The Nazi History Behind “Asperger”

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From The New York Times: Although the official diagnosis of Asperger’s disorder has recently been dropped from the DSM, it is still included in the ICD and remains in common usage. The Nazi origin of the term — the eugenicist Dr. Hans Asperger — is rarely acknowledged.

“Asperger at first warned against classifying children, writing in 1937 that ‘it is impossible to establish a rigid set of criteria for a diagnosis.’ But right after the Nazi annexation of Austria in 1938 — and the purge of his Jewish and liberal associates from the University of Vienna — Asperger introduced his own diagnosis of social detachment: ‘autistic psychopathy.’

As Asperger sought promotion to associate professor, his writings about the diagnosis grew harsher. He stressed the ‘cruelty’ and ‘sadistic traits’ of the children he studied, itemizing their ‘autistic acts of malice.’ He also called autistic psychopaths ‘intelligent automata.’

Some laud Asperger’s language about the ‘special abilities’ of children on the ‘most favorable’ end of his autistic ‘range,’ speculating that he applied his diagnosis to protect them from Nazi eugenics — a kind of psychiatric Schindler’s list. But this was in keeping with the selective benevolence of Nazi psychiatry; Asperger also warned that ‘less favorable cases’ would ‘roam the streets’ as adults, ‘grotesque and dilapidated.'”

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Old article, but I happened to be on a site called “life with asbergers”.
    There were a lot of people on the site talking about life with this “syndrome”
    Only one person had a reaction to the banter, and I understood why.
    No one disagrees that we are all different, unique and even outright weird.
    To have a disorder, one has to be different from the majority? That makes so much logical sense that we lay down laughing.
    Perhaps the way the person is, does not feel right to them, and they seek help, but it is still not a disorder. A problem is not a disorder or illness.
    A person might accel at one thing only.
    When it comes to the brain we cannot name a difference in functioning, an illness or disorder.
    Of course it is interesting to watch someone who is different than the other 10 people in the room. What remains is, who actually has the disorder? Even if you show it on a scan or spec or in neurology, the onus is on the examiner to PROVE that it is a disorder or illness.
    It can very well be the step forwards within society. You simply cannot quantify the brain.
    The brain can only be seen and understood by other brains, my brain looking at yours and from that perspective, it always remains arbitrary.
    So this one child is an “aspie”. The others are called, normal?

    Many years ago, color of skin was a huge shock. Slavery was global since beginning of time and has only been dealt with in the last hundred years.
    People were called cripples, laughed at.
    This obsession with the brain is a very primitive instinct, like apes picking lice off their buddy. Apes tend to stare a lot at each other, and it has not changed.
    For some reason mankind has always thought of himself as advanced. Each century since history, he marvels at his discoveries in a childlike manner. He realizes not the damage he causes through his marveling at himself. He never looks back, saying to himself, “wow, in 500 years I will look like an idiot” and when that 500 years has passed, the next guy will be in the same childlike position. It is what we do.
    And of course, none of us will be around then, to be able to say “look, how it used to be”.
    What is happening today is that man’s brains have become the toy, and children are playing.
    It is really time to wake up. We have to keep our kids from being singled out. Psychiatry is the very last area where singling out should occur. Educated men should be above this business of differentiating people, causing divisions and harm.
    Shame on you. Psychiatrists talk about how THOSE people, part of their illness might be an inability to have empathy or understand others.
    Is it not funny? Because I could say that about psychiatry and yet they carry the power of harm, without empathy and a deep understanding that brains are what makes the person and are not illness or disorder.

    Here is the comment I borrowed from the “life with asbergers” site:

    “ou’re an idiot! You’ve let all the therapists and concerned parents and psychologists convince you that they’re right because they’re the majority. You gave in. Why do you think people should live by the dogma of social acceptability? Why try to “normalize” your children??? This world is so sick and wrong. Our culture preaches individualism and creativity but then turns around and suppresses it.

    Autism is not a disease, syndrome, or disorder. It’s a set of traits that coincide with each other, like any set of traits…blue eyes coinciding with blond hair, a good singing voice coinciding with a good sense of rhythm.. Autism is just smart minds coinciding with special sensory abilities, being different due to off-the-charts creativity and a unique perspective, and sometimes having learning difficulties because the brain is wired differently and we don’t yet know how to get through to them. And that part still doesn’t make it a disorder because the good far outweighs the bad. Everything in the world comes with a negative side.

    I personally think it’s a not-yet-fully-developed evolutionary response to industrialized society. We used to have an agricultural society where everyone had to do a variety of tasks relating to their survival, instead of specializing. Now we are one big interconnected system with each person managing a tiny part of it. This system works more efficiently than the former, might I add.

    So-called Aspergers children have obsessions with specific things, sometimes even parts of things. For neurotypical people, it is not normal to love and cherish and know all about one repetitive thing or part, yet it is required in many occupations, such as factory work. For “autistics” it is natural, therefore they are adapted to these aspects of modern society and it’s easier for them to specialize.

    As the world becomes more computerized, “autistics” will come to dominate the world…like Bill Gates. They have both technical skill and charisma on the internet, the new form of communication. One company hires only autistic IT technicians, not out of charity, but out of utility. The challenge right now is to make sure they know they’re beautiful just the way they are and that there’s nothing “wrong” with them. It’s part of the natural diversity of genes and traits.

    As for the difficulty with social interaction…that’s a result of EVERYBODY ELSE being closed-minded. Take a look at how they interact with each other.

    I hope that in the end, those who know who they are and won’t be beaten down by normalcy will pwn you and all the others who doubt them. They will pwn with their amazing minds and unshakeable focus.

    Trying to discourage them from stimming is like trying to shut down their fundamental mental processes. Stimming induces a state of high creativity, intense joy, organized thought, and amplified visualization ability in some. Who wouldn’t do it? Those who think its a bad thing are probably jealous or something.

    BREAK FREE OF THE SYSTEM, PEEPS! “

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