Douglas C. (Douglas Crawford) McMurtrie.

The evolution of national systems of vocational reeducation for disabled soldiers and sailors online

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Italy had, perhaps, more difficulty than other countries in com-
bating the usual conviction of the war cripple that he was entitled
to a Government post. She was situated something like the United
States, having had a popular war at about the same time (1861),
after which the principle of liberal treatment and Government jobs
for pensioners became well established. Many of the heroes of the
war of the Risorgimento were supplied with sinecure posts which
they were unfitted to fill, and the general presupposition at the begin-
ning of the present war was that all veterans must be treated in the
same way. The minister of post and telegraph was very cooperative
from the first and promised to employ as many of the school gradu-
ates as possible, 56 but it was recognized that this offer must be used
in moderation since so many of the cripples are illiterate and in-
capable of training as telegraphers. Men are still being educated
in large numbers for this occupation, 56 and the requirements have
been lowered for war cripples, but there is an effort to turn the
schools to other lines of training.

There are also material changes in the civil service rulings in order
to accommodate cripples. There is annexed to the vice royal decree
of August, 1917, supplementing the law creating the national board,
a list of positions in all governmental departments which will be held
open for cripples. 57

The sale of salt and tobacco is in Italy a Government monopoly.
It is generally conducted by the postmaster, but licenses may be given
to private individuals. There is a Commissione generale per il con-
ferimento delle rivendite di generi di privativa (General commission
for conferring the right of sale of State monopolies) which confers
this license on cripples if they present proper references and are
pronounced by a competent authority unfit for productive labor. 68

ffi Bollettino della Federazione Nazionale del Comitati di Assistenza ai Soldati Ciechi,
Mutilati, Storpl. Rome, 1917, 11, 245.

66 Bollettino della Federazione Nazionale del Comitati di Assistenza ai Soldati Ciechi,
Mutilati, Storpi. Rome, 1917, 11, 245.

" Bollettino della Federazione Nazionale del Comitati di Assistenza ai Soldati Ciechi,
Mutilati, Storpl. Rome, 1917, li, 211-213.

53 Bollettino della Federazione Nazionale del Comitati di Assistenza ai Soldati Ciechi,
Mutilati, Storpi. Rome, 1917, il, 120.

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The ministry of munitions has for some time been urging the
munitions factories to employ cripples as a patriotic duty and has
finally requested them to submit to him on the 25th of each month
a list of the positions open in all factories and the injuries com-
patible with them. 59

The law creating the national board also provides that discharged
men may be employed in army work behind the lines. The military
aviation department has promised to give preference to cripples,
preferably trained smiths, mechanics, metal workers, carpenters, etc.,
to substitute for able-bodied men who may then be sent to the front.
The pay is to be without regard to pension. 60

Wages of Cripples.

The question of reduction of wages caused by the employment of
cripples seems not to have come up. The Government has repeatedly
promised that pensions shall not be reduced no matter what a man's
earning capacity becomes, 61 but this is the only phase of the subject
which has been mentioned in the publications.

Insurance is a subject which has roused more discussion. The
provisions under this head have been stated in the law creating the
national board. The final result is that in matters of accident in-
surance no account is to be taken of the employment of cripples unless
their number passes a certain proportion, when an agreement is to
be reached with the minister of industry.


Since Italy is not primarily an industrial country, the possibility
of loans to farmers and handicraft workers assumes almost as much
importance as that of placing men in trades. The law creating the
national board provides at length for this sort of aid. Loans for
buying land or establishing themselves in business may be made to
crippled soldiers on security of their pensions by loan institutions
authorized by the State. 62 Every effort is made to facilitate credit
to the cripple and the local committee and the national board make
it their business to assist him.


Italian pensions are computed according to a viceroyal decree of
May 20, 1917, amplifying a law of Parliament of May 22, 1915. By

60 Bollettino della Federazione Nazionale dei Comitati Hi Assistenza ai Soldati Ciechi,
Mutilatl, Storpl. Borne, 1917. 11, 120, 303.

M Bollettino della Federazione Nazionale del Comitati di Assistenza ai Soldati Ciechi,
Mutilatl, Storpi. Rome, 1917, 11, lit).

«* Bollettmo della Federazione Nazionale dei Comitati di Assistenza ai Soldati Ciechi,
Mutilatl, Storpl. Borne, 1917, ii, 97.

«a Bollettino della Federazione Nazionale dei Comitati dl Assistenza ai Soldati Ciechi,
Mutilatl, Storpi. Rome, 1917, 11, 210.

57710°— 18 9


this decree there are established 10 categories of invalidity, and all
injuries are classified as falling under one of them. A minimum
pension is established for men of every rank, and this is augmented
according to the category of invalidity. For a private the maximum
is 1,260 lire, or $252 per year. 63 For total disability falling within the
first category there is a supplementary allowance of 150 lire, $30
per year. This can be withdrawn if a man is being provided for by
private charity or if he refuses reeducation and withdrawal is recom-
mended by the national board. 64 On a man's discharge from the
army pensions are fixed once for all, and the minister of the interior
has declared definitely that there will be no diminution of pensions
under any circumstances. 65


The subject of reeducation is still in great need of publicity in
Italy. Prof. Levi, in the monthly magazine of the federation,
states that for the first years of the war the rule was the cripples were
discharged to their homes without knowing anything about reeduca-
tion. In a short personal survey which he made in Piedmont, the
sphere of activity of one of the most efficient committees, he found
men in all the mountain villages who were perfectly capable of re-
education and were living in idleness for lack of it. 66


This lack is being overcome little by little. The national federa-
tion in its money-raising campaigns, has done a great deal to adver-
tise the work of the committees. A great many post cards have been
printed for sale. Its largest returns, however, came from the sale
of a box of matches decorated with the Italian colors and named the
Scatola Italianissima, a superlative which might be translated the
"All Italian match box," This box was manufactured by several
regular factories and sold at a price a little above the usual one, the
surplus going to the work for cripples. A campaign of publicity
made it a public duty to buy matches in this form and the box was
sold by thousands, carrying with it a widespread knowledge of the
name of the federation, if not of its work. The real work cf pub-
licity done by the federation is the publication of a monthly maga-
zine of high excellence, the Bollettino della Federazione Nazionale,
dei Comitati di Assistenza ai Soldati Ciechi, Mutilati, Storpi (Bulle-
tin of the National Federation of Committees of Assistance to Blind,

08 Bollettino della Federazione Nazionale dei Comitati di Assistenza ai Soldati Ciechi,
Mutilati, Storpi. Rome, 1917, ii, 152-158.

M Bollettino della Federazione Nazionale dei Comitati di Assistenza al Soldati Ciechi,
Mutilati, Storpi. Rome, 1917, ii, 153.

01 Bollettino della Federazione "Nazionale dei Comitati di Assistenza ai Soldati Ciechi,
Mutilati, Storpi. Rome, 1917, ii, 37.

m Bollettino della Federazione Nazionale del Comitati di Assistenza ai Soldati Ciechi,
Mutilfiti, Storpi. Rome, 1917, li, 106.


Lame, and Mutilated Soldiers), Eome. This magazine has done a
great deal for £he information of the educated classes of Italy. It
was highly praised at the interallied conference, the French repre-
sentatives declaring that it should serve as a model for their contem-
plated publication. Besides theoretic discussion and reports of the
work of local committees, the Bolletino publishes lists of positions
open to cripples and acts as an employment medium.

Local Committees.
The only one of the local committees which has made much of a
point of publicity is the Piedmontese Committee at Turin. This com-
mittee has issued posters urging men to attend the farm school and
a booklet for cripples telling the story of reeducation. (Tre Anni
Dopo, Turin, 1916.) It has also sent representatives through the
Province to lecture and interest local people. 67

Red Cross.

The Italian Red Cross has assisted a great deal in publicity. It
has included in its nursing course a series of lectures on the care of
cripples, including the care of the stump and reeducation. 68 It has
also instructed its representatives whenever they visit hospitals or
confer with soldiers to inform them about the possibility of reeduca-
tion and the fact that it does not mean loss of pension. 69

The newly created national board, with its greater powers, will

probably be able to remedy the lack of popular information on the


Attitude of Cripples.

It has been hard to convince the Italian cripples of the value of reed-
ucation. At Bologna, 28 per cent of the men eligible refused it. T0 The
conservative peasant mind is hard to appeal to. The best method
would seem to be that of Dr. Aliotta, of Palermo, who approached
his men while they were still in hospital and convinced them by long
personal conferences in dialect that they would be in friendly sur-
roundings and would enjoy the school. When they are in school,
military discipline is agreed to be the only plan workable. 71 Even
thus men are sometimes expelled for infringement of rules, at Bo-
logna, 12 in a year. 72 The idea of reeducation is too new for men
to be willing to stick to it the length of time necessary without some
external authority.

07 Bollettino della Federazione Nazionale dei Comltati di Assistenza ai Soldati Ciechi,
Mutllati, Storpl. Rome. 1917, ii, 325

08 Bollettino della Federazione Nazionale del Comltati di Assistenza ai Soldati Ciechi,
Mutilati, Storpi. Eome, 1917, 11, 161.

69 Bollettino della Federazione Nazionale dei Comltati di Assistenza ai Soldati Ciechi,
Mutilati, Storpi. Rome, 1917, ii, 72-73.

™ Bollettino della Federazione Nazionale dei Comitati di Assistenza ai Soldati Ciechi,
Mutilati, Storpi. Rome, 11, 1917, 115.

71 Bollettino della Federazione Nazionale dei Comitati di Assistenza ai Soldati Ciechi,
Mutilati, Storpi. Rome, 1917, ii. 57.

'» Bollettino della Federazione Nazionale del Comltati di Assistenza ai Soldati Ciechi,
Mutilati, Storpi. Rome, 1917, ii, 115.


National Association.

In Italy, as in Germany, the cripples have formed a society of
their own, the Associazione Nazionale degli Invalidi della Guerra
(National Association of War Cripples) with head quarters at Milan.
The aims of the association are stated to be —

1. To foster the spirit of brotherhood.

2. To give mutual assistance, moral and material.

3. To act as intermediary between cripples and employers.

4. To maintain the rights of cripples when they are neglected,
whether by the Government or by the public.

5. To secure work for its members. 73

This society would not seem to be a working class organization, as
in Germany. Its honorary officers have high army rank and even the
actual executives include captains, etc. The association has evidently
real influence with the public. When the bill creating the national
board was being discussed, a clause providing for representatives of
the cripples on the board was struck out, but later, when the supple-
mentary rules were issued in a viceroyal decree, the prime minister
was directed to appoint four such representatives. Cripples are also
to be represented on the staffs of all the reeducation schools, the men
being elected by the local branch of the National Association of War

There would seem to be already a good many branches of the asso-
ciation which are active in promoting propaganda for the employ-
ment of war cripples. The Genoa branch has proposed to the minis-
try of war that cripples beemployed in all war department positions
possible so as to release able-bodied men for the front. 7 *

The aims of the association as far as expressed are absolutely non-
political. At its meeting of organization the secretary summed up
the general feeling :

Our country will be grateful for the strength we have given in defense of her
glory and of her spirit. But we shall be even more worthy of her if, united in
a firm organization, we regain the strength and the will to be real men, useful
to ourselves and to our families. The eyes of all are turned toward us, as
toward the elect and this high consideration should guide us to right conduct
and straight living. The association will be the kindly guardian of every mem-
ber, but it will not hesitate to take stern but necessary measures against those
who fail of their civic duty.™

** Bollettino della Federazione Nazionale dei Comitati di Assistenza ai Soldati' Ciechi,
Mutilati, Storpi. Some, 1917, 11, 161.

"Bollettino della Federazione Nazionale dei Comitati di Assistenza ai Soldati Ciechi,
Mutilati, Storpi. Eome, 1917, ii, 330.

76 Bollettino della Federazione Nazionale dei Comitati di Assistenza ai Soldati Ciechi,
Mutilati, Storpi. Eome, 1917, ii, 218.



There are two outstanding features about the German system of
care for war cripples. In the first place, it is not a system in the
sense in which Italy, Canada, France, and England have systems.
In all these countries, the work is more or less unified under one
authority ; they make, in varying degrees, an attempt at even distri-
bution of schools and hospitals. In Germany there is no real central
authority. The schools are of varying types and most unevenly dis-

The second feature is the volunteer character of the work. The
matter of reeducation is wholly in private hands and is not even
supervised by the Imperial Government. In this respect the German
Government takes less part in the work than the Government of any
other nation. These two features, lack of system and lack of govern-
ment control, have been the subject of wholesale condemnation from
writers of other nations. As far as can be seen, however, the volume
of work done and the efficiency of individual institutions rank ex-
tremely high.

As a matter of fact, the lack of centralization in the German sys-
tem need not indicate essential insufficiency. There are two obvious
causes for it. In the first place, Germany was the country which, of
all others, had, when the war broke out, the most foundation for car-
ing for cripples. Some of the other countries which had no such ar-
rangements had to create their systems from the bottom up, notably
Italy and Canada, which are now the most uniform. It is the work
which has grown by experiment from stage to stage which usually
shows the least consistent plan on paper, and the German reeduca-
tion system appears to fall under this head.

When the war broke out Germany had under different auspices
all the elements with which to begin immediate work. There were
58 cripple homes under private auspices; there were sanitaria and
reeducation workshops for industrial cripples under the employers'
accident insurance companies ; there were orthopedic hospitals under
the municipalities, and there were trade schools and employment

1 Material for this chapter prepared by Ruth Underhill.



bureaus under various government auspices. It was difficult to knock
these elements together under one management and yet each was
efficient of its kind and ready to be turned over at full working
strength to the purpose of war. Under such circumstances the nat-
ural development was that each should remain more or less autono-
mous, simply co-operating with the others on whatever system
appeared practical in each locality.

Further than this, the work is thoroughly planned. It is not what
is done for the cripples which is unsystematized, but the way in
which it is done. Germany has a complete definite scheme as to what
constitutes the reconstruction of war cripples. It is accepted by all
the institutions working to this end, it is put in practice, and the
statement is that in 90 per cent of the cases the desired results are
obtained. The scheme, as expressed by Dr. Biesalski, Germany's
leading orthopedic surgeon, is as follows:

1. No charity, but work for the war cripple.

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

3. Cripples 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
cripples themselves.

These words express not only an ideal, but an outline of the work
as actually put through. There appears to be no discussion in Ger-
many as to the results obtainable. 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 had
happened," is accepted as a creed. As far as this goes there is entire
uniformity and system, with less discussion of possibilities and re-
sults than is to be found in any other nation.

The volunteer character of the work is also explainable on histori-
cal grounds. Volunteer work in Germany does not mean unskilled
work. Germany was used to relying on private organizations for
efficient work in the field of social welfare and to granting them a
semiofficial status. Her whole system of social insurance, for in-
stance, was managed in this way. Moreover, her volunteer social
workers were often men who held Government positions and who did
this work in their unofficial capacity or who were closely allied
with the governing class. To speak of volunteer work in Germany
does not, therefore, mean irresponsible or untrained work, but work
in the spirit and of the quality of Government work done under
different auspices. To illustrate the German attitude, there may
be quoted the speech of the president of the Imperial Committee
for the Care of War Cripples, made at a conference called by the
committee at Cologne, August 22 to 25, 1916 :


To me the most Inspiring thing about this organization of ours for the care
of war cripples, which embraces all Germany, has always been its voluntary
character. We needed no laws and no decrees, no impulse from our rulers.
Spontaneously, in one day, the great edifice sprang from the earth created by
the mighty force of brotherly, cherishing love. 2

The enthusiasm of this speech is typical, but the man who makes
it can not be counted merely an inspired private citizen; he is the
captain general of the Prussian Province of Brandenburg and,
though speaking in a private capacity, must be presumed to work in
full accord with the Government and in the Government spirit.

It is gathered that the work for cripples, being managed usually
by people of this stamp, is largely a matter of class. There have
been requests in the Reichstag, mostly from the socialist side, that
the Government take over the whole work. The Government's ob-
vious reason for not doing so is, of course, a matter of money, coupled
with the fact that to leave such a matter to private initiative is not
such a shiftless act in Germany as it would be in a country with a
less developed system of private charity. A list of contributions
made by some of the principal German cities to June, 1916, may show
the extent to which the work is dependent on private charity:



Marks per
1,000 in-






707, 000






There have been various estimates made of the number of German
cripples. The latest available is that up to August, 1916, published
by the Kolnische Volkszeitung, which gives 3 the arm amputation
cases as 6,000 and leg amputations as 10,000.

For these men there are four necessary stages of treatment:
(1) Medical treatment, (2) provision of artificial limbs and func-
tional reeducation, (3) vocational reeducation and vocational advice,
(4) placement. These activities are cut sharply in half, the first
two being the function of the Imperial Government and the last two
of private and state agencies.

The general course of a wounded German soldier from the battle
field to civil life is as follows : He receives his first treatment at the

• Verhandlungsbericht iiber die Tagung fur KriegsbescbSdigtenfursorge In Koln, Berlin,
1917, p. 27. (Relcbsauascbuss der Kriegsbesebiidigtenfursorge. Sonderscbriften. Heft 1.)
•Zeltscnrift fur KrUppelfiirsorge, Leipzig. 191G, ix, 382.


field dressing station and goes from there by ambulance to the field
hospital, where surgical treatment takes place. He is then removed
by train to the rear, possibly to a hospital along the lines of com-
munication, possibly to a reserve hospital in the interior or even to
the orthopedic hospital, where he is to have final intensive treatment.
This is decided by military convenience and by his need for more or
less immediate treatment.

He is kept at the reserve or the orthopedic hospital under military
discipline until his physical condition is brought back to normal,
during which time there are various arrangements for his reeduca-
tion. These will be taken up later. On discharge from the hospital
he goes back to his reserve battalion, the unit at the rear which
supplies new reserves for the corresponding battalion at the front,
to await his pension and dismissal. As a rule, there is an effort to
send men for treatment to the home town where their reserve bat-
talion is quartered, so that this will not mean another change of
place. While he is with the reserve battalion, his pension is decided
on by the local military board and he is finally dismissed as dienstun-
fahig, or unfit for service.

Most of the civilian activities, both in reeducation and in place-
ment; take place while the man is under the authority of hospital or
reserve battalion. This makes necessary the closest cooperation be-
tween military and civilian authorities. The effect is that of two
interlocking systems functioning side by side, occasionally overlap-
ping, occasionally failing to make perfect connections, but, as a
rule, because they are not really different in spirit, managing very


The organization of the volunteer work for the care of war cripples
began a few days after the declaration of war, through the activity
of the Deutsche Vereinigung fur Kriippelfursorge (German Federa-
tion for the Care of Cripples). This society, as has been mentioned,
is an institution of long standing, having as members 58 cripple
homes, some of them founded almost a century ago. The chief

Online LibraryDouglas C. (Douglas Crawford) McMurtrieThe evolution of national systems of vocational reeducation for disabled soldiers and sailors → online text (page 15 of 38)