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Sunday, April 1, 2018

Dr. Hans Asperger's Nazi Connection

In The Politics of Autism, I write about the dangers of eugenics and euthanasia.

In A Different Key, John Donvan and Caren Zucker found that Dr. Hans Asperger worked with Nazis in Austria.  We are now learning more details.

Edith Sheffer writes at The New York Times:
Child “euthanasia” was the Reich’s first program of mass extermination, begun by Hitler in July 1939 to get rid of children regarded as a drain on the state and a danger to its gene pool. Most of the victims were physically healthy, neither suffering nor terminally ill. They were simply deemed to have physical, mental or behavioral defects.
At least 5,000 children perished in around 37 “special wards.” Am Spiegelgrund, in Vienna, was one of the deadliest. Killings were done in the youths’ own beds, as nurses issued overdoses of sedatives until the children grew ill and died, usually of pneumonia.
Asperger worked closely with the top figures in Vienna’s euthanasia program, including Erwin Jekelius, the director of Am Spiegelgrund, who was engaged to Hitler’s sister. My archival research, along with that of other scholars of euthanasia like Herwig Czech, the author of a forthcoming paper on this subject in the journal Molecular Autism, show that Asperger recommended the transfer of children to Spiegelgrund. Dozens of them were killed there.
One of his patients, 5-year-old Elisabeth Schreiber, could speak only one word, “mama.” A nurse reported that she was “very affectionate” and, “if treated strictly, cries and hugs the nurse.” Elisabeth was killed, and her brain kept in a collection of over 400 children’s brains for research in Spiegelgrund’s cellar.
Professor Sheffer is the author of the forthcoming book  Asperger’s Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna.