Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Hans Asperger, after whom Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) is named, is oft been depicted as a grandfatherly figure. The kindly white-haired Austrian pediatrician, it is thought, is the reason we’re as far as we are today in our understanding of AS. And there is immense gratitude for that.
The only problem with this fairytale is that it is a lie.
Here is the truth:
·         Hans Asperger rose to prominence by default after his more accomplished Jewish colleagues were expelled from the University of Vienna
·         Hans Asperger was not first to note the syndrome that bears his name
·         Hans Asperger likely lifted his early work on AS from two Jewish colleagues who were booted from the university and expelled from Austria, Georg Frankl and Anni Weiss
·         Hans Asperger actively participated in Hitler’s eugenics program, referring children with Asperger’s Syndrome to the Am Spiegelgrund clinic in Vienna for euthanasia
Hans Asperger, in other words, sent children with Asperger’s Syndrome to die. The children he referred for euthanasia were murdered by starvation or lethal injection. The cause of death was listed as “pneumonia.”
Contrary to the benign figure he cut in circles affected by the subset of autism known as AS, Hans Asperger was a Nazi. Did he go along to get along? Did he find the work repugnant?
Edith Sheffer, author of a new book, Asperger’s Children: The origins of autism in Nazi Vienna, argues that Asperger was a willing participant in the murder of “defectives.” According to Sheffer, Asperger may have been attracted to the idea of a fascist collective as embodied by the Nazi concept of Volk: that of an Aryan people unsullied by those with “defects,” be they physical, psychological, or social.
There's also the fact that in 1938, these two things happened:
  1. · The Dean of the University of Vienna Medical School removed over half of its faculty, mostly Jewish doctors
  2. · Hans Asperger was promoted to become director of the Curative Education Clinic at the (very) young age of 28

What happened here? Was Asperger promoted because the Jews were gone? Or was he chosen for his ardent embrace of Nazi ideology?

Did Asperger, drunk with newfound power, simply fall in line with the Nazi killing machine, helping to eliminate all those who could not conform to the image of perfect Aryan? Or did he go along to get along: go along with murdering helpless children because he was afraid he’d otherwise be killed?

Did Hans Asperger experience a twinge of guilt as he sent children with AS to their deaths?
Does it matter?
An editorial in Molecular Autism argues that it matters a great deal. It matters that the story comes to our attention. And it matters that we know the truth.

This is about bioethics and accurate medical history, they say. The editors are unequivocal in stating their belief that Hans Asperger was a willing volunteer, “complicit with his Nazi superiors in targeting society’s most vulnerable people,” based on their review of an article by medical historian Herwig Czech, appearing in the same journal.[1] 
Simon Baron-Cohen*, Ami Klin, Steve Silberman, and Joseph D. Buxbaum, authors of this important editorial, write: “We take the unusual step of publishing this Editorial so as to explain our reasons for publishing this article. Two of us are Editors-in-Chief of Molecular Autism (SBC and JDB), one of us served as Action Editor during the long review process of this article (SBC), and two of us served as anonymous reviewers for this article, but have decided to forgo their anonymity (SS and AK).”
Hitler's letter authorizing the murder of the "incurably sick"
The four writers, all Jewish, take the bold step of owning history and making you own history, even when it is unpleasant, even when they might be accused of prejudicial treatment of the facts by dint of their religion.

They don’t CARE what you think. They will do what is right.
In contrast, there is Sahil Singh Gujral, “the first openly autistic postgraduate in the UK to win the Wellcome Trust’s PhD studentship.” Speaking to the Guardian, Gujral compares these revelations regarding Asperger complicity in the Nazi eugenics program to Leo Kanner's views on the sterilization of the mentally disabled. But Gujral woefully misrepresents Kanner’s views.
Leo Kanner
Kanner advocated sterilization only for those who were incapable of caring for children. He didn’t for a moment believe that included all people with intellectual disabilities. “In my 20 years of psychiatric work with thousands of children and their parents,” said Kanner, “I have seen percentually at least as many 'intelligent’ adults unfit to rear their offspring as I have seen such 'feeble-minded' adults. I have--and many other have--come to the conclusion that, to a large extent independent of the I.Q., fitness for parenthood is determined by emotional involvements and relationships."
Jay Joseph[2] detailed an important debate between Kanner, a Jew, and Robert Foster Kennedy, chairman of the American Psychiatric Association. Foster Kennedy, advocated a U.S. euthanasia program patterned on the Nazi model that Hans Asperger served to implement. Kanner argued against such a program.

As they lined up for and against the murder of those with disabilities, these two men betrayed their ideological underpinnings. Foster Kennedy's views were likely informed by his academic milieu: he received an honorary degree in 1936 at the University of Heidelberg’s Nazi-sponsored 550-year jubilee celebration. Kanner's views were likely influenced by the fact that he was a Jew, part of a nation that values life.
It is worth reading in full, Joseph’s lengthy recounting of Kanner’s argument against euthanasia for the disabled. Kanner's Jewish humanity is on full display. A taste:
Kanner spoke of ‘the garbage collector’s assistant who has served our neighborhood for many years’. This was a ‘sober, conscientious, and industrious fellow, . . . deservedly respected by his employer, his co-workers and his spare time companions.’ Still, ‘with an I.Q. of 65, he is rated by us psychiatrists as feebleminded or mentally deficient' . . . 
Kanner discussed ways in which the ‘mentally deficient’ contribute to society:
“Sewage disposal, ditch digging, potato peeling, scrubbing of floors and other such occupations are as indispensable and essential to our way of living as science, literature and art. Cotton picking is an integral part of our textile industries. Oyster shucking is an important part of our seafood supply. Garbage collection is an essential part of our public hygiene measures. For all practical purposes, the garbage collector is as much of a public hygienist as is the laboratory bacteriologist. All such performances, often referred to snobbishly as ‘the dirty work’, are indeed real and necessary contributions to our culture, without which our culture would collapse within less than a month.”
Although Kanner agreed with Kennedy that ‘idiots and imbeciles cannot be trained in any kind of social usefulness’, he disagreed with Kennedy’s conclusion that, in Kanner’s words, ‘we are justified in passing the black bottle among them’ through the procedure some ‘dignify with the term euthanasia’. Kanner linked such ideas to reports of Nazi atrocities, and asked, ‘Shall we psychiatrists take our cue from the Nazi Gestapo?’
 . . . Kanner agreed with Kennedy and others that ‘sterilization is often a desirable procedure’ for ‘persons intellectually or emotionally unfit to rear children’. However, he objected to sterilization performed ‘solely on the basis of the I.Q.’
Kanner objected to sterilizing people on their basis of their IQ. And he certainly never advocated murdering people with Asperger’s Syndrome. Unlike Hans Asperger.
Propaganda poster for the Nazi eugenics program
Here’s an interesting factoid: some believe that Hans Asperger had Asperger’s Syndrome himself. He spoke of himself in the third person. He quoted himself. He was cold and distant, an introvert. 
And yet he was sending people just like himself to die of starvation or lethal injection.
No. There is no comparison between Hans Asperger, who sent children to starve to death, and Leo Kanner, who looked at people’s worth rather than at their ability to conform.
Propaganda for Nazi Germany's T-4 Euthanasia Program: "This person suffering from hereditary defects costs the community 60,000 Reichsmark during his lifetime. Fellow German, that is your money, too." from the Office of Racial Policy's Neues Volk.
Consumed by this story for several days, I cannot help but enumerate, in my mind, the wonderful people I know who have Asperger’s Syndrome. My brilliant cardiologist, for instance, or a certain young man who leads a local congregation with a voice like an angel.
What would have happened had these two been under Hans Asperger’s care in Vienna?
I think about this until my brain aches then think about it some more: the unfeeling banality of the particular evil of Hans Asperger, who marked for elimination the children he "championed."
I can see the children being marched into the bus that would take them to a place where they would be starved to death, or given a shot of something to steal the breath from their lungs, the sight from their eyes, the world around them.
Collection bus for killing patients. Hartheim Nazi killing center, bus with driver

The true story of Hans Asperger, Nazi, is an important story that must be told far and wide.
For if we do not, who will?
*Simon Baron-Cohen is a renowned autism researcher and expert, a cousin of Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, who played, among other roles, Borat.

[1] Simon Baron-Cohen, Ami Klin, Steve Silberman, and Joseph D. Buxbaum, Did Hans Asperger actively assist the Nazi euthanasia program?, (Molecular Autism, 2018),
[2] Jay Joseph, The 1942 ‘euthanasia’ debate in the American

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