Asperger's Children
Hans Asperger, the pioneer of autism and Asperger syndrome in Nazi Vienna, has been celebrated for his compassionate defense of children with disabilities. But in this groundbreaking book, prize-winning historian Edith Sheffer exposes that Asperger was not only involved in the racial policies of Hitler’s Third Reich, he was complicit in the murder of children.As the Nazi regime slaughtered millions across Europe during World War Two, it sorted people according to race, religion, behavior, and physical condition for either treatment or elimination. Nazi psychiatrists targeted children with different kinds of minds—especially those thought to lack social skills—claiming the Reich had no place for them. Asperger and his colleagues endeavored to mold certain "autistic" children into productive citizens, while transferring others they deemed untreatable to Spiegelgrund, one of the Reich’s deadliest child-killing centers.In the first comprehensive history of the links between autism and Nazism, Sheffer uncovers how a diagnosis common today emerged from the atrocities of the Third Reich. With vivid storytelling and wide-ranging research, Asperger’s Children will move readers to rethink how societies assess, label, and treat those diagnosed with disabilities.

Asperger's Children Details

TitleAsperger's Children
Author
ReleaseMay 1st, 2018
PublisherW. W. Norton Company
ISBN-139780393609646
Rating
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, War, World War II, Biography, Psychology

Asperger's Children Review

  • Jaime
    January 1, 1970
    This book was extremely hard to get through, but well worth it. The brutality of the Nazi regime has been well-documented, but this was especially hard to read. I found it interesting, especially in light of the current administration and the creeping rise of fascism. It was disconcerting to see how intertwined fascism was with medicine and psychiatry - and how autism and Asperger’s work was so tied into and related to the Nazi ideals. I have a lot of thoughts on this book, and I’m still working This book was extremely hard to get through, but well worth it. The brutality of the Nazi regime has been well-documented, but this was especially hard to read. I found it interesting, especially in light of the current administration and the creeping rise of fascism. It was disconcerting to see how intertwined fascism was with medicine and psychiatry - and how autism and Asperger’s work was so tied into and related to the Nazi ideals. I have a lot of thoughts on this book, and I’m still working through my reaction. Well-researched, and there’s a lot more still to examine with this topic.
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  • Michelle Hopkins
    January 1, 1970
    Stop BEFORE you attach a label of autism or Asperger's Syndrome to a child -- yours or anyone else's -- and READ this book. This is one of the most important books I have read in years in how it gives context and meaning to a concept society has accepted as fact. When you read the roots and evolution of this "diagnosis" ("autistic"), your heart will break, your anger will rise and you will be shocked at the flimsy and scant research on which it is based. The diagnosis has roots in the Nazi "raci Stop BEFORE you attach a label of autism or Asperger's Syndrome to a child -- yours or anyone else's -- and READ this book. This is one of the most important books I have read in years in how it gives context and meaning to a concept society has accepted as fact. When you read the roots and evolution of this "diagnosis" ("autistic"), your heart will break, your anger will rise and you will be shocked at the flimsy and scant research on which it is based. The diagnosis has roots in the Nazi "racial purity" movement, which had its own reasons for promoting Gemut, that is, the collective soul within the individual, and exterminating innocent children who could not be indoctrinated into Nazi concepts of "society" or who operated just a bit differently. Lorna Wing, who took Hans Asperger's ideas and popularized them, says: "I wish I hadn't done it. I would rather throw all labels away today and move toward the dimensional approach (observing children on their own unique merits)."It is time to stop misunderstanding and ostracizing individuals who don't immerse in large societal groups in the same fashion. This book's brilliant author Edith Sheffer concludes: "Society is becoming increasingly sensitive to nuance in issues of race, religion, gender, sexuality and nationality. As appreciation of neurodiversity now grows, we might begin to see the perils of a totalizing label based on varying traits, since labels affect the treatment of individuals, and treatment affects their lives. The history of Asperger's and autism should underscore the ethics of respecting every child's mind and treating those minds with care -- showing how society can shape a diagnosis." I couldn't agree more. Please read this book. I recommend having a light biography or novel nearby to alternate with reading "Asperger's Children" because learning what Nazi Vienna did to these children is just too disturbing to absorb without some sort of distraction.
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  • SibylM
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars.
  • Sharon
    January 1, 1970
    Heavier read than expected as for me as it seemed closer to a textbook resource than a general audience book. Very detailed history of the subject which does provide a strong retrospective thought process for the reader of how individuals with disabilities have been treated and current direction of supports and services.My thanks to goodreads and the book's sponsors for the opportunity to read this book and extend my knowledge of the history of the subject covered.
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  • Pam Cipkowski
    January 1, 1970
    The inclusion of Asperger syndrome on the autism spectrum in the 1990s gave hope to many individuals and their loved ones who struggled to make sense of their unique personality and behavioral characteristics. Little has been made, though, of the circumstances by which Asperger’s was brought to light, and its relation to Nazi eugenics. This exhaustively and meticulously researched volume, though, tells the fascinating and chilling story of the Nazi cleansing of the population of “undesirables,” The inclusion of Asperger syndrome on the autism spectrum in the 1990s gave hope to many individuals and their loved ones who struggled to make sense of their unique personality and behavioral characteristics. Little has been made, though, of the circumstances by which Asperger’s was brought to light, and its relation to Nazi eugenics. This exhaustively and meticulously researched volume, though, tells the fascinating and chilling story of the Nazi cleansing of the population of “undesirables,” those whose sicknesses, deformities, and mental defects made them a liability to Hitler’s notion of a perfect Aryan society. This included the systematic killing of children, under the auspices of euthanasia and questionable treatment programs. Hans Asperger was part of this regime of doctors and psychologists who were complicit in the murder of children at institutions throughout German occupied territory. Sheffer’s book sheds light not only on Asperger’s role in these horrifying Nazi atrocities, but she also paints a backdrop of the dawning of Nazi eugenics in Austria’s famed medical societies and institutions, and goes into the aftermath of the war, with information on both the perpetrators and survivors. The discussion throughout of the concept of Gemüt, a German term which connotes a feeling of and fervent enthusiasm for the success of the community or the state as a whole, was very interesting, and drew parallels for me to the nationalistic, populist fervor that is being drummed up in some areas of politics today. The purging of intellectuals from institutions and appointing those with a lack of scientific achievement to high positions also draws disturbing parallels to the state of politics today.I saw some reviews that felt the book was too scholarly in tone, but I found it highly readable. Definitely the best read of the year for me.
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  • Sarah Ames-Foley
    January 1, 1970
    A little more dry and dense than I was expecting. I wish it had been an easier read, because it contains a lot of important information!
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