6.2 Asperger revisited
Until very recently, many believed that Asperger shielded children in his clinic from Nazi programmes designed to ‘cleanse’ the Austrian and German population of individuals deemed to be weak, burdensome or ethnically non-Aryan (e.g. Jewish). However, very recently two researchers have shed new light on Asperger’s war-time activities (Czech 2018; Sheffer 2018). They provide convincing evidence that Asperger collaborated with the Nazi regime, despatching some children in his care to a ‘euthanasia clinic’ where they met their death. These revelations have caused widespread shock and revulsion, and at the time of launching this course, Asperger’s standing and contributions to the autism field are under searching review. There is no simple way forward. For instance, although Asperger syndrome is, for other reasons, ceasing to be a formal sub-diagnosis, for several decades, many people on the autism spectrum have accepted Asperger syndrome as their diagnosis, and embraced it as an identity. A range of views is beginning to emerge: some are arguing that Asperger syndrome should be renamed; others point out that history cannot be completely rewritten and terminology should be considered distinct from the individuals who may have originated it.
You can read more about the researchers’ findings and about different ideas for the way forward here: