Dr. Asperger ‘actively cooperated’ with Nazis, study says
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Dr. Asperger ‘actively cooperated’ with Nazis, study says

Pioneering pediatrician ‘publicly legitimized race hygiene policies including forced sterilizations,’ and sent children to their deaths, according to new research

Illustrative: Young people hold pictures of children murdered at the city hospital under the Nazi euthanasia program of the physically or mentally handicapped, and their brains and other remains then used for decades for medical research, during a public service in Vienna's Central Cemetery where the last two specimens are buried, April 28, 2002. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)
Illustrative: Young people hold pictures of children murdered at the city hospital under the Nazi euthanasia program of the physically or mentally handicapped, and their brains and other remains then used for decades for medical research, during a public service in Vienna's Central Cemetery where the last two specimens are buried, April 28, 2002. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

VIENNA, Austria — Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger, after whom Asperger’s syndrome is named, “actively cooperated” with the Nazi euthanasia program, according to a new study published Thursday.

“Asperger managed to accommodate himself to the Nazi regime and was rewarded for his affirmations of loyalty with career opportunities,” Herwig Czech, a historian of medicine at the Medical University of Vienna, wrote in the study.

Asperger “publicly legitimized race hygiene policies including forced sterilizations and, on several occasions, actively cooperated” with the Nazis’ child euthanasia program, according to Czech.

Asperger joined several organizations affiliated with the Nazis, although not the Nazi Party itself, Czech added in the report, published in the open access journal Molecular Autism.

Czech said he consulted a vast array of contemporary publications and previously unexplored archival documents, including the doctor’s personnel files and case records from his patients.

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.”

In public lectures, Asperger declared his allegiance to the tenets of Nazi medicine. From 1938, when the Nazis “annexed” Austria into the Third Reich, he took to signing his diagnostic reports with, “Heil Hitler.”

According to Czech, Asperger recommended the transfer of two girls, one aged 2 and the other 5, to the notorious Am Spiegelgrund facility, inside Vienna’s Steinhof psychiatric hospital.

This was where nearly 800 children lacking “hereditary worthiness” and “racial purity” died, many of them killed by poisoning and other methods. The two girls were among those who perished, officially from pneumonia.

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.

Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, typically involves deficiencies in social and communication skills, and is often seen in people of average or above average intelligence.

Asperger first identified it as “autistic psychopathy,” but his work was only recognized and the syndrome named after him following his death in 1980, although its designation has long been contentious.

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