[A graphic with the purple Holocaust remembrance logo in the middle. Below that are two lines of two bold text. The first line says, "Holocaust." The second line says, "Remembrance Day." Below that is a line of purple text that says, "Lest we forget." In each corner are purple flower petals in the same shades of purple as the Holocaust memorial logo. The Solutions for Independence logo is in the bottom right corner.]

Holocaust Remembrance Day: Remembering the Untold Stories

This blog post discusses the Holocaust and acknowledges that its content may be sensitive for certain individuals.

The Holocaust is a sad part of history when many innocent lives were taken. We often hear about the challenges the Jewish people faced, but the stories of people with disabilities – like Helene Melanie Lebel and Franziska Mikus – are often overlooked.

Born in 1911 in Vienna, Austria, Helene Melanie Lebel had a normal childhood. She enjoyed swimming and attended law school. However, at age 19, she had multiple breakdowns and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. She had to leave her job, drop out of school, and be sent to a psychiatric hospital.

The Nazis believed that the Aryan race was the perfect race, so they targeted people whom they deemed “less than.” Through the Aktion T4 program, the Nazis targeted people with disabilities. Their idea of the “master race” considered those with disabilities a threat to their perfect Aryan race.

Helene was one of 250,000 people with disabilities murdered by the Nazis. Her family was told she moved to Germany for better care and safety, but they did not know she was moved there to be killed.

[A black and white photo of Helene Melanie Lebel. She has dark curly hair and wearing a hat. She is looking at the camera.]

In 1939, the Nazis started Aktion T4 to get rid of those they considered “unworthy of life.” Over 250,000 people with disabilities were killed using gas chambers, lethal injections, and starvation. This program set the stage for the larger Holocaust horrors.

People with disabilities faced discrimination not only through killings but also forced sterilization and institutionalization. The Nazis wanted to stop them from having children, thinking they were a threat to the Aryan race.

In Munich, Germany, Franziska Mikus faced persecution for being deaf. The Nazis forced her to be sterilized at age 18. However, she got pregnant because she was still developing when she got sterilized. The Nazis forced her to get an abortion and then sterilized again. She later said, “With a heavy heart I agreed to be sterilized a second time. This was the cruelest thing I ever had to endure. I will never be able to forget that.”

Mass killings, forced sterilization, and persecution against people with disabilities were just part of the Nazis’ many crimes. Many people who were considered “unworthy” suffered. We should not forget them; they deserve to be remembered and honored.

The Holocaust reminds us of how bad things can get when hate and discrimination take over. The persecution of people with disabilities during this time shows why it is important to remember history and prevent such terrible things from happening again. As we think about the untold stories of those who faced discrimination, let’s work towards a world where everyone is valued, respected, and appreciated for their unique contributions.

Sources: Holocaust Memorial Day Trust

Helene Melanie Lebel

Franziska Mikus