Hans Asperger aided and supported Nazi programme, study says
Eight-year study finds pioneer of paediatrics assisted in Third Reichs euthanasia programme
The Austrian doctor after whom Asperger syndrome is named was an active participant in the Nazi regime, assisting in the Third Reichs so called euthanasia programme and supporting the concept of racial hygiene by deeming certain children unworthy to live, according to a study by a medical historian.
Herwig Czech, from Viennas Medical University, has made the claim in an academic paper published in the open access journal Molecular Autism, following eight years of research into the paediatrician Hans Asperger.
Asperger is hailed as a pioneer in the field of child psychiatry and paediatrics, particularly for his groundbreaking contribution to the understanding of Asperger syndrome and the autism spectrum.
But by unearthing previously untouched documents from state archives, including Aspergers personnel files and patient case records, Czech has revealed a scientist who allied himself so closely with the Nazi ideology that he frequently referred children to the Am Spiegelgrund clinic, which was set up as a collecting point for children who failed to conform to the regimes criteria of worthy to live.
Nearly 800 children died at the clinic between 1940 and 1945, many of whom were murdered under the notorious child euthanasia scheme.
In a joint statement, the editors of Molecular Autism Simon Baron-Cohen, Ami Klin, Steve Silberman and Joseph Buxbaum said they welcomed the fact that Czechs meticulous research had finally thrown light on decades of scepticism about Aspergers claims that he had taken a caring approach to his patients.
The degree of Aspergers involvement in the targeting of Viennas most vulnerable children has remained an open and vexing question in autism research for a long time, they wrote in a joint statement.
At the time the term Asperger syndrome was first coined in London in 1981, by Dr Lorna Wing, they added, She and we as scientists and clinicians, as well as the broader autism community, were unaware of Hans Aspergers close alliance with, and support of, the Nazi programme of compulsory sterilisation and euthanasia.