Deaf People in Hitler's Europe

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Deaf People in Hitler's Europe (2002) is a collection of works analyzing and describing the life of deaf people during the Holocaust; inspired by the conference Deaf People in Hitler’s Europe, 1933-1945 hosted jointly by Gallaudet University and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1998.[1] Deaf People in Hitler's Europe gives an inside look of the struggle and hardships facing the (Jewish and non Jewish) deaf people during the Holocaust. Through various explanations and descriptions we are able to see just how horrible life was for deemed "handicapped".


The Nazi campaign against the handicapped began on July 14, 1933 with the Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring. The Nazis sterilized people with disabilities such as mental illness, retardation, blindness, and deaf people. It was justified by scientists and the doctors who certified patients' conditions as hereditary in order to prevent such handicapped people from bearing children. Teachers and others were involved in the certification process. 375,000 people were sterilized by force and an estimated 17,000 of the people sterilized were deaf. Deaf Team Leaders tried to differentiate deaf people from those with other disabilities in order to protect the deaf people from the Nazis. A movie was made of deaf people assimilating to German ways hoping to no longer be a target of the Nazis. However, the movie unfortunately was banned from view and resulted in the death of more deaf people. Later Action T4 killed thousands of people who were "judged incurably sick, by critical medical examination" from 1939-41 officially and up to 1945 unofficially.

Part I: Racial Hygiene[edit]

An analysis of the cruelty on deaf people and people with disabilities as the Nazis tried to create an agrarian society. Followed by an explanation of the role of medical professionals in filtering who is allowed to marry, who should be sterilized, and who should be murdered by the Nazis. Finally, details of the justification of the murder of those deemed undesirable.[2]

Part II: The German Experience[edit]

Thoughts on the interview of deaf Berliners who were victims and members of the Nazi party. A description of the cost of education deaf students who could not be soldiers or have health children and teacher betraying deaf students. Ending with an inspection of the experience of Deaf Jews.[3]

Part III: The Jewish Deaf Experience[edit]

Here John S. Schuchman discusses the perils that Hungarian Jews faced during Hitler's regin. This discussion is supported by several accounts of deaf Jewish survivors who talk about their personal experiences at the time.


Part I: Henry Friedlander (Holocaust Studies and the Deaf Community), Robert N. Proctor (Eugenics in Hitler's Germany), Patricia Heberer (Targeting the "Unfit" and Radical Public Health Strategies in Nazi Germany)

Part II: Jochen Muhs (Deaf People as Eyewitnesses of National Socialism), John S. Schuchman (Misjudged People: The German Deaf Community in 1932), Kurt Lietz (The Place of the School for the Deaf in the New Reich), Horst Biesold (Teacher-Collaborators)

Part III: John S. Schuchman (Hungarian Deaf Jews and the Holocaust, Deaf Survivors' Testimony: An Edited Transcript)

Translators: Tobias Brill, William Sayers


It was reviewed by Bulletin of the History of Medicine.[4] The international journal Review of Disability Studies review says:[5]

Despite some overlaps in information from chapter to chapter, this book is a good source of information about disability and the Holocaust. Anyone who is interested in Deaf Studies, eugenics, Holocaust Studies, the treatment of minority groups, in general, or in disability as a category of Otherness will find this a worthwhile addition to their library

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Deaf People in Hitler's Europe". The Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Dec 2002. Archived from the original on July 6, 2012. Retrieved July 3, 2012. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ [2]
  4. ^ Bulletin of the History of Medicine
  5. ^ Review of Disability Studies, An International Journal