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The Enemy Was Ready

Creator: n/a
Date: June 1918
Publication: Carry On: Magazine on the Reconstruction of Disabled Soldiers and Sailors
Source: American Printing House for the Blind, Inc., M. C. Migel Library
Figures From This Artifact: Figure 1  Figure 2  Figure 4

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How Germany Made Preparation for Her Wounded


At the outbreak of the war, Germany of all other countries had laid the most solid foundation for the care of her wounded. Immediately all the resources accumulated in peace time for the rehabilitation of cripples were mobilized -- almost simultaneously with the military mobilization.


One week after the beginning of hostilities, the Kaiserin, at the suggestion of Dr. Biesalski, Germany's leading orthopedist and secretary of the German Federation for the Care of Cripples, sent a telegram to the members of the Federation, asking that the fifty-four German cripple homes throw open their doors to war disabled soldiers. To this, all the homes immediately consented. Dr. Biesalski made a tour of Germany under the auspices of the Red Cross, in which he visited the principal cities, urging the formation of voluntary committees. The immediate result was the initiation of work in all parts of the empire under various auspices and with various plans.


There are four stages in the treatment of the disabled soldier: (i) medical treatment; (2) provision of artificial limbs and functional restoration; (3) vocational advice and re-education, and (4) placement. These activities are cut sharply in half, the first two being, as a rule, controlled by the imperial military authorities, and the last two by private and state agencies.


The medical side of the problem tends thus to be conducted on more uniform lines. The vocational and economic rehabilitation is in the hands of local committees. There is no central authority giving general direction to the work; the re-education schools are of varying types and most unevenly distributed. The matter of re-education is largely in private hands and mostly done by volunteers. It is not even supervised by the imperial government. In spite of the friction that sometimes developed, especially in the beginnings, between the civilian workers and the military officials, the work ranks high, both with regard to volume and to the efficiency of the individual institution. This is due primarily to the existence of a strong body of enlightened public opinion as to what constitutes the duty of the nation toward the wounded.




As in every country, there was in Germany the usual outburst of charity, misguided by the traditional attitude towards the war cripple, which was a combination of hero worship with pity for an assumedly helpless member of society. The newspapers were loud in their demands for Heldenheime (old soldiers' homes), where all cripples could be maintained in idleness for the rest of their lives. Public sympathy towards the veterans was in danger of being absorbed in the undesirable forms of charity, to the total disregard of constructive forms of assistance.


Immediately, however, an educational campaign was started to divert public opinion to an interest in the work of rehabilitation and re-education. This public education on the subject of proper treatment for war disabled has been very efficient and effective. At the present time, German public opinion has fully assimilated the idea that the real public duty towards the handicapped soldier is to restore him to work and to an active participation in the economic life of the country, and that this is a patriotic duty. The faith in the possibility of the rehabilitation has become a part of the patriotic faith. The principle that no one need be a cripple unless he himself wishes it, and that "the wounded man must sink back into the mass of the people as though nothing has happened," is accepted as a creed.




While the methods used in the different localities and institutions may vary greatly, there is a complete unity of purpose. Germany has a very definite scheme as to what constitutes the reconstruction of her wounded. It is accepted by all the institutions working to this end, it is put in practice, and it is said that in ninety per cent, of the cases the desired results are obtained. Dr. Biesalski puts it this way:


1. No charity; but work for the war disabled.


2. Disabled soldiers must be returned to their homes and to their old conditions; as far as possible, to their old work.


3. The disabled soldiers must be distributed among the mass of the people as though nothing had happened.


4. There is no such thing as being crippled, while there exists the iron will to overcome the handicap.


5. There must be the fullest publicity on this subject, first of all among the disabled men themselves.


Dr. Biesalski says further that from ninety per cent, to ninety-five per cent, of all the war wounded treated are returned to industrial life.




There is a fairly complete network of orthopedic homes distributed all over the empire, about two hundred in number, and all under military discipline. The time of treatment for a man in the orthopedic hospital is from two to six months. Men are kept here until they are ready to go back to the army or are pronounced definitely unfit for service. Even if they are so unfit, the war department does not discharge them until they are pronounced by the physician physically fit to go back to civil life.

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