An assessment of what Hans Asperger knew about child euthanasia in Vienna during the Nazi occupation

Acta Paediatr. 2022 Oct 14. doi: 10.1111/apa.16571. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Aim: Hans Asperger is probably best known for Asperger syndrome. However, he has been accused of knowingly and willingly participating in the National Socialist Child Euthanasia programme by referring patients to the Am Spiegelgrund children's home in Vienna. This later became notorious for euthanising disabled children. We investigated those allegations.

Methods: Clinicians and historians examined original documents and transcripts related to Asperger's referrals from the Viennese Therapeutic Pedagogy Unit, and corresponding Am Spiegelgrund admissions, up to 25 March 1943, when he was drafted.

Results: Asperger referred 13 children to Am Spiegelgrund. Eleven survived and apparently received adequate care that allowed them to achieve positive developments, but two girls died. Asperger referred these two girls during June and October 1941, before most of the deaths at Am Spiegelgrund occurred and before its euthanasia programme became public knowledge. Our detailed investigation of the medical records, Unit referral practices and Am Spiegelgrund provided no evidence that Asperger knew about the euthanasia programme at the time of the referrals. One death was probably due to euthanasia, but the other was less clear.

Conclusion: There was no evidence that Asperger knew about the euthanasia programme when he referred two patients who died at Am Spiegelgrund.

Keywords: Am Spiegelgrund; Asperger; National Socialism in Vienna; child euthanasia; therapeutic pedagogy.