Friday, October 06, 2006

Disabled people - Unworthy of life?

Thirty-five bodies were found earlier this week in a western German town. The Catholic cemetery in Menden, near Dortmund, was long rumored to be a mass gravesite of Nazi victims. Another hundred and sixty-five bodies are expected to be unearthed as excavation continues at the Catholic Church site. Most of the innocents were children, believed to have been victims of Hitler’s program of forced “euthanasia” that killed tens of thousands of people with mental and physical disabilities.

Around 70,000 people, deemed “unworthy of life” because of their disabilities, were murdered between autumn 1939 and summer 1941 and tens of thousands were murdered in the following years, usually by injections and drug overdoses in hospitals and sanatoriums supposed to protect them.
This grisly discovery begs the question; What took them so long to investigate? The burial site was the subject of more than sixty years of rumor from surviving eyewitnesses who remember bodies being transported daily. Some of the victims may have come from nearby Wimbern hospital built on the orders of Hitler's personal physician Karl Brandt, who was in charge of the euthanasia program. Was it because these victims were disabled adults and children, that no one cared enough about them to investigate these heinous rumors? They had little or no voice in life and now they have had no voice in death, after more than sixty years! Astonishing!

For me, this story is especially compelling, as I get ready to embark on my tour of the Netherlands This tour features the amazing talents of several special needs people who will sing and dance onstage with me in a star studded musical line up. These are Dutch young adults, with various levels of disabilities, yet they will take the stage with American blues musicians, singing in their second language of English, many performing original songs that they have composed themselves. How many disabled Americans could sing and compose songs in Dutch? How many so-called “normal” Americans could perform onstage in anything other than their native tongue? How many Americans can even remember the words to an entire song, all the way through, much less perform it, in front of hundreds of strangers?

I have been astounded at the capabilities of these so-called “disabled” people. They speak better English than many of my peers and the joy and spontaneity they experience through music clearly shows them to be more evolved than the average person. I know now that the words “special needs, disabled, handicapped and retarded” need a thorough re-evaluation.

As a Jew, I have long known of the horrific history of Nazi Germany and the ruthless cruelty that was imposed on six million innocent people. But too often, it is forgotten how many others were brutally murdered simply because they were old, gay or gypsies, or simply because they were born with a different looking body or another invisible obstacle. Now, with the United by Music tour days away, it makes this an especially poignant story. Knowing that these courageous and exceptional people may have been put to death during WWII simply because they saw the world through a different set of eye glasses, makes me feel even more honored to be part of the United by Music tour.

Next week, I will take the stage with gifted human beings who will share their talents with grateful audiences. I will take the stage in memory of the tens of thousands of people who were murdered just because they were different; The tens of thousands of victims who died without a voice. And the 200 special needs people who were discarded like so much rubbish in the mass grave behind the Catholic Church in Menden. May they all, finally, rest in peace.


Blogger munichmaedchen said...

My grandfather in Germany was a communist and got persecuted by Hitler for his unpopular political opinions. After World War II he got persecuted by the American CIA and McCarthy for his unpopular political opinions and was not allowed to teach. He never got any payment or apology from anyone, not that he expected one.
As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, during my last winter's research for my novel, describing how my ancestor got burned at stake as the last witch in Germany, I encountered defensive behavior as soon as I tried to obtain information on this event. Pictures of paintings describing the burning disappeared from web sites, and I was standing in front of closed doors when I asked for interviews. Disclosure is not one of the strong assets of the Catholic church right now.

10:45 AM  
Blogger Bob Harvey said...

From Bob Harvey
To Kandye Kane
we've only known each other less than a year, but you reach out to the best in people, even over the net.
we met by chance, when you wanted to do "Female Trouble" which is half mine. What a neat person you are and you give more than you take.
When I found out you might need a bass man in the future, I immediately started really paying attention to your music - I love your music. You and your band are a very tight unit. I'm enjoying playing behind you.
Whether or not I'm the right bass player for your band is really immaterial. I'd love it. If you feel it's the right time and place - fabulous. If not, you have given me more than you know.
I love your message here on the blog. Your believe in and practice what you preach. You are right and you are right on.
Bob Harvey
founding member JeffersonAirplane

11:47 PM  

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