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Asperger's Children

The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna

Edith Sheffer



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14 April 2020
In 1930s and 1940s Vienna, child psychiatrist Hans Asperger sought to define autism as a diagnostic category, treating those children he deemed capable of participating fully in society. Depicted as compassionate and devoted, Asperger was in fact deeply influenced by Nazi psychiatry. Although he offered care to children he deemed promising, he prescribed harsh institutionalisation and even transfer to one of the Reich's killing centres, for children with greater disabilities.

With sensitivity and passion, Edith Sheffer reveals the heart-breaking voices and experiences of many of these children, whilst illuminating a Nazi regime obsessed with sorting the population into categories, cataloguing people by race, heredity, politics, religion, sexuality, criminality and biological defects-labels that became the basis of either rehabilitation or persecution and extermination.
Imprint:   Wiley
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 211mm,  Width: 140mm,  Spine: 20mm
Weight:   248g
ISBN:   9780393357790
ISBN 10:   0393357791
Pages:   320
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Edith Sheffer is a historian of Germany and central Europe, and a senior fellow at the Institute of European Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of the prize-winning Burned Bridge: How East and West Germans Made the Iron Curtain.

Reviews for Asperger's Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna

...Asperger's Children is not just the record of one individual's weak-willed acquiescence in evil. It's also a chilling indictment of an entire system. 'The mission to eliminate undesirable children,' Sheffer writes, 'mirrored the Reich's ambition to eliminate undesirable populations'. Her book is a terrifying expose of how doctors and psychiatrists cruelly abused the powers they had over troubled children. -- Nick Rennison - The Daily Mail With insightful, meticulous historical research Sheffer uncovers how, under Hitler's regime, the profession of psychiatry became the eyes and ears of the Third Reich. This important book should be read by anyone interested in psychology, psychiatry or medicine, so that we learn from history and do not repeat its terrifying mistakes. -- Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of the Autism Research Centre, Cambridge University; author of Zero Degrees of Empathy: A New Theory of Human Cruelty ... historian Edith Sheffer's remarkable book Asperger's Children builds on Czech's study with her own original scholarship. She makes a compelling case that the foundational ideas of autism emerged in a society that strove for the opposite of neurodiversity. -- Simon Baron-Cohen - Nature ... impeccable research... searing, wonderfully written book... -- Dominic Lawson - The Sunday Times ... a superbly researched account... It's hard to believe that anyone will want to identify with Asperger syndrome after reading Sheffer's extremely disturbing but very lucid book... -- Saskia Baron - The Observer Edith Sheffer's Asperger's Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna is a deeply disturbing, thoroughly researched account that exposes the complicity of Hans Asperger in the murder of children suffering from what he called autistic psychopathy. The recovered voices of some of the children and their desperate parents are particularly chilling. -- Andrew Scull, Books of the Year 2018 - Times Literary Supplement ... a searing investigation of the Nazi links of the paediatrician Hans Asperger. -- Must Reads - The Sunday Times Although at times an almost unbearably grim read, this superbly researched book is an important contribution to our understanding of attitudes to autism, and to our knowledge of one of the very darkest episodes in recent human history. -- The Telegraph ... searing new book... [Edith Sheffer's] meticulously researched yet readable account shines a dispassionate light on Asperger as a man actively complicit with Nazi eugenicists carrying out Hitler's child euthanasia program. -- Science ... historian Edith Sheffer has produced a stunning work of scholarship, revealing Asperger's relationship to National Socialism and his role in the extermination of disabled children. In this unputdownable tome, Sheffer reminds us chillingly of the way in which even the best-intentioned professionals fall prey to the political climate in which we practice. -- Therapy Today Edith Sheffer's meticulously researched book draws on case notes, interviews with perpetrators and victims, and scholarly papers. It illuminates not only the life of one of the most horrifying of Nazi sympathisers, but also the dark cavern of medical murder and cruelty, one of the monstrous aspects of Nazi social policy... Sheffer's book is unique... -- The Tablet Sheffer's book is excellent on the background to Viennese social and medical attitudes... -- The Catholic Herald

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