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Hans Asperger

Pediatrician and Nazi collaborator

Hans Asperger's personal archive Asperger examines a boy at the University of Vienna medical clinicHans Asperger's personal archive

Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger (1906–1980) is known for having studied and described a form of autism that bears his name: Asperger’s syndrome. In 1944, when he published his study on the syndrome, which only received international recognition in the 1980s, little attention was paid to the fact that he had previously worked under the Nazi regime in Vienna for many years. His eventual ties to the Nazis and their racial hygiene policies led to some controversy, but were never thoroughly investigated. Due to a lack of evidence and based on Asperger’s own statements, the doctor came to be seen as an opponent of German National Socialism, but new information has recently emerged that is less adulatory. Based on previously unseen historical documents, including Asperger’s own personal files and the clinical assessments he wrote about his patients, historian Herwig Czech, from the University of Vienna, showed that the pediatrician aided and supported the Nazi regime and was rewarded with professional opportunities, including being made a professor at the university. According to Czech’s study, Asperger actively participated in organizations affiliated with the Nazi party, publicly supported racial hygiene policies, and assisted the child euthanasia program, contradicting the notion that he was trying to protect the children in his care: his benevolence did not extend to those who offered no development prospects or challenged his standards of education and discipline (Molecular Autism, April 2018). Asperger believed that the Spiegelgrund euthanasia clinic in Vienna was “necessary.”