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The Nazi Persecution of Deaf People Browse

The Nazi Persecution of Deaf People—Panel: Paul Shapiro


Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. My name is Paul Shapiro and I am the director of the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies. It’s my pleasure to welcome you to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum today for our panel presentation on the Nazi persecution of deaf people. This program has particular meaning for us because it’s taking place in conjunction with the National Conference of the Jewish Deaf Congress. I want to extend a special welcome to the officers and members of the Jewish Deaf Congress and to Dr. Simon Carmel of the Rochester Institute of Technology who helped organize today’s program. We have yet to come to terms intellectually, emotionally, or politically with the significance of the Holocaust but it is clear that study of the Holocaust and of the unprecedented crimes of the Nazis is significant for us. The Holocaust offers lessons of universal significance that we are driven to understand in order to preserve the memory of those who fell victim and because the lessons of what was allowed to happen then remain relevant today, in a world in which hatred, bigotry and discrimination against the “other,” people who are different, remains all too common. The mission of the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies is to promote and support research on the Holocaust, to inspire the growth of the field of Holocaust studies, and to ensure the ongoing training of future generations of Holocaust scholars. Within this broad mission, study of the victimization of all of the groups of people who were targeted as groups by the Nazis—Jews, Roma and Sinti, or Gypsies, Poles, people with disabilities, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses—constitutes a scholarly act of memorialization. This panel presentation is part of a series of presentations through which the Center seeks to focus attention on research areas where important work has been done and where more work remains to be done. Three years ago our Center worked together with Gallaudet University to organize a remarkable conference on deaf people in Hitler’s Europe. I am personally very excited and very gratified to see some people here today who participated in that extraordinary meeting. I know that Professor Schuchman, who will speak today, is editing the papers of that conference for publication. Study of the Holocaust is, by its very nature, an emotional experience. I have rarely been as moved by scholars’ papers or survivors’ testimonies as during the days of that conference in the summer of 1998. So I am glad that we are gathered together again. What we do here today ennobles the memory of the deaf people who fell victory... who fell victim, to hatred and persecution during the Holocaust, that defining event of the twentieth century. Before turning the podium over to our panel moderator, I want to draw your attention to another program taking place here at the museum this evening. Co-sponsored with the embassy of Israel, at 7 o’clock, we will be showing a film on the Nazi euthanasia program, a film entitled “Healing by Killing”. The film is in German and English with English subtitles. It is closed captioned for the hearing impaired. The showing will be followed by a discussion with the film’s producer, Nitzan Aviram. It is now my pleasure to turn the podium over to Dr. Jeffrey Megargee, an outstanding member of the research staff of the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, and again the very warmest welcome to all of you who are here today.

The members of this panel discussed the Nazi persecution of deaf people, including Nazi policies against them, the “racial science” used by the Nazis to justify this persecution, and the experiences of deaf survivors. Each panelist made a 20-minute presentation, followed by interviews with two survivors, conducted by Dr. Simon J. Carmel, Professor of History, Rochester Institute of Technology.

Paul A. Shapiro, Director, Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.