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

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24 May 2018, 8:40 pm

Maybe this is a little late, and I hope this is the right thread to ask in, but I've been wondering since shortly after this all came out: What EXACTLY did Asperger himself claim happened/he did? I think I've only seen references to an interview in the 1970's (I think he would've been in his 60's/70's at that point, and was certainly decades after the events took place) that the Gestapo tried twice to arrest him? Anyone heard/seen this interview?

Just trying to ascertain what could've been myths tacked on later...



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24 May 2018, 8:49 pm

Steve Silberman has covered the history well in the book "Neurotribes", it really filled in a lot of gaps for me.



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02 Jun 2018, 5:54 pm

I have just completed reading the book which this thread is named for. This post is not a book review nor attempting to be one. It is basically a combination of putting down some immediate post book thoughts and give you a rough idea of what you are in for should you choose to read it.

It is as one could imagine probably the most difficult book I have read and thus there are probably many people here are probably not in a state to read it at this time.

This book expands upon the work of Herwig Czech, Czech demonstrated how Hans Asperger was a cog in the Nazi killing program of the disabled. Sheffer details the philosophy and mechanisms of that machine a how Asperger enabled it. Demonstrated was how the Nazi concepts of Volk (greater organism) and Gemut (ability to interact with other due to empathy and obedience to authority) were central to Asperger's seminal paper on Autistic psychopathy(itself a very negative concept at the time). While he did not directly participate in the killings the book shows how Asperper repeatedly gave credit to and worked down the hall from his hardline Nazi bosses. Revealed were the more benevolent attitudes to Autistics shown by Asperger prior to the war when he derided the concept of labels and after it when he would describe Autism as "character anomaly". Yet as late as at the end of the 70's in his only meeting with Lorna Wing the clinician who popularized the syndrome named after him he disagreed with her idea of Autism as a spectrum, his autism was a separate condition (from those lesser Kanner autistics apparently).

The biggest shocking revelation for many in the past couple of months was the revelations that Asperger sent kids to Spiegelgrund the children's killing center. The book has accounts from survivors of constant daily sadistic depravity they had to endure there.

Near all of Sheffer's sources are in German.

Steve Silberman's "Neurotribes" is often rightly praised as a seminal work in the history of autistics. After I finished reading and praising that book I remarked that it should only be the beginning, that each chapter needed books(s) of its own. Now that this new material is out if you start and end with Neurotribes I am more convinced than ever you are depriving yourself.

Now that the Asperger has been explored I would like to see more in-depth work done on Leo Kanner and particularly George Frankl and Anni Weiss the married Jewish clinicians who Kanner rescued who were said in the book to likely have influenced Aspergers thinking of Autism as a spectrum. Neurotribes revealed that Frankl worked for Kanner yet Kanner would virtually ignore the fact that Asperger and his work existed thus making Kanner's narrower definition and "refrigerator mother" explanation the dominant theories thus causing decades of untold damage to autistic people. I would be curious to know why Frankl's idea of the Autism spectrum did not have any apparent effect on Kanner. Did Frankl try and fail to influence Kanner or like Asperger went along to get along with the man who rescued him and his wife?

Edith Sheffer meet the author talk at the WWII museum
A very abridged version of the book with followup Q & A


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Last edited by ASPartOfMe on 02 Jun 2018, 6:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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02 Jun 2018, 6:40 pm

The attempts to expose the reality of Hans Asperger have a long history, which nearly all media ignored. The APA ignored it too, when they included his name in the DSM, satisfied that "he never joined the Nazi party".

The Atlantic review of the current book didn't ignore the previous attempts to expose Asperger, and showed how long ago they went back, in a recent article titled:

Why Did It Take So Long to Expose Hans Asperger's Nazi Ties?

I have been disappointed at the relative lack of interest in this topic by - of all people - WP members. I wonder at this apparent indifference, and the causes of it. I am glad there are some exceptions here.

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/arc ... es/558872/



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03 Jun 2018, 1:00 pm

ASPartOfMe. Thanks for the reviewthingy (not sure what else to call it) it was very informative.



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03 Jun 2018, 1:10 pm

B19 wrote:
I have been disappointed at the relative lack of interest in this topic by - of all people - WP members. I wonder at this apparent indifference, and the causes of it. I am glad there are some exceptions here.

I think the most likely answer to this is that they don't actually associate the word Asperger with the man. This is the same for me, I am an Asperger, but Asperger wasn't, he was an NT. If I hear the word Asperger, I don't think of him, I think of me.



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03 Jun 2018, 1:44 pm

fluffysaurus wrote:
B19 wrote:
I have been disappointed at the relative lack of interest in this topic by - of all people - WP members. I wonder at this apparent indifference, and the causes of it. I am glad there are some exceptions here.

I think the most likely answer to this is that they don't actually associate the word Asperger with the man. This is the same for me, I am an Asperger, but Asperger wasn't, he was an NT. If I hear the word Asperger, I don't think of him, I think of me.


For me when I identified as aspie while the most important reason was the condition described me but his benovelent image was an important reason I opposed and resisited the DSM’s elimination of the diagnosis.

I think some of the reasons for others are autistic resistence to change and people focused on their own Aspergers issues.

Off topic a bit but for a period of time when Hans Asperger was believed to be a heroic resister it was not uncommon for people to retrodiagnose him with the condition that would be named after him. I have not read that opinion in a while I wonder why?( sarcasm)


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03 Jun 2018, 1:56 pm

The Nazi Origins of Asperger’s Syndrome - New English Review
Daniel Mallock is a historian of the Founding generation and of the Civil War and is the author of Agony and Eloquence: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and a World of Revolution. He is a Contributing Editor at New English Review.

Quote:
Asperger’s Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna by Edith Sheffer, (W. W. Norton & Company; May 1, 2018, 320 pp) is an important and disturbing book. It is thoroughly researched, engagingly written, and handles its disturbing material with fairness and compassion. The compassion is reserved for the child victims murdered and tortured by Nazi doctors and medical staff—not for the perpetrators themselves.

Though the author acknowledges the difficulties of navigating and surviving in a world turned upside down where decency and the essential human drivers of love and empathy and compassion for the innocent are overturned—no excuses for the miserable behavior of the Austrian medical killers are offered.

The Nazi origins of “Asperger’s Syndrome” and the reprehensible crimes that occurred around that diagnosis are not generally known. Ms. Sheffer performs an important service by reconnecting a widely recognized psychiatric concept and diagnosis that now impact millions to their disturbing origins.

The book serves as a warning that categorizing children, particularly when that categorization is in service to the state rather than the child/patient, can be used as a means of controlling or eliminating people. In the Nazi environment of mass murder and social and societal engineering, the “fitness” of a child patient or lack of it was sometimes the determinant of life or death. Asperger’s Children, in a manner similar to Robert Lifton’s seminal The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide, catalogues the nightmares that arise when medicine is perverted and the hippocratic oath abandoned.

Those children who were “ineducible” or lacking in Gemüt (a Nazi psychiatry conception of the ability of an individual to interact functionally if not normally with others with empathy, compassion, and obedience to authority inclusive of the ability to work) were considered burdens on the state and their parents and were thus often put to death. Dr. Asperger had no compunctions in identifying some of his patients as ineducible or lacking in acceptable levels of Gemüt. That such diagnoses were entirely unscientific and subjective adds to the troubling nature of this subject.

Diagnoses that are so heavily weighted that they might carry a state-sponsored death sentence are all too susceptible to bias, whim, pique, and to external political and social pressures.

Diagnoses reflect a society’s values, concerns, and hopes. As this book uncovers the nightmarish contexts of autism’s creation, it reveals how what today appears to be a singular idea rested upon the community that made it. Asperger’s diagnosis of autistic psychopathy emerged from the values and institutions of the Third Reich. (p.13)

Approximately 800 children were killed by the Nazi doctors and nurses at Spiegelgrund. Doctor Asperger was a component of the vile nightmare that was Nazism. Though not a party member, he was an enthusiastic participant, a willing executioner.

While Asperger did support children he believed to be teachable, defending their disabilities, he was dismissive about those he believed to be more disabled. Deprecatory pronouncements could be a death sentence in the Third Reich. And in fact, some of Asperger’s judgments were death sentences. (p.13)

This is a sometimes painful book to read as it describes state-sanctioned murders of children. The entire Nazi period is an exercise in grotesquery; Asperger's part in it is not less appalling.

Asperger used it (the autism psychopathy diagnosis) for some children to suggest their humanity; but he used it for others to deny their humanity . . . It got to the heart of what it meant to be human in the Third Reich. (p.176)

There are few stories told in this book of compassion toward the children from the employees of these institutions as there are few to tell.

Asperger’s Children is a direct challenge to the foundations of child psychiatry as it reminds every reader of the persistence and influence of grotesque Nazi medical ethics. The author does not ask a core question: If the diagnostician is tainted by working for the Nazi death machine, is the diagnosis also tainted?

There are painful questions that are hinted at in the book but not deeply explored—such things are the purview of practitioners, ethicists, philosophers, and clergy perhaps? Since Asperger’s diagnosis was developed within the context of the Nazi regime and specifically to serve the state rather than to help/cure/rehabilitate children, is the diagnosis valid? Additionally, if the diagnosis is valid regardless of its origins, how do we come to terms with the crimes perpetrated by the enthusiastic Nazi doctor who developed it using tainted and bloody research?

The book is heavily footnoted, with a detailed index. The bibliography is embedded in the Notes section, an unfortunate new commonality in modern non-fiction pressings. The few illustrations included are sufficient.

Asperger’s Children shows how easily a society can be overturned to inhumanity and evil in such a short time. It shows much more, too. When institutions are corrupted and long-standing concepts of humanity and compassion are perverted only with the help of the true believers, the ambivalent, and the careerist can the bizarre, anti-humanity, and morally corrupt approaches of the “new order” be implemented. No one forced Asperger to continue working in his clinic after the Anschluss, no one forced him to order transfers to Spiegelgrund. He was a willing, enthusiastic participant in Nazi medicine. Dr. Asperger was not a Nazi party member—for the children he transferred to the killing center this was irrelevant.


Reply by Christina Mcintosh
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So are you trying to say that there is no such thing, that all the kids diagnosed with ASD - from what is called severe autism, through to high-functioning Aspergers - are misdiagnosed? Or what? All I can say is this: I have a son who was not 'ordinary'. who had huge difficulty with any sudden changes in routine; who was brilliant, visually gifted, yet struggled with reading social cues (such as people's facial expressions and tonesof voice); also manifesting other behavioural strangenesses. Kids at primary school called him 'space boy'.

So, as regards Dr Asperger, let us beware of falling into the genetic fallacy. If an evil person tells us that the world is round, does that mean that the world is NOT round? (After all: Hitler was a vegetarian and liked dogs; does that mean that *all* vegetarians, and/ or all dog-lovers, are.. actually or potentially evil?)


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03 Jun 2018, 5:07 pm

Very interesting review.

The reader's comment is a mess of false equivalence and other muddles of illogical leaps.



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06 Jun 2018, 12:45 am

The dark history of Hans Asperger emerges, the doctor the disorder was named after.

Quote:
Barb Cook, who is the editor-in-chief of Spectrum Women Magazine, remembers how she felt when she first heard about what Hans Asperger had done.

“Of course I was mortified,” she tells Mamamia. “It disgusted me that such a man with great knowledge and opportunity to save children, as he did with some, was also used to sign a death warrant to others.

“How do you value one life over another? You can’t, and here is where the dilemma lies. He had a choice, and choices he made were wrong and unforgiveable.”

Cook was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome in 2009.

“When I received my diagnosis it was one of relief and understanding of who I was,” she explains. “It never occurred to me at that point in time who had introduced the term, let alone where the original research had evolved from. Connecting heavily to the term and then the term of ‘Aspie’ in identifying myself, I felt I had found my tribe and family that I belonged to.”

As Cook points out, the term “Asperger’s syndrome” was removed from the DSM – the manual used by American psychiatrists – in 2013. She says for a short time after that, she felt a “loss of identity”.

But she says many people in the autism community saw “Asperger’s syndrome” as a dividing term, “with the wider community viewing Asperger’s as identifying with having a less need for support and accommodations, which is in fact is quite untrue”.

Before too long, people in the community were changing the way they referred to themselves.

“Many people who fondly identified as ‘Aspies’ now were identifying as ‘Auties’, and more recently the community has shifted towards neurodiversity.”

Cook says a large majority of adults on the autism spectrum now identify as ‘an autistic person’, not ‘a person with autism’.

“Quite simply, you can’t separate the autism from us. It is part of our neurology.”

As for Hans Asperger, Cook says the thoughts of what he did will stay with her, and she’ll remember it whenever she hears the term “Asperger’s”.

“Asperger’s will always be a haunting reminder of the past and what we can learn from this today and to ensure it never happens again. You can’t play God with another person’s life. It will also be a term that gave a great number of people an understanding of who they are, giving them a release from the years of never fitting in, to a tangible context that they were not alone in the world, that they had a tribe they could connect to and grow with.”


Barb Cook mention people changed the way they referred to themselves from “Aspie” to “Autistic” or “Autie” after the DSM dropped Aspergers. I have read that claim a number of times since the damming information on Hans Asperger gained wide publicity. I have seen no evidence of “Aspie” or “Aspergers” going out of fashion here. I am not doubting Ms. Cook but for years the DSM change was disliked by a large percentage if not most people discussing it that I read. To me this seems like selective memory.

It is the words she bolded that really resonated with me and why I posted this article. Of course it would have been much much better if Asperger was a saint and IMHO the DSM ended up being right(for the wrong reasons) and that is making this less painful and apparently provided some mental gymnastics for some(Aspergers is not a diagnosis anymore what is the big deal?). While I no longer identify as “aspie” because of the revelations the explanations provided by the terms “Aspergers” and “aspie” were a great boost to my self esteem and provided support and helped me prepare at time I was having tough physical problems. As such those terms are an important part of my history, there is no erasing that. And I did stauchly resist the DSM change, I can’t undo that. There is no erasing the part Asperger played introducing the spectrum idea which if it did not exist this site is not here and most of us are either not diagnosed or misdiagnosed.


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“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman


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06 Jun 2018, 3:01 am

ASPartOfMe wrote:
The dark history of Hans Asperger emerges, the doctor the disorder was named after.
Quote:
Barb Cook, who is the editor-in-chief of Spectrum Women Magazine, remembers how she felt when she first heard about what Hans Asperger had done.

“Of course I was mortified,” she tells Mamamia. “It disgusted me that such a man with great knowledge and opportunity to save children, as he did with some, was also used to sign a death warrant to others.

“How do you value one life over another? You can’t, and here is where the dilemma lies. He had a choice, and choices he made were wrong and unforgiveable.”

Cook was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome in 2009.

“When I received my diagnosis it was one of relief and understanding of who I was,” she explains. “It never occurred to me at that point in time who had introduced the term, let alone where the original research had evolved from. Connecting heavily to the term and then the term of ‘Aspie’ in identifying myself, I felt I had found my tribe and family that I belonged to.”

As Cook points out, the term “Asperger’s syndrome” was removed from the DSM – the manual used by American psychiatrists – in 2013. She says for a short time after that, she felt a “loss of identity”.

But she says many people in the autism community saw “Asperger’s syndrome” as a dividing term, “with the wider community viewing Asperger’s as identifying with having a less need for support and accommodations, which is in fact is quite untrue”.

Before too long, people in the community were changing the way they referred to themselves.

“Many people who fondly identified as ‘Aspies’ now were identifying as ‘Auties’, and more recently the community has shifted towards neurodiversity.”

Cook says a large majority of adults on the autism spectrum now identify as ‘an autistic person’, not ‘a person with autism’.

“Quite simply, you can’t separate the autism from us. It is part of our neurology.”

As for Hans Asperger, Cook says the thoughts of what he did will stay with her, and she’ll remember it whenever she hears the term “Asperger’s”.

“Asperger’s will always be a haunting reminder of the past and what we can learn from this today and to ensure it never happens again. You can’t play God with another person’s life. It will also be a term that gave a great number of people an understanding of who they are, giving them a release from the years of never fitting in, to a tangible context that they were not alone in the world, that they had a tribe they could connect to and grow with.”


Barb Cook mention people changed the way they referred to themselves from “Aspie” to “Autistic” or “Autie” after the DSM dropped Aspergers. I have read that claim a number of times since the damming information on Hans Asperger gained wide publicity. I have seen no evidence of “Aspie” or “Aspergers” going out of fashion here. I am not doubting Ms. Cook but for years the DSM change was disliked by a large percentage if not most people discussing it that I read. To me this seems like selective memory.

It is the words she bolded that really resonated with me and why I posted this article. Of course it would have been much much better if Asperger was a saint and IMHO the DSM ended up being right(for the wrong reasons) and that is making this less painful and apparently provided some mental gymnastics for some(Aspergers is not a diagnosis anymore what is the big deal?). While I no longer identify as “aspie” because of the revelations the explanations provided by the terms “Aspergers” and “aspie” were a great boost to my self esteem and provided support and helped me prepare at time I was having tough physical problems. As such those terms are an important part of my history, there is no erasing that. And I did stauchly resist the DSM change, I can’t undo that. There is no erasing the part Asperger played introducing the spectrum idea which if it did not exist this site is not here and most of us are either not diagnosed or misdiagnosed.
I came here (WP) as an Asperger (diagnosis August 2017) but gradually I have moved over to using the term autistic more than Asperger. My reason for doing so is less to do with Hans Asperger info (although that is very interesting) it's because most people on here are Asperger so I think it's a bit divisive and makes some people feel left out. There are times when someone is asking a question or I am making a point and need to be more specific and do use the term Aspie, but I think it is being used less than it was.



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17 Jun 2018, 4:39 pm

When this information started to come out I said I noticed people on Twitter who never liked Aspergers or the neurodiversity movement in the first place taking a victory lap of sorts basically saying we knew you guys thought yourselves as superior to the low functioning, now that we know your identity and beliefs are based on a Nazi race hygiene diagnosis this proves we were right about you all along. While this argument is based both an incorrect assumption about ND advocates and causation causing perceived correlation it is an emotionally effective one. Up until now, this has been relegated to tweets and a bunch of people agreeing with said tweets. The link below implies this and attacks the ND movement in the guise of a lengthy book review.

Edith Sheffer's Amazing Book, "Asperger’s Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna"

Jonathan Rose is William R. Kenan Professor of History at Drew University. His most recent book is Readers’ Liberation (Oxford University Press).

Quote:
Outside of a few endnotes, this book never mentions Steve Silberman’s NeuroTribes. That’s remarkable, because for all practical purposes, Asperger’s Children is a through point-by-point demolition of Silberman’s saintly portrait of Hans Asperger, based on honest research by a real historian. Edith Sheffer is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of European Studies at Berkeley. She has an autistic son, she has studied a vast array of diagnostic records and case histories in psychiatric archives, and she has produced what is by far the best early history of the autism pandemic. And while she is unfailingly polite about it, she recognizes when people are talking nonsense about autism. She says at the outset that her aim “is not to indict any particular individual” or neurodiversity as a concept (16). But in effect Asperger’s Children is a devastating indictment.

Sheffer recognizes that autism is something new: as her subtitle suggests, it originated less than a century ago. She does not attempt to concoct a fanciful “history” of the disorder stretching back into the mists of prehistory. Though she believes that soaring autism rates may be partly attributable to better diagnosis or changing definitions, she does not deny that there is also “an objective increase in symptoms.”

Asperger’s Children doesn’t address the causes of autism, but the scientific research clearly indicates that it is a combination of a genetic predisposition and an environmental insult. In other words, we are poisoning a subset of our children, and we can stop poisoning them if we identify and remove the environmental triggers. In that sense autism is in the same category as lead poisoning in Flint or fetal alcohol syndrome on Indian reservations.

So if anyone “discovered” autism, it was Frankl and Weiss who produced very early and strikingly perceptive descriptions of the condition. We can’t explain why a mediocrity like Asperger was promoted over them, except to note that they were both Jewish, and Asperger had astutely allied himself to a powerful patron. Antisemitism forced Frankl and Weiss to emigrate to the United States, where they married. Frankl’s escape was assisted by none other than Leo Kanner, who in 1943 published his famous article, “Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact.” Steve Silberman constructed a far-fetched theory that Kanner had appropriated Asperger’s work without acknowledgement, but Sheffer shows that Kanner actually drew on Frankl and Weiss and generously cited them. Asperger also owed a great debt to Frankl, Weiss, and others in his clinic, and he never acknowledged them. Yet Sheffer notes that Asperger’s approach to autism, though highly derivative, was in one respect distinctive: his “diagnosis would be steeped in the principles of Nazi child psychiatry.” (61)

There lies the terrible danger in portraying autistic people as eccentric geniuses: most of them aren’t, and those who don’t fit the narrative must somehow be eliminated. The Nazis killed them; today we merely ignore them. NeuroTribes and the mass media usually foreground high autistic achievers, effectively marginalizing the low-functioning. Sheffer clearly rejects that kind of ableism: Asperger’s Children devotes equal attention to all of those children, regardless of their levels of ability.

Those words would have ghastly consequences. Sometimes Sheffer is too ready to make excuses for Asperger: “Where, if anywhere, can one draw lines of complicity for ordinary people in a criminal state? In marginal and major ways, conscious and unconscious, people became entangled in systems of slaughter. Asperger was neither a zealous supporter not an opponent of the regime. He was an exemplar of this drift into complicity.” (21)
No, Asperger did not drift into exterminating children in the passive voice. In August 1941 German Catholic bishops courageously denounced the euthanasia program, and it was officially ended. However, the killing continued covertly, carried out by (among others) Asperger and his colleagues.

Asperger should have been put on trial for crimes against the handicapped, but he never suffered any consequences for his actions. After the war the upward trajectory of his career resumed. He was not penalized by denazification programs, because technically he had not been a Party member. In the 1970s he claimed that he had refused to report children for euthanasia and had twice been threatened with arrest by the Gestapo. Silberman accepted this story at face value, but it was clearly specious and self-serving. Every relevant document we have from Nazi archives suggests that the Party considered him politically reliable, a man they could work with, and as long as they ruled Austria he prospered.

Sheffer is entirely right to point out the dangers of unbridled medical surveillance and intervention, but neglect can be just as deadly as deliberate killing. Autism frequently leads to seizures, drowning, fatal accidents, and suicide: taken together, they can reduce life expectancy by as much as half. Unless we find a cure or prevention, in a few years autism-related deaths could easily exceed the toll for the T4 program.

The story told in Asperger’s Children is not entirely new: the basic outlines were sketched out a few years ago by Austrian investigator Herwig Czech and by John Donvan and Caren Zucker in their 2016 book A Different Key. But Sheffer offers us far more background, context, and damning research. Somehow the earlier exposes of Asperger had little impact on his public image, so one hopes that Sheffer will finally make us face the reality. Everyone in the autism community should read Asperger’s Children, though they may find parts of it terribly painful, especially the sections describing the horrors inflicted at Spiegelgrund. If you are an autism parent, you will recognize your children in the institution’s inmates. If you are autistic, you will recognize yourself.

Given that Asperger’s theories were rooted in Nazi scientific racism, and given that those theories have been a source of inspiration for Silberman and many neurodiversity activists, may we conclude that they too are scientific racists? Scientific racism is the delusion, backed by pseudoscience, that some groups, defined by their common genetic inheritance, have innately superior (or inferior) intellectual powers. Silberman has claimed that “genes associated with autism are also associated with higher levels of cognitive ability.” (273) He also endorsed Temple Grandin’s theory that “people with autism, dyslexia, and other cognitive differences could make contributions to society that so-called normal people are incapable of making” (his paraphrase). (426) This statement is half nonsense. Yes, autistic people can make contributions, but nonautistic people can and do make the same kind of contributions: there are no limits to the powers of a fully functioning human brain. Yes, Temple Grandin can “think visually,” but so can artists, photographers, graphic designers, architects, film directors, and interior decorators. Grandin has also resorted to eugenics, speculating that autistic genes may be the source of all human creativity, going back to the cave dwellers. Those who are lucky enough to inherit these genes may be “more creative, or possibly even geniuses. If science eliminated these genes, maybe the whole word would be taken over by accountants.” (428) And Judy Singer, who invented the term “neurodiversity,” explained that the typical brain represents “only one type of brain wiring, and, when it comes to working with hi-tech, quite possibly an inferior one.” (454) (There she promoted the stereotype that all autistic individuals are computer whizzes; most of them aren’t.)

The latest neurodiversity hypothesis has been advanced by Barry Wright and Penny Spikins at the University of York. They argue that autism appeared in the last Ice Age: in order to survive harsh climactic conditions, cave dwellers evolved higher levels of cognition and intelligence, reflected in their cave paintings. Spikins says that artistic ability “is found very commonly in people with autism and rarely occurs in people without it,” and autism is most common among Northern Europeans (so much for Italian Renaissance painting). What’s deeply troubling here is that, if you substitute the word “Aryan” for “autistic” you have something that reads like a Nazi racial screed. The Nazis insisted that “Nordics” had evolved into supermen because they were steeled by the rigors of the frozen north. According to this theory, Africans had it much easier in sunnier climes, and therefore developed no art. Doctor Asperger undoubtedly would have approved.

All this demonstrates that scientific racism is highly seductive, and must be resisted regardless of the form it takes. Edith Sheffer illustrates unforgettably how this ideology precipitated the Handicapped Holocaust. Sheffer and Silberman both appreciate that autistic adults can often exceed expectations and achieve remarkable things, but she is much more sensitive to the burdens that autism imposes on the autistic. Silberman, who is neither an autism parent nor autistic, tends to treat the condition as a kind of neurological trust fund. He is right to criticize some misguided psychiatric interventions, notably Bruno Bettelheim’s theory that autism was caused by “refrigerator mothers,” but he fails to recognize that the most destructive autism doctor of all was Hans Asperger.


This is clearly coming from a "curabee" "anti vaxx" point of view. But where his arguments come from is not why I posted Professor Rose's review. This type of argument is coming from a variety of anti ND people, not just anti vaxxers or "curabees". To fixate on where Professor Rose is coming from would be doing similar to what I am about to criticize him for.

Being an ND supporter or identifying as "aspie" does not make one a supremacist/ableist just because the diagnosis has now been revealed to have been based on ableism as so many now taking a "victory lap" are saying.

The attack on Silberman is way over the top. It is fair to criticize him and some of us for missing what should have been obvious. How long would a person working secretly against the efficient and paranoid regime get away it? This is an error I as others made not out of "scientific racism" but seeing what we wanted to see. For autistics who were seeing a delusion, we were seeing a delusion because after years of believing our problems were solely character flaws, having the nations largest Autistic charity comparing us to a doppelganger, and seeing the DSM take the explanation they just gave us away we needed a hero and saw one that did not exist. The idea that Silberman an openly gay man way before it was accepted, a man old enough to remember when acting on his sexuality was an arrestable crime listed in the DSM is a scientific racist seems preposterous. Rose chose to leave out that Silberman amended his book, gave his peer review approval to Czech's, paper and endorsed Sheffer's book.


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“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman


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19 Jun 2018, 12:53 am

A more negative review of the book

Was Autism a Nazi Invention?
Seth Mnookin, the director of M.I.T.’s graduate program in science writing, is the author, most recently, of “The Panic Virus.”

Quote:
Wing, who died in 2014, spent the rest of her life as one of the world’s leading autism researchers and advocates. Asperger, on the other hand, after 1945 and until his death 35 years later, didn’t do any significant research on the condition that would bear his name. But it was Asperger, and not Wing, who came to be seen as the patron saint of the neurodiversity movement.

That could be about to change.

In April, an Austrian historian named Herwig Czech published evidence of Asperger’s long-rumored collaboration with Third Reich murderers during World War II.

The historian Edith Sheffer’s new book, “Asperger’s Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna,” builds and elaborates on these new revelations. (While Czech had not yet published his findings when Sheffer’s book went to press, he did give her access to his research.) But Sheffer has larger goals than highlighting Asperger’s complicity in wartime atrocities; she also wants to upend notions of autism as a legitimate diagnostic category by locating its source in Nazi notions of mental health and sickness.

Sheffer starts her narrative in the early 1940s, with Asperger examining one of the children he would highlight in his 1944 paper, before pulling back to describe the milieu in which Asperger operated. She is at her best when she unpacks how the Third Reich created what she calls a “diagnosis regime” by labeling anyone who disagreed in any way with Nazi aims, achievements, or ideology as being fundamentally ill.

Sheffer’s account of the “program of systematic child killing” that grew out of this mind-set is chilling.

Sheffer’s pivot from describing deadly Nazi conceptions of community to Asperger’s complicity with the Reich’s killing machine is less effective. Because Asperger did not have a direct hand in any of the more than 700 children who were murdered in the regime’s child euthanasia program, she is left relying on conditionals and suppositions: An educational society Asperger helped found “may have disseminated the child euthanasia directive behind the scenes”; surviving documents “suggest” Asperger “had a hand” in transferring dozens of children to a killing pavilion. On one page, Sheffer states that a transfer to Am Spiegelgrund was a “lethal prescription”; on another, she writes that seven out of nine children the “staff” on “Asperger’s ward” transferred there did not die, although “it is possible that Asperger’s clinic still marked some of them for death.”

None of this is to say that Asperger’s actions during the war were blameless — or even that he was not guilty of crimes against humanity. But a more nuanced approach would have further examined the other, conflicting evidence that Asperger was able to save the lives of some disabled children who had been marked for death. It is this evidence, after all, that was pointed to when Asperger was hailed as a hero.

Even more disconcerting than Sheffer’s approach to Asperger’s wartime actions is her attempt to ground the notion of autism in Asperger’s World War II-era work. Because Asperger relied heavily on notions of Gemüt in his treatise on autistic psychopathy, Sheffer argues that he defined the condition “in terms of Reich rhetoric and values.” Fair enough — but she goes on to claim that today, almost three-quarters of a century later, “his final 1944 description has had a lasting impact. His words live on, shaping the lives and the self-images of millions of individuals.”

Even the most cursory comparison of Asperger’s work, which is peppered with descriptions of “sadistic traits” and children who “delight in malice,” with Wing’s groundbreaking paper reveals that it is her research that has helped shape our modern-day understanding of the autism spectrum.

Sheffer is a careful and nuanced researcher, which made her clumsy effort to “destabilize” our notions of autism feel all the more out of place. Then, on the very last page of the book, at the bottom of her acknowledgments, she tells readers that her now-teenage son, to whom the book is dedicated, was diagnosed with autism when he was an infant. “Autism is not real,” she quotes him saying. “It is not a disability or a diagnosis, it is a stereotype for certain individuals.... It made me feel humiliated, and I wanted to put an end to the label of autism.” I was glad to hear his voice: Too often people diagnosed with autism are excluded from discussions about the condition. But I wish Sheffer had trusted her readers enough to let us know about her personal connection to this story at the outset of her book instead of inserting it as a concluding aside, where it became an unsettling coda to her ardent effort to undermine our notions of autism and its origins.


A note about her son's rejection of the Autism label. In his class there was a lesson in disabilities and when Autism came up there was an image of a train and that is not him.

While most of our focus has been on the revelations about Hans Asperger a few posters have brought up how the title of the book is historically wrong. Asperger did have an important role in the idea of the spectrum but only a minor role in defining the basics of what it is. Eugen Bleuler, Leo Kanner, Grunya Efimovna Sukhareva, Georg Frankl, Anni Weiss, Lorna Wing and many others later on contributed. Now that we know Asperger was complicit there has been a tendency to denigrate Asperger's role. While he learned/stole from others and the basis of his diagnosis was Nazi worldview it was he who published the paper and he said things about Autistics being useful members of society. Partially right ideas for the wrong reasons.

While critiquing Scheffer for attacking Asperger on circumstantial evidence the author does the same thing in suggesting that Asperger saved children. Right now there is no hard evidence that he did.

While the delusion of Asperger as a hero has been upended Sheffer has not and won't succeed in eliminating the concept of Autism. If that is to happen that will be a combination of scientific research and societal changes.


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“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman


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13 Jul 2018, 2:23 pm

We need a new name

Quote:
Asperger United was founded in 1993 by Pamela Yates and Patricia Howlin in association with the Maudsley Hospital and the National Autistic Society. It was in response to a recognised dearth of services for people with Asperger syndrome and the potential for self-help and networking as a means of support for this group. The name felt appropriate at the time and over the years, the sub-line 'produced for and by autistic people' was added to reflect the fact that the magazine is, and always has been, for everyone on the autism spectrum. 

In light of the revelations about Hans Asperger, we believe it's time for a name change. We want this to be a consultative process, so we have set up a survey asking for your views on the subject and suggestions for the new name. 

The survey will close at the end of July, giving the readers of our printed version the chance to take part. Our Editor and 'name change' committee will then shortlist five potential names from the submitted suggestions and put these to an online vote mid-August. The new name will appear on the masthead of the printed edition in October and online from mid-August. If you would like to write to us in more detail about this please send your email to [email protected]

Let us know what you think of the revelations about Hans Asperger and your suggestions for a new name for Asperger United by taking our short survey.

Survey


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25 Apr 2021, 9:45 am

Review in the 2021 Quarter 1 edition of Diabilities Studies Quarterly

Reviewed by Elizabeth Cady Maher, The University of Illinois at Chicago, Email: [email protected]

Quote:
Hans Asperger and his eponymous syndrome have sparked controversy within autism communities in the years since he first published his research on "autistic psychopathy" in 1944. Some praise Asperger as the lost prophet of neurodiversity who valiantly protected autistic children from Nazi persecution and others condemn him as a Nazi collaborator. 1 In her book Asperger's Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna historian Edith Sheffer offers crucial context for understanding Asperger's work and legacy. She analyzes how his work was shaped by larger trends in Nazi child psychiatry, examining how it reflected and reified Nazi emphasis on "community spirit" and conformity. In doing so she demonstrates the socially constructed nature of diagnosis. She asks why was it that traits which existed throughout human history were labelled as signs of "psychopathy" in the 1940s. She also carefully documents Asperger's participation in the Third Reich's killing machine, including his close professional connections with leaders of the T-4 program, the Nazi's mass murder of disabled people. Sheffer's book offers valuable insights on how social values shape the development of diagnosis while shedding new light on the origins of autism as a diagnosis and the impact of this history on contemporary perceptions of autism.

In the 1920s, Vienna was known as one of the most progressive cities in the world. In the wake of WWI, the Viennese had elected a progressive Democratic socialist government that worked with reformers to implement ambitious social welfare policies, including extensive child welfare programs undergirded by Erwin Lazar's theory of "curative education"(32-33). Sheffer opens her book by describing the development of this milieu where Asperger would complete his early research. She also outlines how the progressive, eugenics-based child welfare programs of "Red Vienna" were eventually incorporated into the Nazi killing machine. Specifically, Sheffer looks at how the system of surveillance and removal of "abnormal" children adopted by the Vienna's government and enacted by social workers and medical professionals like Asperger, became a means of identifying youth who would be eliminated under the Nazi's "euthanasia program". Sheffer emphasizes that Vienna's child welfare system was primed to become a component in what she refers to as the Third Reich's diagnosis regime (48).

Sheffer goes on to examine how the Nazi obsession with classification and conformity impacted Asperger's definition of autism. She does this in part by comparing Asperger's work to that of his colleagues at the Curative Education Clinic, George Frankl and Anni Weiss. Sheffer explains that Frankl and Weiss both wrote about children with autistic traits as early as the mid-30s but that, in keeping with the ideology of the clinic during the period, which rejected strict classification, they did not identify these children as having a specific "disorder" or "pathology". Both Frankl and Weiss were Jewish and later emigrated to the United States to avoid persecution. Frankl was sponsored by Leo Kanner, a fellow Austrian Jewish émigré, whose 1943 paper would introduce autism to the English-speaking world and form the basis of contemporary understandings of autism. Both Frankl and Weiss's work influenced Kanner's definition of autism. Sheffer contrasts Frankl and Weiss's distrust of rigid diagnosis with the Nazi diagnosis regime's reliance on strict classification as a means of dehumanization.

Sheffer also shows how Asperger's own writing about autism shifted during the late 30s and 40s to better reflect trends in Nazi child psychiatry. Particularly she looks at how Asperger incorporated the concept of "gemüt" a German term that was used to describe a person's ability to form rich social bonds with others, into his definition of autism. German psychiatrists in the Nazi era increasingly characterized gemüt as the primary means of measuring a person's value. The Nazi regime prioritized gemüt as a trait that allowed people to become embedded into the national community. Those who were labeled as gemüt-less or as being deficient in gemüt were considered a danger to the project of national socialism. As Sheffer puts it gemüt was seen as a "key ingredient for Nazism" (71). This increased emphasis on gemüt, on "correct" social feeling, perhaps helps to explain why autistic traits became increasingly pathologized during the Nazi era. By 1944 Asperger was arguing that autistic children could be defined by their anomalous or insufficient gemüt. To be autistic was to be an unfit member of the volk, a bad Nazi.

insufficient gemüt. To be autistic was to be an unfit member of the volk, a bad Nazi.

Sheffer seeks to unravel the complicated contradictions inherent in Asperger's characterization of autism. Asperger defined autistic children as in many ways being the inverse of the proper member of the volk, emphasizing what he defined as their "dangerous" lack of gemüt. Yet, Asperger also argued that some autistic children, those who he deemed to be intellectually gifted, had the potential to contribute enormously to society through intellectual pursuits. Asperger characterized autistic people as at once a threat and a potential resource to the state. In doing so Asperger reaffirmed eugenic notions that sought to determine human value based on productivity.

Sheffer examines both how Asperger's definition of autism was influenced by the eugenic and sexist ideologies of the Reich and how some of these dangerous ideas continue to be propagated in contemporary methods of classifying autistic people. Much has been made of Asperger's supposed defense of autistic children during the Nazi era. Asperger certainly praised autistic boys who he considered to be on the more "favorable"(to use his term) end of the autism spectrum. He argued that some of them may even be intellectually "superior" to "normal" children and emphasized their potential contributions to society (177). In contrast, he derided children who he did not see as having the same potential for productivity. As it does today, gender played a significant role in who he diagnosed as autistic. Asperger argued that autism might be a form of "extreme male intelligence" and that women and girls were thus incapable of being autistic. 2 Asperger praised some autistic boys as prodigies of abstract thinking and worked to provide them with individual support, which has won him praise from some commentators. Yet, Sheffer shows that Asperger dismissed girls who showed similar traits, showing no compunction about sending them to Spiegelgrund, the center of the Third Reich's child "euthanasia" program. These hierarchies are in many ways perpetuated today through the continued use of labels such as "high functioning" and "low functioning" to describe autistic people and through the gendered disparity in autism diagnosis rates and support programs.

Sheffer directly addresses the debate about Asperger's involvement in the brutal extermination campaigns of the Nazi regime. She notes his close ties with leaders of the T-4 program. Asperger did not simply rub elbows with killers, but rather records show that he and his staff not only sent children they deemed uneducable to the killing ward at Spiegelgrund for execution but also advised other clinicians to do so. Sheffer's discussion of the role of doctors, nurses, and other members of the helping professions in the holocaust is worth contemplating, especially at this moment when many are lauding health care professionals and social workers as progressive alternatives to police.

Sheffer is careful to include the voices of survivors in her account of Nazi killing machine. She notes that like Asperger, many who were involved in the T-4 program remained prominent figures in their fields in the post war era, with Spiegelgrund doctor Heinrich Gross continuing to research based on the preserved brains of children killed at Spiegelgrund decades after the fall of the Third Reich.

Although she does invoke the neurodiversity movement, Sheffer primarily grounds her work in the field of holocaust studies and 20th century German history rather than in disability history. Yet, her focus on the context in which Asperger developed his ideas has allowed her to write a history of autism research that reflects the tenets of the social model of disability. While many accounts of the history of autism follow a teleological narrative in which scientists (and occasionally parents) slowly uncover the secrets of autism; Sheffer emphasizes that definitions of autism are created at specific moments by specific stakeholders and reflect the values of the society in which they develop.

Sheffer unearths critical insights not only about the history of autism but about the role of disability in history. Asperger's Children would be a valuable addition to any class on neurodiversity, disability history, the history of eugenics or holocaust studies.

Bolding=mine


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Professionally Identified and joined WP August 26, 2013
DSM 5: Autism Spectrum Disorder, DSM IV: Aspergers Moderate Severity.

“My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person”. - Sara Luterman