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Disability and the Holocaust: a History Revealed–a Film and Panel Discussion

by SKeira Mar 09, 2015
When Oct 07, 2002
from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM
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President, Disability/Arts

140 Riverside Drive
New York, NY 10024
212 580 9280 (phone/fax) 

  • President, Disability/Arts
  • Author of Claiming Disability: Knowledge and Identity (New York University Press, 1998)
  • Co-Director of the Disability Studies Project, Hunter College

Simi Linton founded Disability/Arts in order to work with artists and cultural institutions to help shape the presentation of disability in the arts, and to increase the representation of works by disabled artists. She is the author of numerous articles on disability studies and disability and the arts, and the book, Claiming Disability: Knowledge and Identity (New York University Press, 1998). She is also a founder and the co-director of the Disability Studies Project, a curriculum development project at Hunter College.

Dr. Linton received a doctorate in psychology from New York University in 1985. However, her scholarship in the field of disability studies is interdisciplinary, grounded in a liberal arts, particularly a humanities, approach to this new understanding of disability. She is a recipient of a Switzer Distinguished Fellowship from the United States Department of Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

In January of 1998, Dr. Linton left her faculty position as Associate Professor of Psychology in the Division of Education at Hunter College, after fourteen years of teaching, to develop her consulting practice to arts organizations, museums, theater companies, and film and television producers. Projects include consultation with the Smithsonian, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, The Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival, state and regional arts councils, and documentary filmmakers. She is currently on a speaking tour of colleges and universities, traveling with the award winning documentary film Liebe Perla, (Shahar Rozen, 53 min. Israel/Germany) about disability and the Holocaust, and is working on a new book, a memoir, called Citizens in Good Standing.

Disability and the Holocaust: a History Revealed–a Film and Panel Discussion


Shahar Rozen.1999. 53 min. Video. (Israel/Germany)

During the Holocaust, Dr. Josef Mengele conducted “scientific” experiments on a Hungarian Jewish family of actors and musicians, all people of short stature. Fifty years later, Hannelore Witkofski, a woman of short stature born in post-war Germany, befriends the only surviving family member, Perla Ovitz, now living in Israel. Perla asks Hannelore if she would look for a film that Mengele made of her family in Auschwitz. As we follow the search, Liebe Perla resurrects a lost history–the history of brutality toward and murder of disabled people in Nazi Germany.

This astounding, intimate film tells us as much about the present moment as it does about that troubled past - the friendship of two women, Hannelore and Perla, and, more broadly, the social positioning of disabled people in these so-called enlightened times. Shahar Rozen, director of Liebe Perla, said in a recent interview that “keeping the film’s theme in mind and out of respect for Perla and Hannelore, we were very careful not to make a ‘shocking exposé’ about ‘dwarfs.’ I believed the director should have a minor presence–in fact, he should be transparent - so that the heroes could tell their story in their own way.”

Liebe Perla has received several significant prizes at international film festivals, has been shown on leading European TV stations, including NDR Germany and ARTE France, and was featured in the “Reframing Disability” series at the 2000 Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival in New York.

Learn more about Liebe Perla by visiting the following web sites:




Simi Linton, Ph.D., President of Disability/Arts, is organizing a tour of the event “Disability and the Holocaust: A History Revealed.” Disability/Arts arranges for a screening of the film, Liebe Perla, and coordinates the panel discussions and presentations to go along with it. While the panel varies at each site, the focus of the discussion is generally on the implications of the film for interpreting both the historical moment it describes and for understanding the current climate as well. The event is of interest to many scholarly and cultural communities and therefore attracts a diverse audience. If you would like to learn more about this project or wish to schedule an event at your institution or for a conference you are planning, please be in touch.

We wish to thank the Consulate General of Israel in New York for their support.

October 7, 2002