Deaf Witnesses of the NS era and Forced Sterilization: Two Examples

Autor/a: ZAUROV, Mark
Año: 2015
Editorial: VII Deaf Academics Researchers Conference, 2015
Tipo de código: Copyright
Soporte: Vídeo digital


Comunidad y cultura sorda, Historia, Arte y Cultura


My research is in the field of oral history during the Third Reich in Europe. A topic of particular interest is the forced sterilization of Deaf persons imposed by the Nazi Regime. In my talk I will present and compare two particular interviews with interviewees from deaf families. During these interviews they relate their positive or negative opinion of Sign language use, Nazi ideology and politics, sterilization, and whether they agree or disagree with the public views on Deaf people at that time. They relate if they were resisting the measures of the Nazis; passively accepted what was going on; or even welcomed the measures. They also share their opinions on Adolf Hitler. I will juxtapose the interviews and point out similarities and differences between a 91-year-old interviewee and a 89-year-old. We are told that two of the community leaders after the Third Reich had their wives voluntarily sterilized. The narrator endorses this measure, only thinks that sterilization should not be forced upon them. Such details deconstruct the assumption that deaf and hearing-impaired persons in Nazi Germany were all passive victims of the regime. The interviews expose that Deaf persons internalized Eugenic, Anti-Semitic and racial doctrines and lead us to questioning the status quo of the German Deaf community today.

I will also talk about my methods for interviewing Deaf witnesses and compare them to those used by hearing interviewers. There is a considerable body of Deaf testimonies and Deaf Holocaust survivor interviews in various archives conducted via interpreters. I will chose examples that expose gross miscommunication for two main reasons: the lack of cultural knowledge about deaf culture on the hearing interviewers’ and interpreters’ side; and language issues that come into play in this sensitive setting where generational conflicts, trauma and stark language variation reside. Over all, the methods hearing interviewers approach Deaf witnesses and survivors with, destroy, or do not manage to build the trust necessary for open storytelling. I will show you how, as a Deaf scholar, I make the interviewees comfortable for people. I will explain my methods of leading the conversation, and how the interviews win in depth when the interviewer is a laid back active listener instead of asking too many direct questions.