- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (May 1, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393609642
- ISBN-13: 978-0393609646
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 21 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #90,411 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Asperger's Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna 1st Edition
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
“[Edith Sheffer] shows how the Third Reich’s obsession with categories and labels was inextricable from its murderousness; what at first seems to be a book about Dr. Hans Asperger and the children he treated ends up tracing the sprawling documentary record of a monstrous machine. . . . Sheffer has built an impressive case.”
- Jennifer Szalai, New York Times
“Asperger’s Children should be read by any student of psychology, psychiatry or medicine, so that we learn from history and do not repeat its terrifying mistakes. The revelations in this book are a chilling reminder that the highest priority in both clinical research and practice must be compassion.”
- Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the Autism Research Centre, Cambridge University, Nature
“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, Guardian
“An impassioned indictment, one that glows with the heat of a prosecution motivated by an ethical imperative. [...] Sheffer dramatically incorporates the voices of the few children who survived the sadistic terrors of the psychiatric regime.”
- Lisa Appignanesi, New York Review of Books
“[Sheffer] writes with extraordinary sensitivity and an understated grace. A historian of Germany and modern Europe, Sheffer’s research is meticulous and wide-ranging.”
- Kate Tuttle, Los Angeles Times
“An absolutely terrifying and fascinating book.”
- Steve Almond, NPR
“As Sheffer suggests at the end of her searing, wonderfully written book, the least that can be done to honour the memory of those children killed in his name is to excise it from popular use.”
- Dominic Lawson, The Sunday Times
“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.”
“This book is sensational, although its author does not seek sensation. It is a careful work of history, connecting the career of a physician with the intellectual, medical, and political contexts of Austria in the 1930s and 1940s. That world is not our world, but the connections, the habits of mind, speech, diagnosis, are more powerful than we think. In restoring history to psychology, Sheffer helps us to understand why we classify our children the way we do, and helps us to ask, as we must, just what kind of world we are making for them.”
- Timothy Snyder, author of On Tyranny and Bloodlands
“Meticulously documented, and chilling in its detail, Asperger’s Children reveals the consequences of the most extreme abuses of clinical power and authority. In the current age of neurodiversity, this essential work will help to ensure that the human rights of people with disabilities will never be disregarded again.”
- Barry M. Prizant, PhD, author of Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism
About the Author
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 Asperger's Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna and the prize-winning Burned Bridge: How East and West Germans Made the Iron Curtain.
Try the Kindle edition and experience these great reading features:
Showing 1-4 of 21 reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
So was the pediatric psychiatrist, Hans Asperger.
Born February 18, 1906 in Vienna, Asperger graduated from the University of Vienna in 1931. He had quickly become renowned for his work on autistic psychopathy. Asperger, true to the times in which he lived, claimed that only boys could be autistic. Girls were simply diagnosed with hysteria.
Asperger had studied under Franz Hamburger, and he expanded on Hamburger’s research in pediatric psychiatry. Asperger became the administrator of University Children’s Hospital of Vienna in 1933, where he expanded his research that led to his theory on the syndrome that bears his name today.
Asperger firmly believed in tailoring treatment to the individual child, and this was how he trained staff at the hospital. The facility quickly became world renowned for the love and care, as they were looked at at the time, provided to each child.
And then came March 12, 1938.
Adolf Hitler had risen to power, and on that date he annexed Austria into his growing Third Reich. Government institutions in Austria were put in charge of Nazi officials, including the University Children’s Hospital.
Asperger never became a member of the party, but his writing and research quickly shifted from psychiatric treatment of individual children to Nazi groupthink, meaning that he now made psychiatric diagnoses based on the patient’s value to the Volk.
Part of this included determining which children should be murdered for the good of the state. Physical disability, mental disability and illness, criminal and negative behavior in school all became excuses to send children to the killing pavilions at Spiegelgrund.
Although there is no existing evidence that Asperger personally recommended any children for killing, there is existing evidence that children he sent to Spiegelgrund were killed.
Asperger was not among those prosecuted, at the end of World War Two, for killing children. He went on to achieve greater notoriety for his work with autistic children, although he still held to some of his beliefs developed in the Nazi era until his death in 1980.
"Asperger’s Children" is the most disturbing book I’ve ever read. Historian Edith Sheffer’s work documents the cavalier attitude shown by Nazi officials and doctors when it came to sending those they thought would become a burden to the Reich to be executed.
The reminiscences of a few men and women who survived confinement at Spiegelgrund are both troubling and inspiring, as they illustrate how they, under the constant threat of execution, still put others above themselves when possible, as did a few members of the staff. Although there are few photographs of the children in the book, the children whose images are there gaze out at the reader over the decades, with a gaze that seems to be knowledgeable of what their ultimate fate would be. Most troubling are the accounts of parents who turned their children over to the Nazis, with the specific request that they be killed.
"Asperger’s Children" finally brings to light a new episode in the ongoing story of man’s inhumanity to man. Edith Sheffer reminds us of what once was, and what could be again, if we don’t heed the lessons of history.
. Dr. Asperger ‘s theory was picked up in the 80’s by the English speaking world and popularized to explain a portion of the high functioning children who none-the-less showed autistic characteristics, suggesting there is a spectrum of behavior seen in this disorder. These higher functioning autistic children were labeled as having “Asperger’s Syndrome.” Later that label was removed for two reasons: First was a desire to acknowledge that autistic children and adults were all “ on a spectrum “ and there was no definition of what classified someone as having Asperger’s. Second, despite vehement denials during his lifetime it has now been proven that Dr Asperger actively participated in referring multiple children under his care to NAZI child killing centers.
He tried to make a case post war that his life was threatened because he was a believing Catholic and he was only saved from incarceration by intervention of his mentor (there are no records of this; he was evaluated by the Nazis several times because he held a high position as clinic director but was not a party member. Each time it was determined he was a reliable fellow who did not join the party because of his Catholic beliefs. There was no indication that he was “out of sync” with party positions.)
Although he continued to direct his clinic and eventually the entire Vienna Children’s Hospital, he did not publish anything about autism after the war. His post-war work was concerned mostly with the spiritual life of the dying child. He believed that dying children had completed souls and were prepared to die. Certainly convenient thoughts for a man who sent children to be killed because they “ lived a life unworthy of life.” (In one case that consisted of a club foot, ears that “stuck out too much”, and a step-mother who didn’t want anything to do with the 7 yo boy after his father died in the war! )
Definitely worth reading!
This work represents a critical missing piece in our current understanding of disability and neurodiversity, namely, by whose standards are we defining these individuals? It should be required reading for all educators and for parents of children with disabilities, especially those who move within the autism community.