Crying Hands

Chapter One continued...
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On the whole, he "especially wished to recommend" the first volume. He also praised the second volume as "quite interesting," for "here the theme and objective of the entire work are revealed to the reader: an earnest and thoroughly justified exhortation to racial hygiene."

Writing in the same journal, teacher A. Abend had asked in 1925 , "What does racial hygiene have to say to the teacher of the deaf?" He insisted that all deaf educational efforts were failures, and that "the schooling of the deaf constitutes contra-selection." While he agreed that persons deafened from "accident or illness are genotypically [hereditarily] sound," persons with hereditary deafness should not be allowed to marry. His concluding thesis marked a strong endorsement of racial hygiene programs applied to deaf people. "The severely, genotypically degenerate deaf constitute a burden on the people. The people's need can demand the prevention of their reproduction."

Abend's essay represented a change of course for German deaf education that would last until 1945. His central assertion, that "deafness represents nothing desirable, nothing worth striving for," marks the turning point. Abend reinforced his statement with an admonition to deaf education: "As teachers of the deaf, we too must adopt this [the eugenicist's] position."

In 1929, teacher P. Schumann wrote about the causes of deafness and made clear that he, too, judged eugenics favorably. He granted heredity "a very important role" in deafness, and he noted with regret "that the influence of heredity is often underestimated." On the other hand, he warned against exaggerating the heritability of deafness, "lest there arise a demand for the sterilization of all the constitutionally deaf." In the concluding part of his essay, Schumann returned to his approving assessment that "direct genetic transmission . . . to a certain and not inconsiderable extent is to be assumed as the cause of deafness." Since genetic inheritance was "not, however, the rule," Schumann suggested that "in general, legal intervention would not be useful relative to the elimination of reproduction among the deaf and dumb."

Schumann's conclusions thus were ambiguous. It was not clear whether he rejected laws permitting forced sterilization, or whether he believed all legally deaf people were to be classified as hereditarily diseased according to the law. Schumann gave no opinion of his own about evaluating whether deafness was hereditary in individual cases, but deferred to the racial hygienists, since "the science of genetics . . . has drawn significant conclusions of both theoretical and practical worth from the material available for study." Back to the Book

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