jewish Deaf in Germany

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pp. 130-139

BEFORE WORLD WAR II, the Israelite Institution for the Deaf of Germany at Berlin-Weissensee was a flourishing educational, cultural, and religious center. Approximately one thousand deaf German Jews attended the school.1 Except for a plaque mounted on the building, there...

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8. Sterilization’s Legacy

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pp. 140-159

THERE ARE no simple medical criteria by which to measure the consequences of sterilization. After analyzing almost 2,000 accounts of victims of the sterilization law (of which 1,215 are deaf), however, I agree with another scholar’s statement that behind the effects of compulsory sterilization...

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9. Euthanasia and Deaf Germans

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pp. 160-170

THE EXTERMINATION of deaf people in the Third Reich cannot be ignored in this book. Deaf people were a sociocultural minority that Nazi racial hygiene theorists wanted removed from society. Deaf Germanswere not “racially intact” or “hereditarily fit,” according to German eugenicists...

Appendix 1

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pp. 171-174

Appendix 2

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pp. 175-183

Appendix 3

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pp. 184-188

Notes

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pp. 189-210

Author’s Bibliography

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pp. 211-218

Selected Bibliography in English

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pp. 219-222

Index

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pp. 223-230


E-ISBN-13: 9781563681967
E-ISBN-10: 156368196X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781563682551
Print-ISBN-10: 1563682559

Page Count: 236
Illustrations: 23 tables, 26 photographs
Publication Year: 1999