International Holocaust Remembrance Day: Nazi extermination of the disabled, and the day I met a survivor of Auschwitz

Liberation

 

January 27 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp Auschwitz. On this day I stop to remember, and ponder, and listen. I reflect upon the atrocities committed by a group of people driven by greed and a lust for power, blinded by prejudice. I pause to hear the voices that cried out, yet were silenced too soon. I will not forget them.

Many do not realize the extensiveness of the list of groups targeted by the Nazis. It included not only Jews, but also “Gypsies, Poles and other Slavs, and people with physical or mental disabilities.” During their quest for racial purity the Nazis strove to eliminate the “unfit” as well as any who would oppose their quest for domination.

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum“The Nazi persecution of persons with disabilities in Germany was one component of radical public health policies aimed at excluding hereditarily “unfit” Germans from the national community. These strategies began with forced sterilization and escalated toward mass murder.”

“On July 14, 1933, the German government instituted the “Law for the Prevention of Progeny with Hereditary Diseases.” This law called for the sterilization of all persons who suffered from diseases considered hereditary, including mental illness, learning disabilities, physical deformity, epilepsy, blindness, deafness, and severe alcoholism. With the law’s passage the Third Reich also stepped up its propaganda against the disabled, regularly labeling them “life unworthy of life” or “useless eaters” and highlighting their burden upon society.”

“Burden upon society.” Lives deemed as less than precious. Of no value. I grieve all the lives lost during the Nazi’s cleansing campaign, but as the mother of a child with special needs this knowledge especially brings me great sorrow. As I gaze into my son’s sweet face I wonder~ would his life had been one that was deemed as dispensable?

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I Watched You Dance: What I wish I could have told the father of an adult son with Down Syndrome (SeriouslyNotBoring.com)

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Dear Father: I once watched you and your adult son, who has Down Syndrome, enjoying an outdoor summer concert together. I still think about that day, because I couldn’t stop staring at the two of you (but not for the reason one might think). The relationship you have with your son was one of the most beautiful, precious things I have ever seen. It brought tears to my eyes. I wanted to talk to you and your son so badly, but out of respect for you (and my husband, who gets embarrassed when I make a scene) I simply observed from a distance. But today, as I reflect on what I witnessed, you continue to have my admiration. Continue reading

For Kaitlyn- Down Syndrome Awareness

In honor of World Down Syndrome Day (in March) and Down Syndrome Awareness Month (in October) I would like you to meet my friend Kaitlyn.

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Now that you have met her, I wish she could meet you. I mean that with all my heart, your life would be better for it. Just one of the countless reasons why it is so agonizing that she was taken from us too soon.

Kaitlyn passed away in December, 2013 after a brief battle with illness. Her loved ones were stunned with grief, and it sent a shockwave through the local special-needs community. It seemed inconceivable that her light was snuffed out; so young, so bright.

Today is the first World Down Syndrome Day that her family will be celebrating without Kaitlyn. It is a bittersweet observance. They mourn the loss of their sweet girl, but celebrate her life, her legacy, and the many lessons she taught all of us. We are richer for having met her, and poorer for having lost her.

Kaitlyn lived enthusiastically & loved unconditionally. Among her favorite things was the color pink, Disney movies, music, dancing, and her family. She showed those around her that true beauty lies in being, as her mother so eloquently put it, “Perfectly imperfect.”

Her memorial page on Facebook is filled with memories, pictures, and this adorable video. How can you watch such a sweet girl and see her as any less than perfect?

Kaitlyn’s brief time on this Earth urges us to redefine the world’s standards of value and perfection to embrace a life well lived-and well-loved. She was truly beautiful, and she is truly missed. So today, on World Down Syndrome Day, I thought you should meet her. Kaitlyn may no longer be with us, but her light continues to shine. 

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Update: Kaitlyn’s mother, Tracy, has this to say~

On World Down Syndrome Day, I remember……
15 years 4 months and 3 days ago, I gave birth to one of the greatest gifts of my life. November 18, 1998, weighing in at 7lbs 4 1/2 oz, & 18″ long. We found out at 6 months pregnant that our baby girl would have Down Syndrome. The words leaving the Dr’s mouth that evening, made me go deaf temporarily. We were scared, and the battle for faith commenced. For 3 more months we waited, we fought off the perinatologists best efforts to convince us she should not be here. Hydrocephalus they said, major heart defect they said, vegetable that would never leave the hospital they said, think about the quality of life they said, you’re young and can have another baby they said. Another baby??? But THIS was our baby…she had grown inside of me, I had felt her every move. I watched the screen as she’d move and bring her hands to her face. She was mine, right from the beginning, and as mothers aren’t we to protect our young? Isn’t that our purpose as mom’s? You would never dream of having a baby and the Dr saying, “by the way this ones defective we’re just going to end it’s life” The moment came, and it was clear…put our faith in God and he will take care of it. 

Kaitlyn Dee Laramore was born. Her first cry brought a rush of relief over my soul. There was no breathing assistance needed, no NICU needed, no extended hospital stay. She came home with us 2 days later. I can remember standing over her cradle in amazement at all the things she was, and none of the things that they told us she would be. She had heart surgery at 6 months and we never looked back. For 15 years and 8 days shy of 1 month, she BLESSED our everyday life. She was a ballerina that loved to dance, reading anything she could get her hands on, Katy Perry, Doc McStuffins, Mary Poppins, Disney World, and to be anywhere her family was. She wanted to be a princess when she grew up. Always a smile, a hug and a how was your day, especially when it had been a rough day for one of us. Always so considerate and kind, and full of love and a smile. The unconditional love we learned and received was the greatest lesson of my life. People that are faced with this “decision” after receiving a prenatal diagnosis of Downs…I BEG you, quiet your mind and open your heart. Trust, and have faith. It won’t always be easy, but it is without a doubt the greatest pleasure of my life to have been her mommy. The hardest part of having my daughter who just so happened to have Down Syndrome, was the day God said he needed her back. December 10, 2013. The world lost one of its brightest lights that day. Her race was run, and her purpose fulfilled. The greatest teacher of my life. Wouldn’t change a thing, except keeping her with me forever. 

One last question…..Would you turn down a piece of heaven if it was offered to you? They are as close as we can get to it in this unkind world we live in. The world NEEDS them. Let them teach us. We have so much to learn! Happy World Down Syndrome Day