Willowbrook - Institutions and Legacies

Willowbrook - Institutions and Legacies
In August of 2005 I started writing an article about the institution called Willowbrook. Over the years I have found several articles and news stories to incorporate but I have never been able to deal with the reality that had my son been born at a slightly different time in a slightly different place, he might have grown up in an institution like this.

In October of 2011, former 'residents' and advocates helped with the demolition ceremony that tore down the physical structure of the institution, and I attempted to write this article around that story. Again, I could not face the facts or the implications of the place. The buildings were down, but the implications of its history stretch out so far into the future that I will never be at peace with the place.

The State Boys Rebellion and other books describe the horrible conditions, medical experiments performed on residents of institutions for people with intellectual disabilities that included giving them radioactive oatmeal and hepatitis in milk shakes, abuse and neglect. Many of the reviews written in response to the horrors described or seen in actual photographs mention that many of the inmates were incorrectly diagnosed - as if it would have been forgiveable, understandable, or of no consequence at all, if these abuses had been inflicted on people who actually had developmental disabilities.

In October 2006 an article was published about a grave found in Menden, Germany believed to be the remains of some of the first victims of Nazi genocide. More than 20 of the skeletal remains were children, believed to be killed by the Nazis due to their disabilities.
"
According to Harald Jenner, a German historian, up to 8,000 minors died in facilities for the disabled between 1939 and 1945 under mostly unclear circumstances.

Another estimated 70,000 disabled or mentally ill adults were deliberately killed under a secret Nazi program code-named T4 in specially established death camps in 1940-1941."

October 2011 Update: I am still unable to write about Willowbrook. However, I did find a story via Twitter that I have to add to these notes:

Woodlands Institution Demolition Ceremony to be led by Former Residents, Advocates
http://us1.campaign-archive2.com/?u=1b7161e0c15d3775331002a15&id=1491ebfdee -
Demolition ceremony first of its kind in Canada

New Westminster, B.C., October 18, 2011 - Today at 1:00 p.m. former residents of Woodlands Institution and their supporters will gather to witness and speak to the demolition of the building’s last remaining structure, the Centre Block. The structure represents one the last and most imposing physical reminders of the institution, which confined and segregated people with disabilities in BC from 1878 until 1996.

From the time it was built until the time it closed, abuse, neglect and concerns about the treatment of residents were evident. ...

These are notes for a future article on Willowbrook State School and should not be accessible yet.

If you are interested in learning more about the historical conditions that institutions for individuals with developmental disabilities, you may wish to see videos online that brought the terrible stories to the consciousness of families and communities throughout the United States.

Willowbrook: the Last Great Disgrace - preview
From: STFFestival | Jul 28, 2009 | 103,780 views
This is a preview of a 28-minute documentary made in 1972 by Executive Producer, Albert T. Primo and correspondent Geraldo Rivera.

Short Film Project: Willowbrook
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/936311743/willowbrook

Independence Day Lost
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v​=pU6_hsbLsDg
"I worry state governments will continue to cut our funding, throwing us back into the days of putting people with disabilities back into institutions. We cannot let this happen."

The State Boys Rebellion and other books describe the horrible conditions, medical experiments performed on residents that included giving them radioactive oatmeal and hepatitis in milk shakes, abuse and neglect. Many of the reviews written in response to the horrors described or seen in actual photographs mention that many of the inmates were incorrectly diagnosed - as if it would have been forgiveable, understandable, or of no consequence at all, if these abuses had been inflicted on people who actually had developmental disabilities. Creepy.
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http://www.mnddc.org/extra/wbrook/willowbrook.html

Willowbrook State School on Staten Island in New York was a notorious example of the failure of institutions to meet the needs of the people they were intended to serve, and the subject of the 1972 ABC news exposé Willowbrook, the Last Great Disgrace. This slide show of images has been adapted from a video photo essay by William Bronston M.D. made up of images from Willowbrook.
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Unforgotten: Twenty-Five Years After Willowbrook (1996: Rated ?) Documentary about the abuses at the Willowbrook State School with Danny Aiello and Geraldo Rivera.
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Pennhurst State School - Photograph and brief discussion of Willowbrook
http://www.opacity.us/image1778.htm
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Pennhurst booklet for parents
http://www.elpeecho.com/pennhurst/PDF/Information%20of%20Pennhurst%20School/1950-PennhurstInformationBooklet.html
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A history of Pennhurst
http://www.elpeecho.com/pennhurst/PHNewsletter-Historical/page1.htm
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Pennhurst Information - Updates
http://www.elpeecho.com/pennhurst/pennhurst.htm
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"Suffer the Children" - Pennhurst video http://www.nbc10.com/videovault/index.html
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These books may be found at local libraries, used books stores, or online at Amazon.com and other booksellers
The Willowbrook Wars - Bringing the Mentally Disabled into the Community
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A History of Mental Retardation in the United States
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Disability Rights
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http://www.si-web.com/forums/gathering/6933.html
What someone thought in 1998 - the creepy 'good news, bad news' perspective
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http://www.library.csi.cuny.edu/archives/WillowbrookRG.htm

A GUIDE TO WILLOWBROOK STATE SCHOOL RESOURCES AT OTHER INSTITUTIONS
Compiled by Dr. James Kaser, Archivist, February 2004.
Last Updated in May 2005.

Introduction
Manuscript Collections
New York State Government Publications
Secondary Sources
Institutional Contact Information

The College of Staten Island, CUNY
Archives & Special Collections
Library, 1L-216
2800 Victory Boulevard
Staten Island, New York 10314

Telephone: 718.982.4128
Fax: 718.982.4127
Email: archives@mail.csi.cuny.edu

Updated August 18, 2005

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http://www.library.csi.cuny.edu/archives/WillowbrookDoc.htm

Willowbrook Resources at CSI
Willowbrook Resources at Other Institutions

WILLOWBROOK STATE SCHOOL
DOCUMENTATION PROJECT
The College of Staten Island’s Archives and Special Collections is building a collection of materials documenting the “unofficial” history of the Willowbrook State School. The records constituting the official history (memos, reports, financial records, legislative materials, etc.) are in the hands of the New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disability and the New York State Archives.

At CSI we hope to collect materials that reflect the experiences of residents, staff members at all levels, and parents and caregivers. By focusing on this unofficial history of the school, CSI can make an important contribution to historical research.

So far, we have completed three projects. We have created a list of materials already held by archives nationally and by our own archives. These lists are available on our Web site. We have also used funding provided by the New York State Archives’ Documentary Heritage Grant Program to create a historical overview of the school and develop a plan for documenting the school’s unofficial history.

We are now ready to begin a documentation project. The first stage involves identifying people and organizations with archival material and those with experiences and memories to share. The archival material could include, correspondence, event posters, newsletters, flyers, photographs, newspaper clippings, notes, or other items. Those with memories to share could be people from any of the groups in which we are interested (residents, staff members, and parents and caregivers).

At the second stage of the documentation project we will ask people and organizations to contribute materials to our archives and/or participate in a major oral history project. During this project, professional oral historians will conduct interviews that will be recorded, transcribed, and cataloged for our collection.

We believe that the history of the Willowbrook State School is crucial to understanding the history of the treatment of people with developmental disabilities. The College of Staten Island, as the institution that has come to occupy the site of the school, has a unique opportunity to make information available about the school’s history.

How You Can Help

Please fill out this questionnaire and mail it to us. The survey file is in Adobe PDF, and you can download a free reader here.

Or, contact us to let us know of your interest in the project by telephoning the Archives at 718-982-4128 or e-mailing archives@mail.csi.cuny.edu.

The College of Staten Island, CUNY
Archives & Special Collections
Library, 1L-216
2800 Victory Boulevard
Staten Island, New York 10314

Telephone: 718.982.4128
Fax: 718.982.4127
Email: archives@mail.csi.cuny.edu

Updated August 18, 2005

http://www.library.csi.cuny.edu/archives/WillowbrookRG.htm
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Shocking New Willowbrook Legacy
http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/news/investigators/wabc_020105_investigatorsstory_willowbrook.html

Willowbrook State School Staten Island
Geraldo Rivera
35 years ago when Eyewitness News first exposed the State scandal that became Willowbrook. An outraged staff doctor helped sneak then WABC reporter Geraldo Rivera into the Institution on Staten Island where thousands of severely disabled children and adults lived in unspeakable squalor
Willowbrook doctor Saul Krugman Hepatitis Experiments
Dr. Michael Wilkins - Kansas City, Missouri - blew the whistle on the Willowbrook conditions
Dr. David Rothman Sheila M. Rothman Book: The Willowbrook Wars - Columbia University
Tuskegee - syphilis
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Former Willowbrook Resident Speaks Out
http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/news/investigators/wabc_020705_investigatorsstory_willowbrook.html
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http://www.csinews.net/NewsReleases/5-9-05_donation.htm
Staten Island, NY - May 9, 2005 - This past year, the New York State Archives awarded the College of Staten Island a $10K exploratory grant focused on documenting the Willowbrook State School .

On Tuesday, May 10, the grant consultant’s report will be issued, and CSI’s Library Archives and Special Collections will host a tour of the Willowbrook sites at 2:15 p.m., followed by a public reception at 4 p.m.
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Many of CSI's programs honor Willowbrook legacy
http://www.csinews.net/IntheNews/010704willowbrook.htm

Many of CSI's programs honor Willowbrook legacy

Staten Island Advance
Wednesday, January 7, 2004

As an institution of public higher education located on the grounds of the former Willowbrook State School, the College of Staten Island honors the memory of Willowbrook's residents in ways that reflect the College's academic mission to create and disseminate knowledge and to prepare well-trained and caring professionals.

The Willowbrook Collection. In 2001, the Archives & Special Collections Department of the CSI Library created The Willowbrook Collection on the history of the institution, its closing, its legacy, and the people and organizations involved. The collection contains thousands of documents and photos from Willowbrook, as well as news clippings spanning the 1940s to 2000. The collection is open to the public and is housed on the second floor of the Library.

Willowbrook Memorial Lectures. Since 2002 CSI has hosted several public lectures on Willowbrook and related topics and plans to hold another program in 2004. Themes of past programs have been, Advocacy and Self-Advocacy, and The Case Continues: The Status of the Willowbrook Consent Decree. In May of 2002, CSI also hosted a full-day program on the 25th anniversary of the signing of the consent decree that ultimately led to the closing of the school. Participants included family members of the residents, an independent evaluator for the Willowbrook class and an attorney with the New York Civil Liberties union.

Willowbrook Memorial Plaque. A memorial plaque on building 3S, one of the original buildings (number 19) remaining from the Willowbrook State School, reads: To Honor Those Who Struggled Here on the Grounds of the Willowbrook Institution We Preserve This Former Building Number in Their Respectful Remembrance.

Research, Professional Preparation, and Disabilities Services. Our longstanding research partnership with the Institute for Basic Research produces important studies on the neuroscientific causes of developmental disabilities. Our programs in special education, physical therapy, and social work prepare professionals to work with children and adults with disabilities. The college further serves its own students with disabilities through the Office of Disability Services.

---Lin Wu, Willowbrook
The writer is special assistant to President Marlene Springer, College of Staten Island.

For most of us, the College of Staten Island represents an equal opportunity education for anyone who seeks it, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or race. For many, it acts as a safety net, catching those that have fallen through the cracks of the public education system.

For others, it offers an escape from some of the limitations associated with living outside the United States, such as political oppression, poverty, and discrimination.

For others, its flexibility offers encouragement to those seeking career advancement. Most important, it provides anyone who enters, a chance to grow intellectually, socially, and emotionally.

Without previous knowledge, one would never imagine that its campus, formerly known as Willowbrook, was once home to almost 6,000 mentally disabled, physically disabled and orphaned children.

The buildings now dedicated to such studies as sociology, education, and nursing, only 30 years ago served as torture chambers to children that were physically and emotionally abused, neglected, and for the sake of medical research, infected with hepatitis, and used as human guinea pigs. Children lay on the floor of what are now classrooms naked and smeared with their own feces.

The buildings themselves reflect nothing of their past; peeling paint, filth, broken light bulbs, and the smell of death are no longer. Tennis courts, baseball fields, and parking lots have replaced buildings that were not worth repair, and information regarding the compound's past are kept under lock and key in the new library. In fact, there are no reminders of what was once known as Willowbrook.

There are no memorial walls, gardens, footprints or headstones to remember those that suffered not at the hands of terrorists but at the hands of our own government.

This is no longer acceptable, Marlene Springer. Your students and faculty challenge you to make sure Willowbrook [will] be remembered. After all, children died here.

---Jessica Long, St. George

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_The DRM WebWatcher: History of Disability_
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Website chronicles history of disability rights and
independent living movement_
(http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2004/08/10_drilm.shtml)
_Media History and Disability_ (http://www.towson.edu/~bhalle/dis-hist.html

Disability Studies: Past Present and Future=
(http://www.leeds.ac.uk/disability-studies/archiveuk/Barnes/chap1.pdf

_Society for Disability Studies Home_
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_Centre for Disability Studies - Home Page_
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_Disability Studies in the Humanities_
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http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/world/AP-Germany-Mass-Grave.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Suspected Nazi Victims Found in Grave
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: October 6, 2006
Filed at 2:33 p.m. ET

MENDEN, Germany (AP) -- The skeletal remains of at least 51 people -- many of them children -- have been unearthed, and authorities suspect some were killed by the Nazis because they were disabled and considered worthless by the regime.

Prosecutors, acting on a tip from an aging witness, have opened a murder investigation despite the difficulty of finding conclusive evidence more than 60 years after the end of World War II and the likelihood that those responsible are dead.

''As long as we have even the slightest indication that the children were victims of the Nazi euthanasia program, we will keep on investigating,'' prosecutor Ulrich Maass said Friday.

Forensic experts have spent the past several days exhuming the remains in western Germany from a Roman Catholic cemetery in Menden's Arnsberg district.

Twenty-two of the skeletons appeared to be of children ranging from newborns to 7-year-olds. Some showed signs of physical or mental disabilities, such as those associated with Down syndrome, he said.

Maass, a prosecutor at the Dortmund-based Central Office for Investigation of Nazi-era Crimes, said he had begun a criminal investigation for at least 22 counts of murder. He declined to say who tipped off authorities about the grave.

''Of course there is the question of how we are to prove these crimes after all this time. If the children were poisoned, that will be practically impossible,'' Maass said.

''Many patients were probably simply left to starve. In this case, it is impossible to prove who is guilty,'' he said.

Others, including the 29 adults found in the grave, could have been killed in Allied bombing raids or in flooding after the British bombers known as the ''dambusters'' destroyed the dam in the Moehne valley in 1943, he said.

Prosecutors hope that several witnesses will be able to help the case, including an elderly woman who worked during the war in the nearby Wickede-Wimbern Hospital where Maass suspects the children were killed.

''A hospital administrator and a doctor are also still alive,'' Maass said. It was not clear if the doctor had anything to do with the children, he said.

According to the initial results of the investigation, the bodies were buried in two cemeteries in Menden between January 1944 and April 1945. In the chaos of the final months of the war, Maass said the hospital workers appeared to have given up regular burial in favor of hurriedly casting bodies into a mass grave.

About 200,000 people, many of them children, who were deemed unfit were killed under the Nazis as part of a vast Europe-wide program, according to the U.S. Holocaust Museum.

Dr. Karl Brandt, Adolf Hitler's personal physician, led the program that was designed to purify the German race. Brandt was convicted along with other Nazi doctors at the Nuremberg trials after the war and executed.

According to Harald Jenner, a German historian, up to 8,000 minors died in facilities for the disabled between 1939 and 1945 under mostly unclear circumstances.

Another estimated 70,000 disabled or mentally ill adults were deliberately killed under a secret Nazi program code-named T4 in specially established death camps in 1940-1941.

The victims were told they were to take a shower and then killed with poisonous gas, pioneering techniques used against Europe's Jews, according to the Holocaust Museum. Victims' families were sent urns of ashes and a phony death certificate.

Jenner said many more disabled people died of hunger and neglect toward the end of the war as they were evacuated to remote facilities to free up hospital beds.

''There wasn't always an order to kill them,'' Jenner told The Associated Press in an interview. ''The manager of a home might have simply received another 300 people to look after and the authorities said they couldn't provide any more food.''

In 2005, remains believed to be of 34 Jews who died doing slave labor for the Nazis were found at an airfield near Stuttgart. The remains were reburied at the site for religious reasons.




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