Cover image for Asperger's children : the origins of autism in Nazi Vienna / Edith Sheffer.
Asperger's children : the origins of autism in Nazi Vienna / Edith Sheffer.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton & Company, [2018]

Physical Description:
317 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Chapter 1. Enter the experts -- Chapter 2. The clinic's diagnosis -- Chapter 3. Nazi psychiatry & social spirit -- Chapter 4. Indexing lives -- Chapter 5. Fatal theories -- Chapter 6. Asperger & the killing system -- Chapter 7. Girls & boys -- Chapter 8. The daily life of death -- Chapter 9. In service to the volk -- Chapter 10. Reckoning.
Presents an exploration of the sobering history behind Asperger's Syndrome that reveals child psychiatrist Hans Asperger's influence by Nazi psychiatry and his use of one of the Reich's deadliest killing centers to experiment on disabled children.
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1 Bob Harkins Branch 618.92858832 SHE Book Adult General Collection

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Hans Asperger, the pioneer of autism and Asperger syndrome in Nazi Vienna, has been celebrated for his compassionate defense of children with disabilities. But in this groundbreaking book, prize-winning historian Edith Sheffer exposes that Asperger was not only involved in the racial policies of Hitler's Third Reich, he was complicit in the murder of children.As the Nazi regime slaughtered millions across Europe during World War Two, it sorted people according to race, religion, behavior, and physical condition for either treatment or elimination. Nazi psychiatrists targeted children with different kinds of minds--especially those thought to lack social skills--claiming the Reich had no place for them. Asperger and his colleagues endeavored to mold certain "autistic" children into productive citizens, while transferring others they deemed untreatable to Spiegelgrund, one of the Reich's deadliest child-killing centers.In the first comprehensive history of the links between autism and Nazism, Sheffer uncovers how a diagnosis common today emerged from the atrocities of the Third Reich. With vivid storytelling and wide-ranging research, Asperger's Children will move readers to rethink how societies assess, label, and treat those diagnosed with disabilities.

Author Notes

Edith Sheffer is a historian of Germany and central Europe, and a Senior Fellow at the Institute of European Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of Asperger's Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna and the prize-winning Burned Bridge: How East and West Germans Made the Iron Curtain.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Historian Sheffer (Burned Bridge: How East and West Germans Made the Iron Curtain) examines the confounding legacy of Austrian psychiatrist Hans Asperger, who worked with autistic children during the 1930s and '40s, unveiling a figure who initially offered benevolent support to some autistic children, but then death to others. In 1937, Asperger advocated a nonjudgmental approach toward children's differences; a year later, following the Nazi annexation of Austria, he publicly recommended "the overhaul of medicine according to guiding principles of National Socialism"-with its emphases on group assimilation and physical perfection as determinants of whether people deserved to live or die-and introduced his concept of "autistic psychopathy," which forms the basis of the present-day diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Asperger was likely involved in sending 44 children to the Vienna Municipal Youth Welfare Institution at Spiegelgrund, where at least 789 children died, inhumane neglect and brutal punishments were daily rituals, and euthanasia was considered a treatment. "Evil [was] just a part of life" there, one survivor later wrote; "it was everyday life, and nobody questioned it." At the end of the war, Asperger was cleared of wrongdoing and even described his war service as somewhat heroic; he continued an illustrious career in child psychiatry. This is a revelatory, haunting biography of a gifted practitioner who chose to fall in line with the Nazi regime and the far-reaching consequences of that choice, for his own patients and for those still using and being labeled with the diagnostic concepts he originated. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Historian, author, and parent of a child diagnosed with autism, Sheffer (senior fellow, Inst. of European Studies, Univ. of California, Berkeley; Burned Bridge) delves into the story of Hans Asperger (after whom Asperger's syndrome is named). Asperger was the director of the Curative Education Clinic at the University of Vienna Children's Hospital in Vienna during the years leading up to World War II. A practicing Catholic and believed not to have joined the Nazis, Asperger has been favorably regarded. Sheffer makes clear that her subject was a minor figure in the child euthanasia program (unlike his contemporaries such as Heinrich Gross). However, Asperger not only worked but thrived within a system of mass killings, wherein increasing categorization of defects led to state-imposed murder. He labeled children as being of positive or negative worth, with the "unworthy" placed in Vienna's infamous Spiegelgrund institution. Sheffer's descriptions of the children and excerpts from their letters are heartbreaking. VERDICT A tragic yet thought-provoking and extensively researched account that vividly portrays the child victims. This remains a cautionary tale of the influences on diagnoses and how dangerous they can be.-Elizabeth -Safford, Boxford Town Lib., MA © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 11
Chapter 1 Enter the Expertsp. 25
Chapter 2 The Clinic's Diagnosisp. 49
Chapter 3 Nazi Psychiatry and Social Spiritp. 62
Chapter 4 Indexing Livesp. 87
Chapter 5 Fatal Theoriesp. 100
Chapter 6 Asperger and the Killing Systemp. 127
Chapter 7 Girls and Boysp. 148
Chapter 8 The Daily Life of Deathp. 180
Chapter 9 In Service to the Volkp. 207
Chapter 10 Reckoningp. 222
Epiloguep. 238
Acknowledgmentsp. 249
Abbreviationsp. 253
Notesp. 255
Illustration Creditsp. 303
Indexp. 305

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