The following paragraphs were taken from an opinion piece recently published in the New York Times by Edith Sheffer (Sunday Review, March 31, 2018). Ms. Sheffer is a senior fellow at the Institute of European Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of the forthcoming book, “Asperger’s Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna.” The article is freely available to read/download for those interested.
“As Asperger sought promotion to associate professor, his writings about the diagnosis grew harsher. He stressed the “cruelty” and “sadistic traits” of the children he studied, itemizing their “autistic acts of malice.” He also called autistic psychopaths “intelligent automata.””
“Some laud Asperger’s language about the “special abilities” of children on the “most favorable” end of his autistic “range,” speculating that he applied his diagnosis to protect them from Nazi eugenics — a kind of psychiatric Schindler’s list. But this was in keeping with the selective benevolence of Nazi psychiatry; Asperger also warned that “less favorable cases” would “roam the streets” as adults, “grotesque and dilapidated.””
“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.”
For those interested, I wrote a similar opinion piece in this blog.