April 20, 2018

The Washington Post: Hans Asperger, hailed for autism research, may have sent child patients to be killed by Nazis

His medical assessment was grim.

The child, not yet 3, showed signs of mental and physical impairment after an illness that caused inflammation in the brain, he said.

“Severe personality disorder,” Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger wrote in a diagnostic report in summer 1941. “Most severe motoric retardation; erethic idiocy; seizures.”

An old black-and-white photo showed the small girl, identified as Herta Schreiber, with her hair buzzed, crying and staring into the camera.

“At home the child must be an unbearable burden to the mother, who has to care for five healthy children,” Asperger wrote in his report.

He concluded that permanent placement at Am Spiegelgrund — the notorious reformatory and psychiatric clinic where nearly 800 children were killed under Nazi rule — seemed “absolutely necessary.”

On Sept. 2, 1941, only a day after her third birthday, Herta died of pneumonia, “the most common cause of death at Spiegelgrund, which was routinely induced by the administration of barbiturates over a longer period of time,” according to an academic paper published Thursday in the medical journal Molecular Autism. The report comes during National Autism Awareness Month and just in time for Adolf Hitler’s birthday.

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