We watched a 6-part documentary on Auschwitz recently, and I felt chilled to the bone as I heard – not from anything read by the narrator but from an actual television recording – this Nazi propaganda, delivered in the sing-song cadence that marked public speaking in that day and time:
“The German people are unaware of the true extent of all this misery. They are unaware of the depressing atmosphere in these places in which thousands of gibbering idiots must be fed and nursed. They are inferior to any animal. Can we burden future generations with such an inheritance?”
As we listened to the words, we watched films of mentally handicapped, mentally challenged, developmentally delayed people of all ages wandering the grounds at what I can only assume was a mental institution.
The Nazi’s euthanasia program included severely disabled children and adults. Two doctors read reports on selected individuals and made a big red cross on the report to indicate extermination. The doctors never discussed their findings and determinations with each other, and they never so much as laid eyes on the individuals they were condemning to death. The Nazis actually used the disabled population as guinea pigs as they honed their gas chambers routine, luring them to the showers then delivering carbon monoxide through pipes that weren’t even connected to any water source. (Later the Nazis moved from carbon monoxide to something that was more economical and efficient.) By the summer of 1941, some 70,000 disabled people had been killed by the Nazis.
We can NOT rewrite history, turning away from what we find distasteful and appalling and upsetting and even unbelievable. It is NOT okay for us to sweep this under the rug and utter such stupid things as how this would never happen today. We CAN shudder at how closely the German propaganda resembles things we hear broadcast today by all political parties as they point fingers at one another and instill fear in us, and we CAN stop ignoring and dismissing and maligning people who happen to be different from us, people we don’t understand. We CAN make damn sure that we do not fall in line with any regime or party or system that sees human beings as financial expenses and liabilities, cutting costs by cutting care. We CAN and we HAVE TO start thinking for ourselves instead of accepting whatever we are told. We CAN and we HAVE TO start asking good questions and demanding satisfactory answers. We CAN and we HAVE TO use our voices to protect and defend and shelter each other and people like Nancy who can’t do it for themselves. We have to.
We just have to.
Nancy is my developmentally disabled sister-in-law, Nancy,
and I am Jeanne, the woman who flat-out loves her.
Go here to start at the beginning and read your way current.
And there’s a pinterest board, too.