Hans Asperger endorsed and participated in Nazi euthanasia programme

Hans Asperger endorsed and participated in Nazi euthanasia programme

"Virtually all doctors in Germany at that time were members of the Nazi Party, and there was nearly no opposition to the euthanasia programs for the mentally ill and handicapped, except from one or two heads of asylums and a very small number of Catholic bishops", Anthony Bailey, a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of British Columbia in Canada, said in an email.

It has been said that Johann "Hans" Asperger, the pioneering Austrian physician who first described the profile of distinct psychological characteristics that later became known as Asperger syndrome in a workship in 1938, resisted the Nazi's brutal "euthanasia" program by refusing to hand his patients over to officials.

The goal of Czech's research was to re-evaluate a narrative that emerged in the years after WWII, which trumpeted Asperger as an opponent of the euthanasia program.

The article by medical historian Herwig Czech was published Thursday in the journal Molecular Autism.

Almost 800 children who didn't fit into the Third Reich's criteria of "worthy to live" - meaning they lacked "racial purity" and "hereditary worthiness" - died at the Am Spiegelgrund clinic in Vienna between 1940 and 1945. Their deaths were mostly recorded as due to pneumonia.

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

"We are persuaded by Herwig Czech's article that Asperger was not just doing his best to survive in intolerable conditions, but was complicit with his Nazi superiors in targeting society's most vulnerable people".

Another point of view was presented by Canadian expert Anthony Bailey, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of British Columbia.

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It says these judgments are based on a limited number of sources and a few passages from Asperger's Nazi-era publications. Some may also say he sacrificed some children to save others.

"We believe that the value of Czech's scholarship is that it establishes the necessary evidentiary framework for future discussion", he said. Recent revelations about Hans Asperger teach us yet more terrifying things from a very terrifying period of our history - when disabled people, along with so many other marginalised people, were so horrendously mistreated, attacked and killed.

He added, however, that nothing suggested Asperger's work on autism was tainted.

For more information, please contact the BMC press office on press@biomedcentral.com.

He quotes a Nazi document from 1940 as saying Asperger "was in conformity with National Socialist [Nazi] ideas in questions of race and sterilization laws".

The clinic was part of a Nazi program created to serve the goal of engineering a genetically "pure" society through "racial hygiene" and the elimination of lives deemed a "burden" and "not worthy of life", Czech said. Research that includes integration across levels is encouraged.

The allegations are reported in the journal Molecular Autism, whose two editors explained why they believed Prof Asperger to be guilty as charged. At BMC, research is always in progress. BMC is part of Springer Nature, giving us greater opportunities to help authors connect and advance discoveries across the world.

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