Nov. 27, 2001 --
"While people with disabilities were the first victims of Nazi oppression,
they have been largely ignored in the historical canon," say filmmakers Sharon Snyder and David Mitchell of the University of Illinois, Chicago. The couple's new 42-minute documentary, "A World Without Bodies," which "examines the systematic killings of disabled
people during the Nazi era," has its premiere this coming Thursday (Nov. 29) at the University of Berkeley Campus (2060 Valley Life Sciences Building; 5 p.m., organizers ask that those attending not wear fragrances; for info call 415/642-4333). A panel discussion will follow.
Interest is peaking not only in the Nazi holocaust of disabled people but in all areas of disability history. Earlier this month The Disability History Museum's library went online; the searchable archives contain hundreds of historic images, documents and other artifacts (http://www.disabilitymuseum.org/browse_detail.html) and is being added to daily. "Few of us realize that people with disabilities have a rich and dramatic history that is relevant to all Americans," says Museum director Laurie Block, perhaps best known for her acclaimed radio series, "Beyond Affliction," of which the Disabilty History Museum is an outgrowth.
Several good sites focus on the Nazis. Disability Rights Advocates' Disability Holocaust Project (online at http://www.dralegal.org/projects/disabilityholocaust/) aims to educate the public about "the systematic, compulsory sterilization and mass extermination of over three-quarters of a million people with disabilities during the Holocaust." The group's examination of treatment people with disabilities suffered during the Holocaust is available in their book, "Forgotten Crimes: The Holocaust and People with Disabilities" (online at http://www.dralegal.org/publications/index.html#fc ).
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's material on the T-4 program can be found at http://www.ushmm.org/outreach/euthan.htm -- and for even more on "Nazis, Eugenics, and the T-4 Program," see the Disability Social History Project at http://www.disabilityhistory.org/t4prog.html -- the larger site itself (http://www.disabilityhistory.org) gives visitors a fascinating overview of luminaries such as Helen Keller, Randolph Bourne, Rosa Luxemborg, Antonio Gramsci and a history of the disability rights movement and institutions -- and links to a number of other disability history websites.