NEW YORK – Mark Zaurov, a deaf Ph.D. candidate at the University of Hamburg, Germany who had recently completed a four-month fellowship at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, presented “Deaf Holocaust.” His research includes interviews with Deaf Holocaust survivors and Deaf German perpetrators.
Mr. Zaurov presented research on a unique and previously neglected group, Deaf Jews, a double cultural minority and therefore victims of both anti-Semitism and audism – prejudice against the deaf.
He described Deaf life in Europe before the war which included four Deaf Jewish Schools in Europe, numerous organizations for the Deaf, newspapers published by and for the Deaf, etc., their relationship between Deaf Jews and Deaf Germans, the changes that occurred with Hitler’s rise to power, and how they managed to survive. One of the points made was that deafness, considered a disability and therefore intended to be erased from the Aryan race, prompted many Deaf German youths to be voluntarily castrated. (Jews did not volunteer to be sterilized.) Ironically, according to Mr. Zaurov’s research, voluntary sterilization of Deaf individuals started in California in the 1920s, spread to Europe, and continued till the 1980s.
Mr. Zaurov presented his research to members of Our Way Outreach Program for Jewish Deaf and Hard of Hearing at the invitation of Rabbi Louis Lederfeind, a sign language interpreter and Director of Our Way. The lecture was co-sponsored by SignTalk, which also provided nationally certified ASL Sign Language interpreters and a Russian Sign Language interpreter for the event.