“‘It did not come with Hitler and did not die with Hitler.’ The uses of the Holocaust by disability activists in Norway”

When discussing present issues, vulnerable groups often compare such issues to historical atrocities, thereby injecting histories of vulnerability and oppression into contemporary debate. In 2006, the Norwegian health authorities introduced a program for registration of information about the level of functioning and the care needs of care receivers in the municipal service system, where mostly disabled people and elderly people were registered. The project triggered strong protests. The central charges were that such registration was humiliating, violated the subject’s integrity, and reduced human beings to their biological (dys)functions. At one point, the protesters related the registration program to the story of the Holocaust, evoking the historical fact that registration of deviation was fundamental to the “euthanasia” killings in Nazi Germany. Numerous scholarly works discuss the legitimacy of such comparisons, but none discusses how the agents in debates think about their own use of such comparisons. In this article, we describe how the disability activists and health professionals who participated in the controversy understood, framed, and legitimated the rhetorical use of the Holocaust. Referring to Bauman’s normality perspective, we try to understand the logic behind the evoking of the Holocaust in debates on the situation of vulnerable groups in general. This case serves for discussion on the communication strategies (and possibilities) of minority movements within their historical and cultural legacy. Read article

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