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Museum zur Geschichte der Gehörlosen und Schwerhörigen

Germany Museum zur Geschichte der Gehörlosen und Schwerhörigen

Museum zur Geschichte der Gehörlosen und Schwerhörigen

Frankfurter Stiftung für Gehörlose und Schwerhörige
Rothschildallee 16a
60389 Frankfurt am Main


Open Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. and by appointment, Tel. 069/9459300,  

On the website of the Frankfurter Stiftung für Gehörlose und Schwerhörige there is no mention anymore of the Museum. Unfortunately, we have not been able to find any recent information. 

(translated fro m German by Google Translate)

"Since 2009 there has been an exhibition on the history of the deaf and hard of hearing in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Center at Rothschildallee 16a in Frankfurt.

The exhibition in the museum, which opened in 2009, was not only a reflection for those Deaf and Hard of Hearing people, but also a source of information for hearing people on their way to get to know the world of the hard of hearing and the world of the deaf cultural community better.

On a museum area of ​​177 m², visitors interested in medicine and technology were greeted with a comprehensive overview of various historical devices for the "alleged" healing of deafness and hearing impairment through to the development of cochlear implants.

The exhibition on history was integrated into a new educational concept in 2019. The new experience exhibition, which was developed together with the Frankfurt University of Applied Siences and the Social Association VdK Hessen-Thüringen e.V., has been open since January 2020 and includes other exciting topics.

As a result of renovations, the exhibition has now been expanded to 200 square meters and is barrier-free. Visits and guided tours are possible by appointment."


Source: https://www.idgs.uni-hamburg.de/taubwissen/geschichte/deaf-museum.html

 Article in Main Echo,  08/29/2009 , translation from German by Google Translate:

" For nine years, Lothar Scharf has been collecting pictures, books, photos and equipment related to his life's work. On display are, for example, historical bibles for the deaf and mute from 1788, paintings by deaf artists, hearing aids, film posters and plaques from deaf sports, photographs and documents from the National Socialist era that commemorate the fate of Jewish and non-Jewish deaf people in the Third Reich.

For hearing and deaf people The museum should be a reflection for those affected, Lothar Scharf wishes, but also a source of information for hearing people who want to get to know the quiet or very quiet world that is everyday life for thousands of people in Germany. It is not entirely clear how many there are: 42,000 people are deaf, is the official number of the state, 80,000 the official number of the German Association of the Deaf. According to the German Association for the Hard of Hearing, there are also around 16 million people who are hard of hearing.

Its cultural scene is not blank: there are theaters for the deaf, in Leipzig there is a library with special literature, sign language choirs and guided tours of museums in sign language; The Association for Culture and History of the Deaf, based in Hamburg, is committed to cultural issues. Until now, however, there has not been a museum in Germany; the permanent exhibition in the basement of the Frankfurt Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is unique in this respect.

Also because it is aimed at everyone: like the Dialogmuseum in Frankfurt, which makes the world of blind people an experience for the sighted. The world of the deaf has so far been closed to hearing people. Without Lothar Scharf's private commitment, she would still be there.

For nine years, the 48-year-old researched, collected exhibits - he estimates his stock at around 1000 pieces - and interviewed contemporary witnesses who were hard of hearing or deaf. Not only did they tell stories, they also gave him rare documents: letters, decommissioning certificates, Wehrmacht passports. "You only get things like that if you go to these people," says Lothar Scharf. And: "I won the race against time. If I had started five years later, it would have been too late. Some of the people I spoke to didn't live to see the opening of the museum."

Lothar Scharf came up with the plan for the museum early on; but it was not the reason for his interest. Those were photos: In his father's estate - he was also hard of hearing - he found pictures from the former deaf-mute institution in Bayreuth, the father can be seen in uniform. Lothar Scharf says that he was active in the Hitler Youth in the "Ban for the Hearing Impaired". The son wanted to know more, couldn't find any literature or a museum, so he looked for information himself, visited eyewitnesses - and wanted to open his own museum.

Book, traveling exhibition, museum He initially wrote two books, which he published himself, one about the deaf and one about the fate of deaf Jews. Then he designed a traveling exhibition based on his information, which has been touring Germany since 2006. "It was a time-consuming affair," says Lothar Scharf, "there was no vacation and no car. There are several thousand euros in the museum."

Lothar Scharf met Horst Buchenauer, the managing director of the Foundation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, through this traveling exhibition, which stopped in Frankfurt. He got him from nearby Bamberg on the Main, gave him a job and let him use the bowling alley for the museum. He would have preferred Munich, admits the native of Bavaria, Scharf, but the offer from the Main city came earlier and it is more conveniently located - if hearing and deaf people from Germany and Europe are interested in the museum.

You should: What Lothar Scharf has collected at flea markets and at auctions in the USA, Great Britain and Germany is definitely worth seeing. The museum is set up clockwise, beginning with the history of the deaf-mute promotion, which, says the 48-year-old, began around 200 years ago. The emergence of the first clubs, schools and the press system is briefly recapitulated.

Church as pioneer It was the church that was the first to bring the hearing impaired out of the silence - in the footsteps of Jesus, who always took special care of the sick and needy. Biographies present pioneers such as the Spanish Benedictine monk Pedro Ponce de Léon (?-1584), who is considered the first teacher of deaf children, such as Abbé Charles-Michel de l'Epée (1712-1789), who founded the world's first school for the deaf and dumb in Paris, and Samuel Heinicke (1727-1790), who founded the first school on German territory in the 18th century.

A good 100 years later there were nowhere more institutions for the deaf than in Germany, plus ten newspapers - today there is still one, the deaf newspaper founded in 1950.

The museum continues past a gallery with works by deaf artists such as the poet, sculptor and painter Ruth Schaumann, who died in 1970, and Reinhard Hilker, who is known for his homeland pictures and graphics and died in 1961.

A showcase then shows old hearing aids and hearing aids. A vibrating eardrum massager from the 1920s, for example, points to a time when people were trying to cure deafness. Vibraphones - small ear studs - also testify to this desire. Curious story: The vibraphones first existed in the USA, where they were banned because of their ineffectiveness, and later in Germany, where they were also banned.

The museum deals extensively with Lothar Scharf's main topic, the fate of the hearing-impaired under National Socialism, above all forced sterilization and racial fanaticism; the former traveling exhibition is integrated. For example, you can see the flag of the Reich Association of the Deaf - Lothar Scharf is sure that it is the only one still in existence.

Many deaf Germans were "enthusiastic" about Hitler, says the museum's founder. This is confirmed by a letter from Frankfurter Fridolin Wasserkampf, quoted by the show: he was ready to "sacrifice his life on the altar of the fatherland". However, Hitler's relationship with them was divided: on the one hand, the deaf were considered "inferior to life"; Those with hereditary diseases were forcibly sterilized. On the other hand, several thousand hearing-impaired were members of the NSDAP. "Deaf people were followers and victims at the same time," says Lothar Scharf.

Stumbling blocks for Jewish victims This does not apply to deaf Jews, to whom the museum commemorates with documents, texts and photos. "Hardly anyone survived," says Lothar Scharf. "

He arranged for two commemorative "stumbling blocks" to be laid, one of them at Eschersheimer Landstrasse 10 in Frankfurt. In addition to Berlin and Breslau, most of the deaf Jews lived there. Among the artistically most valuable exhibits are two original woodcuts from the "Holocaust Cycle" by the Jewish artist David Ludwig Bloch.

The work on the museum should now be over. For now: Lothar Scharf has enough material for special exhibitions. In two years at the latest, the topic of deafness should be discussed in the film. "The deaf person is often portrayed as an idiot or a criminal. The fact that he can't hear anything obviously gives an additional kick." 


  • "Inclusion is moving from “we tolerate your presence” to “we WANT you here with us”.
    Jillian Enright in The Social Model of Disability, 2021
  • "It was only during the past decade that recognition of the importance of preserving Deaf history has emerged. In the main, Deaf heritage, culture and folklore has been passed down from generation to generation via the medium of sign language and fingerspelling. (..) It is also vital that the history of Deaf people is made available to future generations, especially Deaf schoolchildren as part of their history lessons."
    A. Murray Holmes,  in: Cruel Legacy, an introduction of Deaf people in history, by A.F. Dimmock, 1993
  • "The most significant function of museums is as centres for cultural democracy, where children and adults learn through practical experience that we all have cultural rights. Having the opportunity to create, and to give to others, may be one of our greatest sources of fulfilment. Culture is everywhere and is created by everyone."
    Source: A manifesto for museum learning and engagement
  • "Histories have for too long emphasized the controversies over communication methods and the accomplishments of hearing people in the education of deaf students, with inadequate attention paid to those deaf individuals who created communication bridges and distinguished themselves as change agents in their respective field of endeavour."
    from: Harry G. Lang, Bonny Meath-Lang: Deaf Persons in the Arts and Sciences, 1995
  • “If you do not know where you come from, then you don't know where you are, and if you don't know where you are, then you don't know where you're going. And if you don't know where you're going, you're probably going wrong.”
    Terry Pratchett, I Shall Wear Midnight
  • "For many members of the Deaf community their shared history is both personal and social. Deaf people will have gone to the same school, in many cases boarding schools where most of their younger lives will have been spent together, and then met again at their Deaf clubs, Deaf social events, reunions and other more personal events.
    One of the first things a Deaf person will often ask on meeting, before asking your name, is what school or Deaf club you go to. Making this connection is an important part of any greeting, as it will then help an individual to understand what shared history or people in common you may have."
    from: The Cultural Model of Deafness
  • "After all, we are all of us explorers, and we all have much to bring to each other from our own
    Ladd, P. (2003). Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood.
  • "As recently as the 1970s, deaf history did not exist. There were available sketches of various hearing men, primarily teachers, who were credited with bringing knowledge and enlightenment to generations of deaf children, but deaf adults were absent."

    In: Preface to: "Deaf History Unvailed, Interpretations from the New Scholarship". John Vickrey van Cleve, editor
    Publisher: Gallaudet University Press, 1993
  • "Beyond works of art and objects, museums collect shared heritage, memories and living cultures as well as what we call intangible collectables."
    Source: We are Museums
  • "The Finnish Museum of the Deaf) was founded by deaf people, and, thus, its task has been to strengthen their identity and historical communality.

    Most of our materials have a connection to the key experiences that generations of deaf people have shared. These are important in understanding the past and keeping the collective memory alive."
    In: TIINA NAUKKARINEN, Finnish Museum of the Deaf: Presenting the Life of Carl Oscar Malm (1826–1863)
  • "An important matter for any minority group is that written documents in public archives are often drawn up by the majority group and do not always reflect a minority as it sees itself. Thus, preserving sign language narration is of the utmost importance and a challenge to those working in the field of Deaf history."
    In: TIINA NAUKKARINEN, Finnish Museum of the Deaf: Presenting the Life of Carl Oscar Malm (1826–1863)
  • "Opening ourselves to the Deaf community, listening to and respecting them as co-creators and experts telling the stories they want told, makes our practice richer, and has ongoing positive effects for the community.
    These embryonic relationships hopefully encourage Deaf people to feel welcome in our space — it’s their space too.
    For both side, communities and museum professionals, while genuinely, openly and truly committing to working together can be time-consuming, it repays any investment many-fold."
    Corinne Ball: Expressing ourselves’: creating a Deaf exhibition", 2020
  • “Stories of disability are largely absent from museum displays. Where they appear, they often reflect deeply entrenched, negative attitudes towards physical and mental difference. Research reveals that museums don’t simply reflect attitudes; they are active in shaping conversations about difference.
    Projects created with disabled people show that museums hold enormous potential to shape more progressive, accurate and respectful ways of understanding human diversity. Why wouldn’t we take up this opportunity? ”
    Richard Sandell, co-director, Research Centre for Museums and Galleries, University of Leicester
  • "And yet, even within a large and, in many ways, traditional organization such as this (Trøndelag Folk Museum, Norway), the museum's encounter with Deaf culture contributed to profound changes and a process, still underway, which challenges our own understanding of what a museum is today, our role in society and our obligations towards more diverse audiences than those we had previously engaged or even recognized."
    Hanna Mellemsether, in:  Re-presenting Disability: Activism and Agency in the Museum, 2013
  • “One story makes you weak. But as soon as we have one-hundred stories, you will be strong.”
    Chris Cleave in "Little Bee", 2008
  • "What has become clear is that museums don’t just function as custodians of the past anymore; instead, they have embraced their responsibility towards the communities of the present: a responsibility to represent them, to speak to them, and to be open to dialogue with them."
    Tim Deakin, August 2021
  • "Nina Simon has described true inclusion in a museum context as occurring when museums value the diversity in their audience, value those individuals’ potential and contributions, when they actively link those diverse people across differences, and when the organisation reaches out with generosity and curiosity at the core.
    On a practical level this sort of museum practice would see widespread inclusion of people with disabilities in the planning of museum exhibitions, on museum boards and steering committees, and working in curatorial roles."
    In: Corinne Ball: Expressing Ourselves, 2020
  • the past can hurt

    From: Walt Disney, The Lion King

  • "Deaf mute, deaf and dumb, hearing impaired – the choices are many and not without consequences. Words have many meanings, they convey attitudes and prejudices and may hurt, even when used in a well-intended context."
    Hanna Mellemsether, in:  Re-presenting Disability: Activism and Agency in the Museum, 2013
  • "Access to and participation in culture is a basic human right. Everyone has a right to representation and agency in museums, and communities should have the power to decide how they engage."
    Source: A manifesto for museum learning and engagement
  • "The Deaf community is international. What binds Deaf people, despite their different national sign languages, is their shared visual communication, history, cultural activities, and the need for a Deaf “space” where people come together."

    from: The Cultural Model of Deafness
  • "This (Deaf) Museum is not intended as a casual show, to be seen once and forgotten. Its pretensions are nobler; it has a humanitarian aim. By its solid and tangible evidences, making history memorable and attractive by illustration, it serves a double purpose: to dispel ignorance and prejudice regarding the deaf, and to raise the victims of this prejudice and ignorance to their true level in society."
    The British Deaf Monthly, Vol. VI (p.265) 1897. In: Deaf Museums and Archival Centres, 2006
  • "Museums can increase our sense of wellbeing, help us feel proud of where we have come from, and inspire, challenge and stimulate us."
    Source: https://www.museumsassociation.org/campaigns/museums-change-lives/
  • "Museums can increase our sense of wellbeing, help us feel proud of where we have come from, and inspire, challenge and stimulate us."
    Source: Museums Change Lives
  • "Until the fall semester of 1986, the history department at Gallaudet University had never before offered a course in the history of deaf people.
    In the 122 years, to that point, since the founding of the university, which was specifically intended for the education of deaf peoples, no one had ever taught a course about this very group of people.
    In all of those years the history department had offered courses on a wide range of topics but never deaf history. "
    ENNIS, WILLIAM T., et al. “A Conversation: Looking Back on 25 Years of A Place of Their Own.” Sign Language Studies, vol. 17, no. 1, 2016, pp. 26–41. 
  • "Deaf people have always had a sense of their history as it was being passed down in stories told by generations of students walking in the hallways of their residential schools and by others who congregated in their clubs, ran associations, attended religious services, and played in sporting events.
    With these activities, the deaf community exhibited hallmarks of agency — an effort to maintain their social, cultural, and political autonomy amid intense pressure to conform as hearing, speaking people."
    BRIAN H. GREENWALD AND JOSEPH J. MURRAY, in: Sign Language Studies, Volume 17, Number 1, Fall 2016
  • "The UN Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community”. This is based on the principle that citizens are not just consumers of cultural capital created by others; we have agency and the right to contribute through culture to the wider good of society."
    Source: A manifesto for museum learning and engagement