Bengt Nirje on Normalization
Produced by David Goode / The Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities
Produced in 1993.
Red Cross Camp
Bengt Nirje: And the next lesson in my history was that I was suddenly volunteered at the Hungary refugee crisis was with the Swedish Red Cross. We went for officers suddenly in the Red Cross camp for 3,500 with prisoners capacity, refugee capacity. I did the normal thing when people come with problems, we have more [Inaudible] same problem. Why don't you meet, why don't you do something about it? And that didn't work. I just did the natural thing. Then people come to say what seems different in this camp? And so on. And then I became camp inspector. I lived in a camp. I didn't live outside. I lived in the camp for five months. And then I became camp inspector. So I was down in every camp all around Austria to inspect them to see what to close down first. And I learned what it meant to be a refugee. That was quite important.
And then I came home and the Red Cross put me in charge of the [Inaudible] Foundation for cerebral palsy and there was lots of professors, other people, doctors and so on. And we [Inaudible]. What was happening for me in the beginning of it was a meeting and then I overheard some person who said "This is outrageous. We don't have any teaching in the evening for literature." Because the lady got so mad and angry. Can you imagine what the boy said? The boy said they wanted to read Hemingway. They wanted to read Hemingway. And then she got [Inaudible] and said "No more. We're not going to have anything for these cats to do." And so I said "Did I hear right?" And I did, so I volunteered. And Hemingway is ideal obviously to me, and in the sharp language and clear language and the importance of keeping your dignity, being able to see yourself in the [Inaudible] and have the guts. That's ideal for young men. And there were only men there. The women were not allowed to take part in [Inaudible].