In 1975, Mr. Horst Biesold, a teacher of deaf students in Bremen, West Germany, was curious.Mr. Biesold loved sports-especially deaf sports. Mr. Biesold was hearing, but he knew many deaf people. He had many friends who were deaf because he loved deaf sports.
Mr. Biesold wondered why none of his deaf friends had children. Finally, he asked one of his friends about it.
The man was very embarrassed. But he told Mr. Biesold the truth: The German government had sterilized him. Under the Nazis in the 1930's, the government had removed his testes. The testes are the male reproductive glands. Without his testes, Mr. Biesold's friend could never father children.
Stunned, Mr. Biesold began to do research. He wanted to find out how many deaf adults in Germany could not have children.
Mr. Biesold's research showed that:17,000 deaf people were sterilized in Germany in the 1930's; Catholic priests and Jewish rabbis tended to protest sterilization; Protestant ministers tended to support it; Deaf people had a Nazi organization; their Nazi organization supported sterilization; When people were sterilized, no medicine was used for pain; the reproductive glands-testes in men and ovaries in women-were removed without anesthetic; 33% of the people who were sterilized were under 18 years old; 9% of the people who were sterilized were women, pregnant more than six months, as part of forced abortions;
By 1940, sterilization was replaced by murder; the Nazis called it "mercy killing;" About 150,000 handicapped people- and 1600 deaf peoplewere killed by the Nazis.
"Mr. Biesold's work was so important," said Marla Petal, who invited Mr. Biesold to speak at the Temple Beth Solomon of the deaf in 1983.
"The Nazis hurt deaf people beyond belief. They murdered and maimed them and they wiped out a generation of their children.
"Deaf people were among the first victims of the Holocaust."
*Information from Marla Petal, Michelle Baron, and the "In Der Nacht" exhibit.
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