“Asperger’s Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna” Lecture by Edith Sheffer

“Asperger’s Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna”

Lecture by
Dr. Edith Sheffer
Senior Fellow, Institute of European Studies
University of California, Berkeley

March 5, 2019
12:30 p.m.
Buchanan A-203

Hans Asperger, the pioneer of autism and Asperger syndrome in Nazi Vienna, has been celebrated for his compassionate defence of children with disabilities. This talk reveals that Asperger was not only involved in the racial policies of Hitler’s Third Reich, he was complicit in the murder of children. As the Nazi regime slaughtered millions across Europe during World War Two, it sorted people according to race, religion, behaviour, and physical condition for either treatment or elimination. Nazi psychiatrists targeted children with different kinds of minds―especially those thought to lack social skills―claiming the Reich had no place for them. Asperger and his colleagues endeavoured to mold certain “autistic” children into productive citizens, while transferring others they deemed untreatable to Spiegelgrund, one of the Reich’s deadliest child-killing centres. This talk uncovers how a diagnosis common today emerged from the atrocities of the Third Reich—and questions how societies assess, label, and treat those diagnosed with disabilities. Dr. Sheffer’s lecture is based on her latest book of the same title, which has been reviewed and discussed in many venues, including the New York Times, CBC Radio, Salon.comNature, and the Los Angeles Times.

The lecture is co-sponsored by the UBC Department of History and the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research and Collaboration in Autism.