The Austrian pediatrician for whom Asperger syndrome is named doesn’t deserve the honour of that title, because he collaborated with Nazis to euthanize children, according to a professor.
Hans Asperger conducted pioneering research into what he termed “autistic psychopathy” during the Second World War in Vienna, but was also involved in screening children in line with Nazi policies on eugenics.
“He did argue that some children could be redeemed … but he did diagnose a number of children as ineducable, as did his colleagues, and they would be sent to Spiegelgrund for observation,” Edith Sheffer told The Current’s guest host Laura Lynch.
The Am Spiegelgrund clinic in Vienna was the site of the euthanization of almost 800 children with physical or mental disabilities.
Sheffer, a senior fellow at the Institute of European Studies at UC Berkeley, details this history in her book Asperger’s Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna.