Asperger's Children by Edith Sheffer
The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna

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“It can be misleading to classify people too neatly,” Sheffer writes, trying to explain where historians draw the lines of culpability. It’s a fitting conclusion to a book that raises unsettling questions about who someone was, and what he did.
-NY Times

Synopsis

A groundbreaking exploration of the chilling history behind an increasingly common diagnosis.


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.

 

About Edith Sheffer

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Edith Sheffer is Assistant Professor of History at Stanford University.
 
Published May 1, 2018 by W. W. Norton & Company. 320 pages
Genres: Health, Fitness & Dieting, History, Travel, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Asperger's Children
All: 2 | Positive: 1 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Jennifer Szalai on May 09 2018

“It can be misleading to classify people too neatly,” Sheffer writes, trying to explain where historians draw the lines of culpability. It’s a fitting conclusion to a book that raises unsettling questions about who someone was, and what he did.

Read Full Review of Asperger's Children: The Orig... | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Saskia Baron on Jun 04 2018

historian Edith Sheffer has systematically destroyed that persona in Asperger’s Children, a superbly researched account of his career. She has drawn on records recently discovered by the assiduous Austrian researcher Herwig Czech.

Read Full Review of Asperger's Children: The Orig... | See more reviews from Guardian
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