Was autism hero Hans Asperger really a villain?

Ask anyone the name of a scientist who studied autism, and Hans Asperger will likely be the one most frequently named. Unlike Leo Kanner, Asperger highlighted that autistics could be quite capable and able. Some have suggested that he emphasised autistic abilities to save his patients. He even had Asperger’s Syndrome named for him. But research done by historian Herwig Czech and published in the journal Molecular Autism suggests that this narrative – partly woven by Asperger himself – is inaccurate, and that Asperger was really a firm Nazi who willingly sent a number of patients to their deaths.
Aktion T4 was the Nazi programme of euthanasing the physically and mentally disabled to keep the Master Race pure. The first victim, Gerhard Kretschmaer, was murdered shortly before the invasion of Poland. The last victim died after Germany’s surrender.
Asperger declared that the Gestapo twice tried to arrest him for not reporting patients who were unfit. Czech found that there was no independent verification whatsoever for his claim. More damningly, Czech uncovered irrefutable evidence that Asperger referred several of his patients to the Am Spiegelgrund “clinic”, really a center for euthanasia. Given his position, it is exceptionally unlikely that Asperger was unaware of what was really happening at Am Speiegelgrund.
Most damning of all, Czech found that Asperger “publicly legitimized race hygiene policies” including forced sterilisation. Asperger was mentioned in a 1940 Nazi Document which said he “was in accordance with National Socialist ideas on race issues and sterilization laws”. He was even on a commission that screened patients at a home for mentally disabled children. Several of those screened were, like Asperger’s patients mentioned above, sent to Am Spiegelgrund.
Post War, Asperger continued to work in paediatrics. In 1962 he became professor of paediatrics and head of the University Children’s Hospital in Vienna, retiring in 1977 and passing away in 1980. Like predator Jimmy Savile, the truth only emerged after his death.


About autismjungle

I am a Software Test Analyst. Shortly before I turned 21 I was officially diagnosed, although I had long suspected I was autistic. Welcome to my blog
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