Most of us think of Dr. Hans Asperger as a benevolent and compassionate Austrian psychiatrist whose penetrating analysis of pediatric “psychopathy” led to our present understanding of the autism spectrum of disorders. He has been regarded as a considerate defender of children with disabilities and a leader among Vienna psychiatrists.
In this groundbreaking study of Asperger, author Edith Sheffer’s extensive research exposes another side of Asperger that, until now, has been largely hidden. We learn that Asperger was not following orders or avoiding participation in the Nazi euthanasia program in Vienna. This system was designed to create a pure Aryan gene pool by eliminating children who were unable to work and socialize in a normal manner.
As Jewish psychiatrists and professors in Vienna were forced out of their leadership positions, arrested and sent to Nazi death camps, Asperger benefitted, rising quickly through the ranks to head of the Curative Education Clinic in Vienna. By 1934, Asperger had joined openly pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic professional and social organizations.