Crying Hands

Chapter One continued...
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As early as March of 1923 the executive committee of the Union of German Teachers of the Deaf demanded in the Journal for Deaf Education (Blätter für Taubstummenbildung), their professional organ, that deafness be seen in the light of the modern science of genetics. In the May 1923 issue, teacher G. Neuert raised the question "Should deaf-mutes marry?" He allowed that "medical science and statistics do not offer sufficient evidence to give a positive yes or no to the question."

In the same year, the district physician of Zwickau, Gustav Boeters—and later other racial hygienists—publicized results of their own investigations that gave a negative answer to Neuert's question. Boeters' draft of a law for the sterilization of "inferiors," which he presented to the government of Saxony in 1923, carried the title "The prevention of unworthy life through operative measures." Boeters promoted the Lex Zwickau (Zwickau Law), as it was called, in the editorial section of several newspapers. He also sent a selection of his newspaper pieces to the federal health authorities with the request that they take a stand on the matter.

When the authorities did not respond, Boeters urged prompt attention to the issue and explained that he and his medical colleagues were already sterilizing disabled persons against their will. In a letter of December 3, 1923, he argued that "keeping down the numbers of poorly endowed offspring" promised great success for racial hygiene.

To my knowledge [Boeters continued], I am the first German medical official who has dared to translate the aims of practical racial hygiene into action in his area of professional responsibility. We in Zwickau have undertaken sterilization operations on mental defectives and others, under the aegis of our highest public authorities . . . since in many cases the consent of parents and others is not to be had at any price, even though the necessity of an operation is clearly evident for anyone not himself a mental defective, I urge the introduction of legislative coercion.
Although the federal health authorities also failed to answer Boeters' second communication, he lobbied the government of Saxony and the federal government ceaselessly. Boeters' pressure on the medical profession and on the state, his growing support among professional colleagues, his many press releases, and the media articles about him made the topic of racial hygiene a matter of great public interest in the 1920s. In order to provide a basis for future decisions, therefore, the federal ministry finally commissioned the Public Health Department to test Boeters' case.

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