Nancy Rourke’s Deaf Survivors of the Holocaust
Around the world commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the greatest pain of the camp where six million Jewish prisoners of the German Nazis were murdered, humiliated, suffered. and targeted, today on January 27th, 2020 is the Holocaust Memorial Day, we must continue to challenge hatred.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was on an educational tour around the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex in Poland, on December 6, 2019, must-have impacted her life by now. I quote, by Angel Merkel’s powerful words: “I feel a sense of shame for the barbaric crimes that were here committed by Germans—crimes that are unfathomable.”
I am struggling to get through this post because there is a problem where people interchangeably use language bigotry with what should be called hate. Hate cannot be compared to any other words. Hate is its own beast with the terrible history that should be recognized by all and the suffering of Deaf people cannot be compared to any other oppression. This is a severe case of non-compliance, and pure oppression.
Often, people use ignorance and compare it to their own oppression. This is problematic for a number of reasons. If you want to write a piece on hate, it has to be about hate. If you want to call this language bigotry, then you can call it language bigotry, you cannot call it to hate. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Jack Levin, professor emeritus at Northeastern University and co-director of the Brudnick Center on Violence and Conflict states: “When people think of hate crimes, they think of neo-Nazis, they think of racism, they think of homophobia, they just don’t seem to think of people with disabilities as being a protected category. I call it the invisible hate crime.”
However, ‘Deaf Jews’ were murdered, Deaf schoolchildren were sterilized, and those who survived, even rendered unable to ever have children, considered themselves lucky, seen as the most notorious minority group, ‘Deaf’ were the first people to be targeted, in the name of the most barbaric thinking; Is it not unfathomable? Imagine all the execution walls.
Deaf people in the Holocaust is being treated invisible, but to focus on hearing-dominated choices, instead of exploiting Deaf people and trying to present a life that allows them to feel tolerant; However, those very Deaf people who survived the Holocaust, presents the struggles and triumphs of their lives in a human way.
Two books: ‘Crying Hands: Eugenics and Deaf People in Nazi Europe’ by Horst Biesold, and ‘Deaf People in Hitler’s Europe’ by Donna F. Ryan, where I wrote an essay project for Hate Crime and Bias class 13 years ago. That opened my eyes. This assault in our democracy, leading a fight against hate.
“Yet this most stigmatized group is not often viewed through the lens of compassion and understanding, only modern forms of old ignorance. The Deaf community has gone through considerable evolution, but hate crime remains invisible in the face of society.” (Tozier, 2007)
What happened in Holocaust is forever scarred by facing a moment of the growing pain, Deaf people had been profiled by Germans and needs to be held accountable about Deaf people in Holocaust for its culturally labeled in hate and bias, because it is not enough talked about the fabrication of human civilization and their identity.
The best description of the deep feeling of admiration for the language and the culture of the Deaf, and when it comes to the Deaf, we should just respect their language and culture, full stop. When social media choose not to talk enough about Deaf victims and survivors in the Holocaust, losing respect is a tragic loss in the world.
Much like Deaf Jews being murdered, ending up on the wrong side of the hatred and bullying by expressing views seemingly on the right side of a power-hunger in cultural hegemony. The witch-hunting of the Deaf is not the answer, extensively on the social construction of “Deafness”.
There are many and many historic written articles around social media (NPR, The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, BBC, et al) about German Chancellor Angela Merkel visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau, none of them had mentioned Deaf Jewish prisoners as the first people to be murdered.
Merkel said in the New York Times article written by Melissa Eddy: “We are witnessing and experiencing an attack on the fundamental values of liberal democracy and a very dangerous historical revisionism that serves a hostility that is directed at specific groups”
A powerful piece by BBC where it can be found on YouTube, BBC: ‘The Deaf Holocaust’, Deaf People and Nazi Germany, of Aktion T4 survivors sharing their experiences. The trend of discrimination has been documented from the Holocaust forward. When I visited the United States Holocaust Museum for the first time, I was blown away that it was not enough documented about Deaf people. That is a good example of the invisible hate crime.
Last March 2019, a performance by Deaf actresses and actors held at George Washington University: ‘Crying Hands: Deaf People in Hitler’s Germany’ sends a powerful message: “based on interviews of Deaf Holocaust and civilian survivors, explores the fates of the Deaf and disabled in Nazi Germany, a neglected story of the Holocaust.”
When the Nazi Party came to power in Germany in 1933, Hitler was obsessed with racial purity, the notion that nature had created a superior Aryan race. Persons who were of “mixed-race” and those with disabilities, chronic diseases (e.g. epilepsy), mental handicaps, and illnesses, etc, were to be weeded out of society or prevented from reproducing. Between 1933 and 1945, some 17,000 Deaf people were sterilized. The youngest was nine years old.
Hitler masterminded the barbaric attacks. The consequences were grave, nothing powerful than this. “Deaf people in Hitler’s Europe were among those who were killed by the Nazis during the Third Reich because they were Jews, others because as congenitally deaf people, they were considered “defective” and “biologically inferior” (Gilbert, 1998)
The Nazi campaign against the handicapped begun in 1933 with the passage by the Reichstag of the Law for the Prevention of offspring with hereditary diseases. The conditions were mental illness, retardation, hereditary blindness, and hereditary deafness. 17,000 out of 375,000 people were Deaf people. 28 percent of 17,000 Deaf people were under the age of 18. Nine (9) percent were women who were already pregnant.
Hitler created a secret campaign called Aktion T-4 to mass-murder disabled people because they were “life unworthy of life.” Infants with disabilities were the first victims. (Gilbert, 1998)
Reminder: Not only Deaf Jewish were targeted, but also Deaf Germans and Deaf Polish Jewish, too.
Any kind of participation would go a long way to raising awareness in the community about some of the unique issues that arise in matters involving Deaf survivors in Holocaust and to providing them examples of positive examples of how with community and support, plus the right resources, contributing to the community is possible.
We cannot ignore hate crimes that must be challenged by us all. No matter what. There were older blog posts to share with the readers. As the only Deaf lecturer focusing on hate crimes in the Deaf community, available for lectures below.
Copyright © 2020 Jason Tozier
This text may be freely copied in its entirely only, including this copyright message.
Gilbert, Jean (1998). Deaf People in Hitler’s Europe. Gallaudet Today, September 1998.
Tozier, Jason (2007). Negative Perceptions of Deaf Individuals in Relation to Knowledge of American Language. March 2007.
Eddy, Melissa. (2019). Visiting Auschwitz, Merkel Warns Against Danger to Liberal Democracy. New York Times. December 2019.
Hearing supremacy is a hellavu drug. A mind filled with hatred speaks a sober heart. History did not teach us enough about haters that comes out of their mouth right into the public when they feel safe because of eugenics ideology. Not only that, but Whiteness is like a drug.
After I learned the history about Harry Hamiliton Laughlin, one of the staunchest supporters of eugenical research and policy in the United States in the first half of the 20th century, where Laughlin writes a letter to Professor Dr. Eugene Fischer, President of International Congress for the Scientific Investigation of Population Problems in 1935, responsible for the sterilization of Deaf people where the Nazi party filled with white supremacy loved his idea and used his model in 1933 to verbally and physically assault Deaf people by sterilization.
If it was in 2019, would Harry Laughlin be prosecuted for a hate crime? Would that be a prosecutorial slam dunk……but white privilege gets in the way. Wasn’t he possibly suffering from a lithium imbalance? Isn’t paranoia approaching severe personality disorder characterized by a constant suspicion that Laughlin have sinister motives against Deaf people?
When I learned about the history about Harry Laughlin through Equal Justice Initiative, one of my favorite organization, commented: “On this day [December 2nd] in 1922, eugenicist Henry Laughlin published the “model sterilization law” which encouraged lawmakers to develop more effective and “constitutionally acceptable” sterilization laws.” and realized that he was public enemy number one influencing American eugenics policy. That was where Alexander Graham Bell loved his idea.
The anger, and the arrogance towards innocent Deaf people Harry Laughlin did not know, and cannot fathom to understand this hatred. The damage control has been done. Laughlin who went after Deaf subjects for eugenic sterilization of personal power and a higher degree of self-esteem because it demonstrates that one feels good enough about himself to demand something better or higher from the world.
Harry Laughlin knew who Alexander Graham Bell, the leading eugenicist in the Deaf community who would publish articles on hereditary ‘Deafness’, and they were responsible for the destruction of the Deaf community.
Imagine if Harry Laughlin and Alexander Graham Bell who sit together in order to spew hatred towards Deaf people. Wake up! Inside the media propaganda is yet another effort to dismantle the Deaf community. Or, another effort to deter intellectual freedom to all the Deaf?
Would they really understand the painful history what Harry Hamiliton Laughlin and Alexander Graham Bell had caused enough destruction in the Deaf community? Where is the mistrust of what we see on the news outlets about Harry H. Laughlin and Alexander Graham Bell?
The sterilization of the Deaf people is the worst of all. The Deaf community began to sense differently.
When I first learned about Charles Darwin back in 1988 in eighth grade after taking Biology class, my hearing teacher would speak highly of Darwin’s work, also learned about Francis Galton whom I had no idea he was related to Charles Darwin as half-cousins in college days and told a history lesson where eugenics were taught in schools across the country, only many years later after I read Paddy Ladd’s Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood:
“Against this background, Darwin’s initially explosive ideas on evolution served to reinforce the medical discourse. Deaf people and their languages were confirmed as akin to those of other savages, and an atavistic throwback who, like them, ‘may fancifully be called living fossils [and] will aid us in forming a picture of the ancient forms of life’ ” (1859: 448)
That hit me hard. I had no idea until 2010 when I was 35. The book written by Paddy Ladd had changed my life completely. I feel the wind differently. I relate to the Deaf community and experience a bond with the Deaf community which clearly unknown to you.
Sociology had stolen my heart and became a student of Sociology, and learned that Harriet Martineau, the Mother of Sociology, Martineau was Deaf. I was surprised. I bet you do not know that either. Even my professor whom studied Martineau in graduate school had no idea that Martineau was Deaf.
Not even hearing professors ever mention anything about it. A pattern of ignorance? A certain weaving together of ignorance? Peace, freedom, and global health of the Deaf shall not be ignored.
Martineau was dating Charles Darwin’s older brother, Erasmus Alvey Darwin, and Darwin saw and grabbed the greatest ignorance, the slandering of Deaf people so great that not even an idea exists of what Darwin’s hatred should look like. Would it end all kinds of intellectual oppression? Darwin’s ideology rakes for the highest form of democracy in the broadest sense of hatred.
Despite the vast differences, would The Society for Biodemography and Social Biology, formerly American Eugenics Society apologize for Laughlin’s hatred of the Deaf people? Would they do so with a commitment to develop healthy task to overcome indifference, show of human compassion, that plagues the Deaf community?
Deaf people who lived in Hitler’s Europe, whom were targeted for the display of symbols of hate, thanks to Laughlin’s work. Dealing with the cultural differences, specifically, with the way of life of the ‘minorities’ who live in the society. After reading Crying Hands: Eugenics and Deaf People in Nazi Germany by Horst Biesold, by cultural norms, in processing of a hate crime, and that becomes an issue that all hate crime sessions by Laughlin’s work, must tackle.
Isn’t hate crime by no means unique in the broadest respect of the Deaf people?
If The Society for Biodemography and Social Biology, formerly as American Eugenics Society, refuses to apologize for Laughlin’s action, why should Deaf people be punished more severely because of social and psychological pathology?
Laughlin as an American citizen who breeds in White Supremacy as he received an honorary degree from the Nazi-controlled, University of Heidelberg for the work of race-cleansing. Hate crime violates constitutional rights of the Deaf people, especially Deaf babies.
We must always remind ourselves as well as all others how our Declaration of Independence makes our country different from any other nation around the world. The Declaration proclaims that we have inalienable rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
American Eugenics Society, under the establishment of Harry H. Laughlin in 1926 who was served as the Superintendent of the Eugenics Record Office, probably the best known, if not the most oppressive, White supremacist in America–all but faded into culture of hate.
Will Deaf people ever get a formal apology from The Society for Biodemography and Social Biology?
Copyright © 2019 Jason Tozier
This text may be freely copied in its entirely only, including this copyright message.
NAD (National Association of the Deaf) who claims to serve the Deaf community in full information, whitewashing historical statements in the name of bigotry when we look at our lives, in the past and present, if we are honest of our time, the effort by NAD is concerned.
A HATE sign symbol is now added to the list of symbols for haters. White supremacy does not belong in America.