About This Section: Deaf Europeans

Click a topic from the list at the left to see related materials.

This section covers Deaf Europeans with a focus on the impact of Nazism on Deaf people.

Nazism

Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party came to power in Germany in 1933. Immediately there after laws were established to restrict the rights and lives of “undesirable people.” This included disabled people, gays and lesbians, Jehovah Witnesses, communists, Romi (gypsies) and of course Jewish people.

Despite the Nazi’s goal to create an Aryan race, some Deaf German’s seeing themselves as a class of people rather than a disability, formed an SA group, participated in marches and spread Nazi propaganda. While the group quickly grew in size and rapidly began to ostracize their fellow Deaf Jews, their organization was shortlived. Once Goering learned of their existence he ordered them to be disbanded as the image of a DEAF group of Nazis (known as REGEDE) was discongruent with Hitler’s eugenics efforts.

Eugenics

As a result of the Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring, 350,000 to 400,000 disabled Germans are estimated to have been sterilized, 17,000 of whom were Deaf. The numbers of disabled people who were “put to sleep” in the secretive T4 program is estimated at 70,000 people.

Up until 1941 the Nazi movement employed techniques used in their Eugenics program against the handicapped and “useless eaters” (forcible sterilization, abortion, starvation, lethal injection, gas chambers, etc) but when an outcry came from German religious organizations, they shifted their focus to Jewish people and other groups, which would not create large dissension and criticism from the majority population. The final solution had begun.

Scholars

Several people have worked diligently to find information on the topic of Deaf people and Nazi Europe. Their work is identified in this section and when allowed by the scholar their work is posted here. Probably the most dedicated of all has been Horst Biesold, a German teacher of the Deaf, interpreter for the Deaf, ally and scholar. Biesold wrote numerous papers focusing on the Nazi’s eugenic movement as it is related to Deaf Germans and the fate of students in the Israelite School for the Deaf in Berlin. His book “Crying Hands: Eugenics and Deaf People in Nazi Germany” is a priceless resource. We dedicate this section of the website to Horst Biesold of blessed memory.

Deaf Europeans

Deaf Austrian

Deaf British

Deaf Norwegian

Deaf Berlin-Weissensee School

Deaf Nazis

Despite the Nazi’s goal to create an Aryan race, some Deaf German began seeing themselves as a class of people rather than a disability formed an SA group and even participated in marches and spread Nazi propaganda. While the group quickly grew in size and rapidly began to ostracize their fellow Deaf Jews, their organization was short-lived. Once Goering learned of their existence he ordered them to be disbanded as the image of a DEAF group of Nazis (known as REGEDE) was discongruent with Hitler’s sterilization and euthanasia efforts.

View Powerpoint

Biesold, Horst. Crying Hands: Eugenics and Deaf People in Nazi Germany. Washington, DC: Gallaudet UP, 1999, p. 92, 94, 95, 96-97, 99, and 106.
Reproduced with permission of Gallaudet University Press, (c) Gallaudet University All Rights Reserved.This material may not be duplicated by others without contacting Gallaudet University Press for permission.

Eugenics

As a result of the Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring, 350,000 to 400,000 disabled Germans are estimated to have been sterilized, 17,000 of whom were Deaf. The numbers of disabled people who were “put to sleep” in the secretive T4 program is estimated at 70,000 people.

Up until 1941 the Nazi movement employed techniques used in their Eugenics program against “useless eaters” (forcible sterilization, abortion, starvation, lethal injection, gas chambers, etc) but when an outcry came from German religious organizations, they shifted their focus to Jewish people and other groups, which would not create large dissension and criticism from the majority population. The final solution had begun.

Recommended Reading

Crying Hands

Biesold, Horst. Crying Hands: Eugenics and  People in Nazi Germany. Washington, DC: Gallaudet UP, 1999. 4th floor and ETRR HV 2748.B5413 1999.

View Book

Deaf People in Hitler’s Europe

Deaf People in Hitler’s Europe. Ed. Donna F. Ryan and John S. Schuchman. Washington, DC: Gallaudet UP, 2002. 4th floor and ETRR HV 2746.D43 2002.

View Book