Inventing disability
Re-casting the ‘cripple’ in war-time Germany
in Recycling the disabled
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Chapter four examines how orthopaedists “re-educated” war-time Germans about the disabled body. Many Germans rejected the notion that the permanently injured body was capable of productive work, maintaining instead that the disabled soldier should be financially compensated for his service, and not forced to earn a living. Therefore during the war orthopaedists launched a campaign to shift public perceptions of the injured body. This re-education was designed to prove that the disabled body could be “re-abled” through medical technology and returned to work. It also aimed to gain the support and help of the public by demonstrating ways in which the average German could help in this project. Combining museum exhibitions, medical pamphlets, public demonstrations, speeches, films, and the popular press, medical authorities shifted the public image of the disabled by showing that he was no longer helpless or dependent, but actually self-sufficient. They also argued that the veteran should no longer be financially reliant upon the state, but rather that, as restored man, he should care for himself. By demonstrating the potential of modern medicine to restore the severely-injured body, orthopaedists and government officials sought to rally continued support for the war.

Recycling the disabled

Army, Medicine, and Modernity in WWI Germany


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