Child doctor Asperger 'aided Nazi euthanasia'

Austrian paediatrician Hans Asperger actively cooperated with Nazis: Study

Czech stressed that Asperger was not an official member of the Nazi party but that he had "managed to accommodate himself to the Nazi regime" for which he was rewarded with career opportunities.

This latest effort is the product of eight years of research by historian Herwig Czech of the Medical University of Vienna, who pored through Asperger's personnel files, assessments by Nazi authorities and medical case records, among other documentary evidence. He joined the Vienna University Children's Clinic in 1931, under the leadership of Franz Hamburger, one of the country's most prominent Nazis.

The doctor referred children to a children's clinic, Am Spiegelgrund, in Vienna's Steinhof hospital - where disabled children were killed after being judged not "worthy to live".

In 1944, Asperger published a comprehensive study on children with a specific set of autistic tendencies, and the syndrome was later named after him.

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.

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

Dr. Hans Asperger "publicly legitimized race hygiene policies, including forced sterilizations" and "actively cooperated" with the Nazis' so-called child "euthanasia" program in which children with mental and physical disabilities were systematically killed, according to the research paper by Herwig Czech, a medical historian at the Medical University in Vienna.

The study has also provoked discussion across social media platforms, with some conflicted about Dr. Asperger's name being linked to the condition.

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The Third Reich's child-euthanasia program was an extreme form of the eugenics movement promoted by the American genetics movement, lauded by people like Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who spoke for America's highest court that a rape victim should be sterilized because he believed she was simply promiscuous and she would be the "probable potential parent of socially inadequate offspring, likewise afflicted".

On June 27th 1941, Asperger examined a girl at his clinic named Herta Schreiber, the paper says.

Czech told AFP via email that the evidence he uncovered "bel (ies) the notion that (Asperger) tried to protect the children under his care by embellishing their diagnoses.".

In an accompanying editorial in Molecular Autism, joint editor-in-chief and cognitive neuroscientist Simon Baron-Cohen said that he is aware that the article will be controversial.

At least one expert said the report still needs to be seen in context.

The study's findings have prompted debate and consternation among people with autism and their advocates, especially those who identify with the term "Asperger", Carol Povey, director of the London-based Center for Autism of the National Autistic Society, said in an email. "We will be listening closely to the response to this news so we can continue to make sure the language we use to describe autism reflects the preferences of autistic people and their families".

It was then renamed Asperger syndrome.

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