Autism pioneer Hans Asperger was Nazi collaborator: study

By Ed Adamczyk Contact the Author   |  Updated April 19, 2018 at 12:21 PM
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April 19 (UPI) -- Hans Asperger, a pioneer in autism research, was a Nazi collaborator who sent children to their deaths before and during World War II, new research published Thursday said.

Asperger, whose name was used for an condition known as "Asperger's syndrome," is regarded as an innovator in autism treatment. A study by Herwig Czech indicates he actively contributed to a Nazi eugenics program that attempted to improve human populations through controlled breeding and "race hygiene" -- by weeding out persons with undesirable inheritable characteristics.

Czech's study was published Thursday in the journal Molecular Autism.

Citing documents initially believed destroyed, Czech said Asperger "actively contributed' to the Nazi program, referring "profoundly disabled" children to the notorious Spiegelgrund clinic in Austria -- knowing they would meet their deaths though starvation or lethal injection.

Although Asperger boasted after the war that he was hunted by the Gestapo for failing to turn children over, Czech's research said it found no evidence to support those assertions.

"Asperger managed to accommodate himself to the Nazi regime and was rewarded for his affirmations of loyalty with career opportunities," Czech, a scholar of medical history at the Medical University of Vienna, wrote.

Czech also said Asperger "publicly legitimized race hygiene policies" that included forced sterilizations.

A sidebar in the journal agrees with his analysis.

The contributing scholars wrote Asperger "was not just doing his best to survive in intolerable conditions but was also complicit with his Nazi superiors in targeting society's most vulnerable people."

Asperger, who died in 1980 at the age of 74, was the first in his field to identify a group of children with distinct psychological characteristics that were initially called "autistic psychopaths." He published a study on the topic in 1944. By the time of his death, the term "Asperger's syndrome" became increasingly used to recognize his contribution to the field.

After World War II, he directed a children's clinic in Vienna and was later head of pediatrics at the University of Vienna.

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