On June 27, 1941, famed Austrian doctor Hans Asperger sealed the fate of a young child by the name Herta S with the following lines: “Severe personality disorder (post-encephalitic?): most severe motoric retardation; erethic idiocy; seizures. At home the child must be an unbearable burden to the mother, who has to care for five healthy children. Permanent placement at Spiegelgrund seems absolutely necessary.”
Four days later, the transfer follows: Herta is spent in the notorious “Am Spiegelgrund” institution on the Viennese Baumgartner height. Two months later, she is dead. According to documentary note, she died of pneumonia – the most common official “cause” of death at Spiegelgrund, where in1940, children were systematically murdered after being classified by doctors as “incapacitated for education” and “unworthy of living”.
The story of Herta S. is not the only case in which Asperger delivered a child to the National Socialist killing machine. After the rise of Hitler to power in Germany, Dr. Asperger “made sure to adapt to the Nazi regime and was rewarded with career prospects for his displays of loyalty.” At least, these are the conclusions of a study published Thursday, April 19 on the man who gave his name to Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism.
For his work published in the journal Molecular Autism, Herwig Czech explains that he has consulted many publications including previously unexploited archival documents, including the doctor’s personal files and case studies of his patients.
The historian cites a 1940 Nazi document according to which Asperger “was in accordance with National Socialist ideas on race issues and sterilization laws”. After the annexation of Austria by the Nazis in March 1938, he began to sign his diagnostic reports with the phrase “Heil Hitler”.
According to the study, Dr. Asperger also recommended the transfer of two girls, two and five years old, to the famous Am Spiegelgrund center located inside the Steinhof psychiatric hospital in Vienna. In this center, 800 children deprived of “racial purity” and “hereditary interest”, were killed in particular by poisoning.
After the war in 1945, Asperger continued his work at the Children’s Hospital of the University of Vienna. From 1957 to 1962 he led the Innsbruck Children’s Hospital, in 1962 he became professor of pediatrics and head of the University Children’s Hospital in Vienna, before he retired in 1977.
The brain of Herta S. was buried in 2002, more than six decades after her death: it had been conserved and “researched” along with hundreds of body parts of murdered children on Spiegelgrund.
The editors of Molecular Autism stated that they believed that Dr. Asperger was guilty of the charges against him. According to them, the study is worthy of publication to expose the truth about how a physician who was considered to have made only valuable contributions in the field of pediatrics and child psychiatry was guilty of actively helping the Nazis to murder children.
Dr. Asperger, who died in 1980, was a pioneer in autism research and is best known for shaping the understanding of the developmental disorder known as Asperger’s Syndrome. In 1944 he had used the term “autistic psychopathy” to describe the disability. The name Asperger Syndrome was later introduced by the British psychiatrist Lorna Wing in 1981.