Non-complicit: Revisiting Hans Asperger's Career in Nazi-era Vienna

J Autism Dev Disord. 2020 Jul;50(7):2573-2584. doi: 10.1007/s10803-019-03981-7.


Recent allegations that pediatrician Hans Asperger legitimized Nazi policies, including forced sterilization and child euthanasia, are refuted with newly translated and chronologically-ordered information that takes into account Hitler's deceptive 'halt' to the T4 euthanasia program in 1941. It is highly unlikely that Asperger was aware of the T4 program when he referred Herta Schreiber to Am Spiegelgrund or when he mentioned that institution 4 months later on the medical chart of another (unrelated) girl, Elisabeth Schreiber. Asperger campaigned vigorously from 1938 to 1943 to have his specialization, Curative Education, take priority in the diagnosis and treatment of disabled children over other fields that promoted Nazi racial hygiene policies. He neither disparaged his patients nor was he sexist. By 1938, he had identified the essentials of Asperger syndrome and described an unnamed boy whom he later profiled (as Ernst K.) in 1944. Rather than doing 'thin' research, Asperger made discoveries that were prescient, and some of his activities conformed to definitions of "individual resistance."

Keywords: Asperger syndrome; Euthanasia; Forced sterilization; Hans Asperger; Nazi-era Vienna; T4.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Asperger Syndrome / history*
  • Austria / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Complicity*
  • Eugenics / history*
  • Female
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • National Socialism / history*
  • Pediatricians / history*
  • Policy
  • Social Behavior

Personal name as subject

  • Hans Asperger