A new study, published in Molecular Autism, explores whether Hans Asperger – the doctor whom the condition Asperger’s syndrome was named after – actively cooperated with the Nazi regime.
Carol Povey, Director at the Centre of Autism for the National Autistic Society, said:
“We expect these findings to spark a big conversation among the 700,000 autistic people in the UK and their family members, particularly those who identify with the term ‘Asperger’.
“Autism affects everyone differently and people often have their own way of talking about autism. We will be listening closely to the response to this news so we can continue to make sure the language we use to describe autism reflects the preferences of autistic people and their families.”
“Obviously no-one with a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome should feel in any way tainted by this very troubling history.”
Dr Anthony J Bailey, Professor and Chair of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Instiute of Mental Health Chair University of British Columbia Vancouver, said:
“The report needs to be seen in context. Virtually all doctors in Germany at that time were members of the Nazi Party and there was almost no opposition to the euthanasia programs for the mentally ill and handicapped, except from one or two heads of asylums and a very small number of Catholic Bishops.
“The obvious evolutionary merit of eugenics was widely accepted in Germany, so a policy of sterilisation preceded that of euthanasia, and the Germans believed that in many respects their ideas lagged behind those of the Americans. The truth is that forced euthanasia was imposed on a very diverse range of people with mental and neurological problems and a focus on Asperger seems unwarranted. Indeed most modern German Industry has its roots in a few large companies who strongly supported and helped almost every part of the Nazi cause and profited tremendously from their role.”
* ‘Hans Asperger, National Socialism, and “race hygiene” in Nazi-era Vienna’ by Herzig Czech published in Molecular Autism on Thursday 19 April.