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

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  223 ratings  ·  49 reviews
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 r
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published May 1st 2018 by W. W. Norton Company
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Apr 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Michelle Hopkins
May 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
That hurt.

Josh Caporale
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Being an Aspergian that was diagnosed in the second grade, I felt that this was something that I needed to read. I feel that it was important to learn about the namesake for my condition and who Dr. Hans Asperger really was. I knew that he was an Austrian pediatric psychiatrist that examined patients that showed social awkwardness and how he saw intellectual light in some of these subjects that he referred to as his "little professors," but there was also a sense of question with how he practice ...more
Pam Cipkowski
May 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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,” ...more
May 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaways-won, kindle
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.
Dr. Lloyd E. Campbell
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the toughest book review I’ve ever written. Not since the 7th grade when Mrs. Fuller forced me to read a report to our reading class. I read a biography of George Washington’s portraitist Gilbert Stuart. He painted the portrait of Washington you carry in your wallet. I confessed I liked the book to a chorus of snickers.
If you read for enjoyment don’t even look at the cover of this book. The title Asperger’s children is misleading. It has little to do with autism. If you think of Asperge
May 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars.
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Eye opening book on the history of Dr. Asperger in Nazi Vienna. Disturbing treatment of children and evils of euthanasia. The Autism and Aspergers spectrum was a death sentence. Author reveals so much about how the doctors had no real compassion for children who didn't fit the perfect citizen. Disturbing to know this is where these labels originated from. Won book from Goodreads and Edith Sheffer, thank you!
César Galicia
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Una impresionante y devastadora crítica a la psiquiatría infantil nazi, a nuestra propia tibieza al momento de aceptar diagnósticos clínicos, a la historia de la psiquiatría en general y a Hans Asperger, un demonio nazi más por donde se le vea. Si eres psicólogx o psiquiatra, este es un libro que tienes que leer como estudio de caso, si tienes familiares con Asperger, es uno que urge para contextualizar el origen del diagnóstico y poder hacer una crítica del mismo para poder echar un granito de ...more
Jul 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
I made myself read this book is the same way I made myself sit through the movie "The Killing Fields": because it's an important story and we should not forget.

I honestly had to keep closing this book and walking away from it. It was so very painful to read. There are stories in there that will haunt me. There was one story in particular about a little boy who was blind and had other disabilities whose mother sent loving notes to the facility about how to care for him all while they were deliber
Nov 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Review to follow
S.D. Curran
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A detailed look at a genocide enabler

I am fascinated by the mind and history, so this book carefully blended both. The rise of autism as a diagnosis has its roots in the interwar period, and Asperger, who initially resisted the diagnosing of children, didn’t just ‘happen to get involved,’ as some might think, but was clearly involved in one of the biggest examples of genocide and eugenics this planet has ever seen.

Following Asperger’s roots in Austria, this book provides evidence that Asperger
Amy Payne
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received this book compliments of Goodreads in a giveaway. I’ve worked with children on the spectrum for 20+ years so I was interested to read the origins of the Asperger diagnosis. It was a lot to take in. Due to the hideous euthanasia protocol used during the Nazi regime, I could only read this book in small parts. It was obvious how hard the author worked to gather all the facts, stories and insight of this horrid time period. I am thankful that the Asperger diagnosis is no longer used in t ...more
Jul 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Gemut, gemut, gemut. The book is a little scattered, but contains lesser known content on historical atrocities in Vienna.
John-Michael Lelievre
Oct 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is, quite possibly, the hardest book I have ever read. Not because it is poorly written, but because of the subject matter. There have been two books that I have read that have reduced me to tears, and this is one of them.

Let me just start out by saying, for context, that I was diagnosed with "Asperger's Syndrome" almost a decade ago (I'm now 31). In sharp contrast to what children endured with a similar diagnosis in Nazi Vienna (of course my particular diagnosis did not exist at that time
Sarah Ames-Foley
May 31, 2018 marked it as dnf
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!
4 ☆
Finished reading ... Asperger's Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna / Edith Sheffer ... 26 November 2018
ISBN: 9780393609646 … 248 pp. + Notes and Index

This book goes back and forth to Hans Asperger as it tells the more general story of paediatric psychiatry in Nazi era Vienna than it does about Asperger himself or Asperger's syndrome. The narrative could have been tightened up a bit but that's a minor criticism.

Snippets that I found interesting ….

Asperger was originally quite bene
Dec 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, autism
This was a very interesting look at not just Hans Asperger, but autism, eugenics, and Nazi science.

In the 1920s, Vienna pioneered an interventionist approach to child development. Eugenics was in vogue, but didn't mean only the negatives we associate it with today--rather, it was a two pronged approach, with active medical, social work, and education departments designed to improve the lives of children and families. One element of this approach was the Curative Education Department where Hans
Aug 27, 2018 rated it it was ok

The book sounded rather harrowing and sadly relevant for the times: I was aware of the torture, experimentation and abuse Nazis put children through for the sake of "science" but I was not that aware of the background of Hans Asperger. I had no idea of his complicity with the Nazis nor that he participating in murdering children.

It's not an easy or light read by any stretch and you should prepare yourself to read about the deaths of children repeatedly. That said, overall I was a little disappoi
Kip Koelsch
Jul 22, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars: This is difficult but important subject matter--eugenics and its impact on child psychology and psychiatry in Nazi Germany and beyond. But, I'm not sure the discussion was well-served by these treatment. The focus of the work, Hans Asperger appears more of a tenuous thread keeping the narrative together. What amazed me the most (and maybe this was the point?) was the impact this seemingly mediocre researcher and doctor had on today's treatment and diagnosis of children. Perhaps that r ...more
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
To say this book is painful to read is an understatement. But if you've ever wondered to yourself "How did people get to the point where they felt it was okay to judge and exterminate people during World War II?" this book helps answer some of those questions in terms of psychological and social expectations. I now more deeply understand the Reich's fixation on and promotion of the group mindset, and how this obsession with all members of society "wanting to be part of the group" allowed unspeak ...more
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a deeply disturbing and gripping history of Dr. Asperger and Nazi Vienna. I learned so much from this book about the dark side of human nature and about the history of psychology. As just one takeaway, I won't any longer refer to anyone as having Asperger's; the psychiatrist who proposed naming the milder form of autism after Asperger now regret this after subsequently learning of his Nazi past. When Dr Asperger's thesis was printed in English, long after WWII, the introduction lauding t ...more
Nov 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting history of Asperger's diagnosis of autism during the Nazi regime in Vienna. I found it a little dry going over the medical information but most of this is history of how children were diagnosed and sent to hospitals where it was determined if they lived or died. The extent of how it was done and covered up was mind-boggling. I was shocked by how many doctors, nurses, social workers, and parents were involved and very few said no. I particularly liked the survivors stories but they we ...more
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Overall, this book was very well researched and educational. The initial premise of this book is to understand the rise of Aspergers as a result of the Third Reich rule in Vienna. However, a majority of the book instead focuses on the atrocities committed towards disabled children during WWII, describing the institutions, euthanasia program and overall abuse they faced. The very end of the book re-focuses the reader’s attention to Aspergers’ research on a higher functioning form of autism. In to ...more
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sheffer presents a detailed and thoroughly researched work. She selves in to the dire and deadly perils faced by people with disabilities under the Third Reich and the pervasive influence of Nazi philosophy on today’s field of psychiatry and special education.
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 ch
Nov 11, 2018 rated it did not like it
Not about Aspergers but gemut gemut gemut and Nazi Vienna: If you want to learn about gemut you should read this book. If you want to learn about Aspergers do not read this book. I’ll summarize it for you. Aspergers was involved in the extermination of children (not directly) during the Nazi regime but changed his tune after the war ended. A syndrome was named after him by a lady who didn’t know all the terrible things he did. That is all. A book did not need to be written she could’ve written t ...more
Aug 10, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: giveaways
I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

I found the book to be interesting, but it was kind of hard to get through and took me a long time to read-mainly because there was a lot of background info, which, while important for the context, I found to be a bit dry at times. However, it was really eye opening to read about the insidious ways that Nazis worked their way up to making eugenics and extermination an acceptable thing to preserve the purity of the "volk."
Oct 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
I expected this to be more about the history of Asperger and his actions during World War II, but there was a LOT of time devoted to his theories and how they compared to the research and writing of other doctors and psychiatrists. I didn't find these aspects very interesting, and I got especially tired of the discussion over how to define "gemut." I think the basic message is important considering how widespread the use of "Asperger's Syndrome" is as a term. But the core of it could probably be ...more
Michelle Husson
Dec 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shocked and saddened by historical evidence, the author does a meticulous job of uncovering how, under Hitler’s regime, the profession of psychiatry became the eyes and ears of the Third Reich. Well documented, well written.. her work will hopefully ensure that the human rights of people with “different” abilities will never be disregarded again.
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Edith Sheffer is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of European Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

Her current book, Asperger's Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna (W. W. Norton, 2018) investigates Hans Asperger’s creation of the autism diagnosis in the Third Reich, examining Nazi psychiatry's emphasis on social spirit and Asperger's involvement in the euthanasia program t
“Asperger was neither a zealous supporter nor an opponent of the regime. He was an exemplar of this drift into complicity, part of the muddled majority of the populace who alternately conformed, concurred, feared, normalized, minimized, repressed, and reconciled themselves to Nazi rule.” 1 likes
“Rather than inhabiting a world of black and white, most individuals in the Reich operated in shades of gray. People confronted countless decisions each day. One might walk by a "Jews unwanted" sign at a local store and not say anything - only to shop at a Jewish-owned store on the next block for its favorable prices. One might help a neighbor threatened by the regime - only to look away as another neighbor disappeared. People navigated daily choices as they presented themselves, extemporizing in their personal and professional spheres. Caught in the swirl of life, one might conform, resist, and even commit harm all in the same afternoon. The cruelty of the Nazi world was inescapable.” 0 likes
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