Thalidomide was developed by German pharmaceutical company Gruenenthal near Aachen, and sold from 1957 to 1961 in almost 50 countries to pregnant women to combat morning sickness.
Before its release, inadequate tests were performed to assess the drug’s safety, with catastrophic results for the children of women who had taken thalidomide during their pregnancies.
Marketed as “as harmless as a sugar cube,” the thalidomide drug caused around 10,000 babies around the world to be born with disabilities, 4000 of them in Germany.
Filmmaker Niko von Glasow was one of them. Born in Cologne in 1960, he spent years struggling to come to terms with his condition — feeling too ashamed of his short arms even to wear a bathing suit.
But then the former production assistant to legendary German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder decided to go on the offensive. He came up with the idea of publishing a volume of nude portraits of thalidomide-impaired people, and making a film about the process.