Published April 19, 2018
The Austrian doctor for whom Asperger syndrome is named helped the Nazis kill disabled children during World War II, according to a study published Thursday.
Hans Asperger, a pediatrician who first identified the syndrome in 1944, made good with the Nazis by referring children to one of their notorious euthanasia clinics, Medical University of Vienna medical historian Herwig Czech revealed in the journal Molecular Autism.
Nearly 800 children who didn’t fit into the Third Reich’s criteria of “worthy to live” — meaning they lacked “racial purity” and “hereditary worthiness” — died at the Am Spiegelgrund clinic in Vienna between 1940 and 1945.
Asperger frequently referred disabled children to the clinic, according to previously untouched documents from state archives — including Asperger’s personnel files and patient case records — unearthed by Czech, the Guardian UK reported.
The children, who had physical or psychological “defects,” were deemed undesirable and were killed through starvation and lethal injection — though their cause of death was reported as pneumonia.
While Asperger touted himself as having shielded his patients from the Nazi regime, he was a cog in its killing machine and was rewarded for his loyalty with career opportunities, Czech found.
“He was responsible for depriving of their liberty many children whom he deemed incapable of existing outside institutions,” Czech told The Guardian.
Among Czech’s findings is a photo of Herta Schreiber, a 3-year-old girl who suffered from encephalitis and died three months after being admitted to the clinic on Asperger’s orders.
The doctor had transferred her because “she must be an unbearable burden to her mother,” he wrote, and she was deemed incurable. A specimen of the toddler’s brain was found in the basement of the clinic in the late 1990s and was buried in 2002.
Asperger also often deemed sexually abused children to be responsible for what happened to them and anti-Semitic stereotypes often crept into his diagnoses, Czech wrote. The doctor never acknowledged that Jews had been targeted by the Nazis, even after the end of the war.
“Asperger was not just doing his best to survive in intolerable conditions but was also complicit with his Nazi superiors in targeting society’s most vulnerable people,” the editors of Molecular Autism wrote in an editorial.
Asperger continued to work as a doctor for more than three decades after the collapse of the Nazi regime and died in 1980.
This article originally appeared in the New York Post.