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Poverty among the Rural Elderly (1906)

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The Specht case was discussed in the Königsberger Volkszeitung on August 25, 1906. Someone who had made direct observations reported to the paper:

"You can already tell from a distance that Specht is a completely infirm man. He looks a lot older than he is. He is completely blind in one eye; in the other eye he has only foggy perception with the help of glasses. In addition, Specht has a large hernia, bladder problems, and carries around a rubber hose provided by the community to draw off the water. Specht also has kidney problems. As for Specht's wife, the doctor found cataracts in both eyes only fourteen days ago. In other respects, as well, the woman is physically frail.

And Christine Specht? She is suffering from lung disease and has applied for a disability pension for years. And even though she has nearly completed 11 cards, she is not given a pension because she is not unfit to work in the sense of the law. At the oral hearings on May 6, 1904, before the arbitration court in Danzig, her case was postponed to have Christine Specht observed in the hospital for an appropriate period of time. Following this observation, from May 30 to June 29, 1904, Dr. Jacobi and Dr. Freumuth, like the district physician Dr. Arbeit-Marienburg before them on March 23, 1904, determined that she was suffering from lung disease, but that she was not disabled in the sense of the law. The girl claims that she was not medically examined after that time. She further claims that her lung ailment has worsened during the two years following the examination.

The girl looks flaccid and yellowish in her face. She breathes heavily and one hears the same noise as in people who are suffering from asthma. It is not entirely clear to us why the girl is considered work-shy. Living in the poor house can hardly be enticing. It would have been interesting if they had indicated what kind of agricultural work the half-blind, sick man would still be able to perform.”

Source: Socialdemokratische Partei-Correspondenz [Correspondence of the Social Democratic Party], Berlin, 1 (1906), p. 140 f.

Original German text reprinted in Jens Flemming, Klaus Saul, and Peter-Christian Witt, eds. Quellen zur Alltagsgeschichte der Deutschen 1871-1914 [Source Materials on Everyday Life in Germany 1871-1914]. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1997, pp. 181-83.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

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