Edith Sheffer, PhD, presents Asperger’s Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Austria
5:00 p.m. Reception | 6:00 p.m. Presentation | 7:00 p.m. Book Signing
In 1930s and 1940s Vienna, child psychiatrist Hans Asperger sought to define autism as a diagnostic category, aiming to treat those children, usually boys, he deemed capable of participating fully in society. Depicted as a compassionate and devoted researcher, Asperger was in fact deeply influenced by Nazi psychiatry. Although he did offer individualized care to children he deemed promising, he also prescribed harsh institutionalization and even transfer to Spiegelgrund, one of the Reich’s deadliest killing centers, for children with greater disabilities, who, he held, could not integrate into the community.
With sensitivity and passion, Edith Sheffer’s scrupulous research reveals the heartbreaking voices and experiences of many of these children, while also illuminating a Nazi regime obsessed with sorting the population into categories, cataloging people by race, heredity, politics, religion, sexuality, criminality, and biological defects—labels that became the basis of either rehabilitation or persecution and extermination.
Join us and hear from Dr. Sheffer on this groundbreaking exploration of the chilling history behind this increasingly common diagnosis.
Edith Sheffer is a historian and Senior Fellow at the Institute of European Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of the prize-winning Burned Bridge: How East and West Germans Made the Iron Curtain.