CERLIS location:Paris, France date:7 November 2016
When in August 1914 German troops crossed the Belgian border in order to attack France from the North, everybody thought the war would be over by Christmas. The increasing presence of mutilated bodies and minds due to the ongoing warfare very soon would lead government officials, military generals as well as the general population to think otherwise. Of all the invalid soldiers, the blinded military men for sure have attracted the most attention. In this presentation I’ll sketch out how these blinded men were treated and became subjected to rehabilitation initiatives. Besides retracing the French and Belgian re-educational programs (and as far as possible: the re-educational reality) I would like to focus on the following question: did the rehabilitation of the blinded soldiers in France and Belgium have consequences for the emancipation of the blind in general in the Interwar period. In order to provide an answer on this question I will make use of journals that dealt with the care for and education of the blind in general (published between 1914 and 1940) as well as documents that directly relate to the Interwar history of the blinded veterans themselves. The historical documents were found in the Archives of the Royal Palace (Brussels), the archives of the Association Valentin Haüy (Paris) and the archives of the National Institute for the Blind (Paris) and completed with documents digitalized by the Bibliothèque National de France and the Royal Library of Belgium.