Asperger's Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna

Asperger's Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna

Hans Asperger, the pioneer of autism and Asperger syndrome in Nazi Vienna, has been celebrated for his compassionate defense of children with disabilities. But in this groundbreaking book, prize-winning historian Edith Sheffer exposes 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, behavior, 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 endeavored to mold certain "autistic" children into productive citizens, while transferring others they deemed untreatable to Spiegelgrund, one of the Reich’s deadliest child-killing centers.


In the first comprehensive history of the links between autism and Nazism, Sheffer uncovers how a diagnosis common today emerged from the atrocities of the Third Reich. With vivid storytelling and wide-ranging research, Asperger’s Children will move readers to rethink how societies assess, label, and treat those diagnosed with disabilities.

Title:Asperger's Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna
ISBN:9780393609646
Format Type:

About Edith Sheffer

Edith Sheffer is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of European Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.


    Asperger's Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna Reviews

  • Jaime

    This book was extremely hard to get through, but well worth it. The brutality of the Nazi regime has been well-documented, but this was especially hard to read. I found it interesting, especially in l...

  • Michelle Hopkins

    Stop BEFORE you attach a label of autism or Asperger's Syndrome to a child -- yours or anyone else's -- and READ this book. This is one of the most important books I have read in years in how it gives...

  • Sandra

    That hurt....

  • Pam Cipkowski

    The inclusion of Asperger syndrome on the autism spectrum in the 1990s gave hope to many individuals and their loved ones who struggled to make sense of their unique personality and behavioral charact...

  • Sharon

    Heavier read than expected as for me as it seemed closer to a textbook resource than a general audience book. Very detailed history of the subject which does provide a strong retrospective thought pro...

  • SibylM

    3.5 stars....

  • Caroline

    Eye opening book on the history of Dr. Asperger in Nazi Vienna. Disturbing treatment of children and evils of euthanasia. The Autism and Aspergers spectrum was a death sentence. Author reveals so much...

  • FM

    I made myself read this book is the same way I made myself sit through the movie "The Killing Fields": because it's an important story and we should not forget.I honestly had to keep closing this book...

  • S.D. Curran

    A detailed look at a genocide enablerI am fascinated by the mind and history, so this book carefully blended both. The rise of autism as a diagnosis has its roots in the interwar period, and Asperger,...

  • Amy Payne

    I received this book compliments of Goodreads in a giveaway. I’ve worked with children on the spectrum for 20+ years so I was interested to read the origins of the Asperger diagnosis. It was a lot t...