Crying Hands

Chapter One continued...
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In one of the first public comments about Boeters' proposals, the chairman of the Federal Health Department, Professor Bumm, stated in 1923 that his office did not reject the argument that "a reduction in the useless and unserviceable elements in the people" was in principle desirable. Bumm contended that forcible sterilization for eugenic reasons had certain financial advantages, but such an action would have to stand up to rigorous legal, economic, social, and theological testing. The federal ministry was instructed to defer the introduction of a forced sterilization bill until an empirical review had been completed. Boeters' goal, to bring the draft to legislative deliberation, had been achieved.

Still, the federal Public Health Department was not ready to accept Boeters' basic claim for racial hygiene. A committee of the Prussian Provincial Health Board on December 1, 1923, reached the conclusion that Boeters' proposals were "not suitable, at present," although the committee also said that experience in the United States and Switzerland revealed the "innocuousness of the operation . . . and the absence of negative consequences for the patient."

By February 1925, the federal Public Health Department still showed no willingness to approve Boeters' principles, despite the fact that they had been expanded in the interim and had been praised in numerous commentaries by eugenicists and racial hygienists.Bumm objected that "in more than a few cases heredity was wrongly claimed as cause [for a disability], while the true reason was the unfavorable effects of upbringing and environment."

The reservations of the public health authority could not check further developments, however. The National Socialist movement was becoming stronger, and in it were the most eager proponents of the Lex Zwickau principles. Professor of medicine Fritz Lenz, for example, expressed his concern for the Germans "without space . . . the at least 20 million capable persons," for whom he wished to find room within Germany's borders. Lenz recommended that more space could be found by reducing the population through the "sterilization of all the unfit and inferior." Lenz believed about 30 percent of the population to be bearers of unsound hereditary traits who should have no right to reproduce.

Among German teachers of deaf children, growing support for racial hygiene and thus for sterilization was apparent in the 1920s. Teachers subscribed to the views of authors Bauer, Fischer, and Lenz in Outline of Human Genetics and Racial Hygiene (Grundriss der menschlichen Erblichkeitslehre und Rassenhygiene), which was published in two volumes (Vol. 1, Human Genetics; Vol. 2, Human Selection and Racial Hygiene). A book reviewer for the Journal for Deaf Education, a teacher identified only by the letters W. J., noted in 1926 that Lenz had devoted a chapter to hereditary causes of deafness and gave great currency to the term "hereditary."

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