Commemorating the Deaf victims of the Holocaust

On the evening of the Holocaust Remembrance Day, a special memorial event was held in the Deaf Club in Holon. The event commemorated the Deaf victims of the Holocaust and celebrated those who survived the Holocaust, some of whom were present in the event. It was the first time such a special event was held.

The Neve Arazim Community Center hall, in which the event was held, was full and several people stood due to lack of sitting places. It was noted that not only elderly people came, but also young people, who showed interest in the Holocaust.

After the compulsory standing up in memory of the Holocaust victims, we were treated to a series of lectures and stories, culminating at screening of a short movie.

First of all, a short lecture by Miriam Aviezer, a documentarist from Yad Vashem. She discussed the relatively new project of getting testimonials from Deaf survivors of the Holocaust. So far twenty stories were videotaped. There are more survivors to be reached.

The next speaker was Joseph Komem, CODA (hearing child of Deaf adult) who survived the Holocaust thanks to a Deaf Polish friend of his father.

The academic lecture was delivered by Dr. Amatzia Weisel from Tel Aviv University. He discussed the slippery road, which started with the Eugenics movement in USA. Between 1933-1940, about 350 thousand people were sterilized in Germany, under the 1933 law for improving the race. Later, between 1939-1941, under Operation T4, about 250 thousand German children with disabilities were killed. The organizational methodology and technology developed to get rid of them was used later to kill millions of Jews.

In the 1920’s, there were more than 800 teachers in German Deaf schools, and they taught 6000 Deaf students each year. Thus, the German Deaf were taken care of and were educated. However, ten years later the tide public opinion went the other direction – in support of sterilizing and exterminating them. The first leaders of the Israeli Deaf Community were former students of German Deaf schools.

The slippery road starts with the idea that person A assumes the right to decide if the life of person B is worthy of being lived. He who begins to rank people according to importance of their lives, ends with execution of hundreds of thousands of people. There was a famous German doctor, who proposed to sterilize almost 30% of the German population and to exterminate part of them. The eugenic ideology took root in public opinion because it was supposed to help the Germans win the war and strengthen Germany.

We must remember and never forget that all humans were created in God’s shape.

The next speaker was Hava Savir. She and her husband knew personally some German Deaf persons, who were sterilized.

The last speaker was Jacob Ehernfeld, a Deaf holocaust survivor. He told the tale of his Holocaust experience and survival. He finished his lecture with a moving tale of his reunion with other survivors from his group. He was the only Deaf in his group, and taught his fellows Sign Language, and those who survived still remembered the signs fifty years later.

The evening ended with screening of a short movie, produced by Ido Granot, about a trip of a group of Deaf persons to the concentration camps in Poland at 2001.

The memorial event was organized by The Institute for the Advancement of Deaf Persons in Israel in cooperation with the Deaf Club in Holon.

Author: Omer Zak

I am deaf since birth. I played with big computers which eat punched cards and spew out printouts since age 12. Ever since they became available, I work and play with desktop size computers which eat keyboard keypresses and spew out display pixels. Among other things, I developed software which helped the deaf in Israel use the telephone network, by means of home computers equipped with modems. Several years later, I developed Hebrew localizations for some cellular phones, which helped the deaf in Israel utilize the cellular phone networks. I am interested in entrepreneurship, Science Fiction and making the world more accessible to people with disabilities.