Via Steven Hassan
"I have spent the past seven years researching the Nazi past of Dr. Hans Asperger. Asperger is credited with shaping our ideas of autism and Asperger syndrome, diagnoses given to people believed to have limited social skills and narrow interests.
Asperger was long seen as a resister of the Third Reich, yet his work was, in fact, inextricably linked with the rise of Nazism and its deadly programs.
He first encountered Nazi child psychiatry when he traveled from Vienna to Germany in 1934, at age 28. His senior colleagues there were developing diagnoses of social shortcomings for children who they said lacked connection to the community, uneager to join in collective Reich activities such as the Hitler Youth.
Asperger at first warned against classifying children, writing in 1937 that “it is impossible to establish a rigid set of criteria for a diagnosis.” But right after the Nazi annexation of Austria in 1938 — and the purge of his Jewish and liberal associates from the University of Vienna — Asperger introduced his own diagnosis of social detachment: “autistic psychopathy.”
Edith Sheffer, a senior fellow at the Institute of European Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, is the author of the forthcoming book, “Asperger’s Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna.”