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Deaf in WW2

World War 2 or the second World War was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It was started by Germany under the leadership of Adolf Hitler. 

Adolf Hitler was the leader of the National Socialist German Workers' Party, the Nazis.

The war in Europe ended when the Western Allies and the Soviet Union liberated the German-occupied territories and invaded Germany.

Germany surrendered unconditionally on 8 May 1945.


It is estimated that 

  • 16,000 deaf people were killed by the Nazis. 
  • 17,000 deaf Germans were sterilized.
  • An unknown number of deaf women underwent forced abortions.
  • 1,600 children who were deaf and had special disabilities were killed by drugs or even starved to death. 


source: Wikipedia


Hitler wanted to create a "master race". In his opinion the Aryan race was superior to all other races. 

Slavs, Jewish people, Roma, Sinti, black people, physically or mentally disabled people and homosexuals were all seen as racially inferior. They were "Untermenschen", 'sub-humans'.

People who were deaf and hard-of-hearing were also considered "Untermenschen"; they were a "social burden". 

Hitler and many others thought that deafness was a hereditary gene that was passed on from mother or father to the child. Germany's main solution to decrease the number of deaf people was through sterilization.


Adolf Hitler with young boys who met the 'perfect' criteria


Hitler believed in an Aryan nation and that the German race could reign supreme through eugenics.

Eugenics is a set of beliefs and practices that aim to improve the genetic quality of a human population by

  • excluding people and groups judged to be inferior, and
  • promoting those judged to be superior.

Germany passed the Law for the Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Diseases on July 14, 1933. It was amended and extended on June 26, 1935 and Section 10a was added, which authorized forced abortions in women who were otherwise subject to sterilization.

It was used as a method to prevent the expansion of hereditary disease.

Anyone that was deemed “unfit to live” was to be sterilized or eliminated. In the case of the Jewish Deaf, many were eliminated.

Between 1934 and 1939, estimates on the total number of people sterilized range from 200,000 to 400,000, as much as 0.5% of the German population.

source: Wikipedia


"Children in deaf schools were often taken by authorities, and even some of their teachers, to be sterilized unknowingly and without consent. Some were forced to undergo sterilization even if there was proof that they could give birth to “healthy” children.

After Section 10a was added, women were not only forced to undergo sterilization, but to terminate their pregnancies without consent or knowledge. Some were terminated as late as nine months.


Parents often thought they were sending their kids to get cured from being deaf, when in fact they were being sterilized or even killed.

By 1940 sterilization stopped and was followed by killing which was called “Mercy Killing” by the Nazis, about 16,000 deaf people were murdered."

source: Wikipedia


The Monument for Jewish Deaf War Victims is a memorial at the Hortusplantsoen in Amsterdam (NL) for deaf and hard-of-hearing Jewish victims of the Second World War.

It was created on the initiative of the Dovenshoah Foundation and unveiled on October 17, 2010.The war memorial contains a rectangular plinth with a statue of Truus Menger-Oversteegen on top.

On the front of the pedestal is a relief, designed by Bart Koolen, depicting world/deaf/remain in sign language and inscriptions with the text:
The world remained deaf
In memory of
the Jewish Deaf victims of the Nazi regime
1940 - 1945

Deaf Insurgents in Poland

At the Institute of the Deaf at pl. Of the Three Crosses in Warsaw (Poland), there is a monument dedicated to the memory of deaf soldiers of the Home Army.

The monument commemorates the alumni of the Institute of the Deaf who took part in the Warsaw Uprising as soldiers of the Home Army. It was an unprecedented in history that deaf people participated in the conspiracy, and later in fights.

The monument was unveiled by Karol Stefaniak, a participant in the uprising, who in 1944 was 13 years old, together with the great-grandson of a member of a battalion of deaf soldiers, also a graduate of the Institute.



24 January 2022

24 January 2022 at the Powązki Military Cemetery we said goodbye to Mr. Karol Stefaniak, alias "Kajtek", a soldier of the WARSAW UPRISING. He was only 12 years old when he went to fight for free Poland, for Warsaw and for the Institute. He was a pupil and pupil of of the Institute for the Deaf in Warsaw. The last living hero from the deaf insurgents battalion.

Its members were called by their colleagues “fearless” because they were not afraid of bomb explosions and gunshots.



“The Deaf Holocaust”


Clive Mason narrated a 43 minute special edition of See Hear on BBC called “The Deaf Holocaust” Deaf People and Nazi Germany.

This documentary covers the treatment of deaf people in Nazi Germany during World War Two. 17,000 deaf people were forcibly sterilised by the Nazis to stop them from having children and many others were killed.

Deaf Holocaust Survivor: Lily Rattner Shirey

ASL, English subtitles

More videos

Deaf Austrians and National Socialism

8 short films in Austrian Sign Language with German and English subtitles. Total playing time 220 min., Austria 2009