Medicine

Austrian doctor Asperger 'actively cooperated' with Nazis

Austrian doctor Asperger 'actively cooperated' with Nazis

The Austrian doctor claimed during his lifetime that he had protected his patients from the Nazi regime, the BBC reports, saying he was wanted by the Gestapo for refusing to turn over children under his care.

The claims are sure to tarnish Asperger's reputation and his name, which is widely associated with autism.

People with the syndrome, which is a mild form of autism, are considered to be on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum.

During the War, Asperger was appointed director of a Viennese children's clinic, and in later years was made chair of paediatrics at the University of Vienna.

"We expect these findings to spark a big conversation among the 700,000 autistic people in the United Kingdom and their family members, particularly those who identify with the term "Asperger", said Carol Povey, director at the Centre of Autism for the National Autistic Society.

From social awkwardness to a complete inability to communicate verbally - four men and women speak about life with autism.

Carol Povey, a spokesperson from The National Autistic Society, said "no-one with a diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome should feel tainted by this very troubling history". In one case, Asperger ordered a 2-year-old with acute inflammation of the brain be sent to Spiegelgrund on the basis that "she must be an unbearable burden to her mother".

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However she added: "We expect these findings to spark a big conversation among the 700,000 autistic people in the United Kingdom and their family members, particularly those who identify with the term "Asperger".

Speaking of the decision to publish the article, the journal's editors told the Huffington Post: "We are aware that the article and its publication will be controversial", referring to the 1 in 100 people who have Asperger's syndrome, that may now feel stigmatized by having a condition that bears his name.

Medical historian Herwig Czech writes that Asperger not only "publicly legitimized race hygiene policies" and signed his diagnostic reports with "Heil Hitler", per the Local, but also sent several children to the Am Spiegelgrund euthanasia clinic, where the Guardian reports 789 children were killed between 1940 and 1945.

Documents previously thought to have been destroyed show that Asperger "actively cooperated" with the child euthanasia program, and was rewarded by the Nazi regime for it.

Past papers made no reference to the historical context of Aspergers' work.

Asperger was also a member of a committee tasked with deciding the fate of around 200 patients in a children's ward at another hospital, 35 of whom were deemed "uneducable" and later died, according to Czech.

Another point of view was presented by Canadian expert Anthony Bailey, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of British Columbia. He was not a member of the Nazi Party.


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