The Kasners had two cars: the standard East German Trabant, an underpowered little box that has become the subject of kitschy Ostalgia , and a more luxurious Wartburg, their official church car.
An English teacher who imparted her passion for learning to Angela, Herlind wrote to the education authorities every year asking for a job, and every year she was told that nothing was available, even though English teachers were in desperately short supply. But Merkel was a brilliant, ferociously motivated student. In her tidy apartment in Templin, Benn, who is seventy-six, proudly showed me a victory certificate from Merkel studied physics at Leipzig University and earned a doctorate in quantum chemistry in Berlin. She was allowed to pursue graduate studies, in no small part because she never ran afoul of the ruling party.
Angela Kasner had other ideas for her future, and became, at most, a passive opponent of the regime. Although Angela views the leading role of the Soviet Union as that of a dictatorship which all other socialist countries obey, she is fascinated by the Russian language and the culture of the Soviet Union. Rainer Eppelmann, a courageous dissident clergyman under Communism, who got to know Merkel soon after the fall of the Wall, refuses to criticize her.
They never said what they thought, what they felt, what they were afraid of. And nobody can do this. After , when the chance came to participate in democratic politics, these same qualities became useful to Merkel, in a new way. The whisperer thinks, How can I say this without damaging myself? The whisperer is somebody who might be compared to a chess player. And I have the impression that she thinks things over more carefully and is always a few moves ahead of her competitor.
In , at twenty-three, Angela married a physicist, Ulrich Merkel, but the union foundered quickly, and she left him in She spent the final moribund decade of the G. She once told a story from her childhood of standing on a diving board for the full hour of a swimming lesson until, at the bell, she finally jumped.
She watches politics like a scientist. Every morning, Merkel took the S-Bahn to the Academy of Sciences from her apartment in Prenzlauer Berg, a bohemian neighborhood near the city center. For several stretches, her train ran parallel to the Wall, the rooftops of West Berlin almost in reach. Sometimes she commuted with a colleague, Michael Schindhelm. Schindhelm found Merkel to be the most serious researcher in the theoretical-chemistry section, frustrated by her lack of access to Western publications and scientists.
In , Schindhelm and Merkel began sharing an office and, over Turkish coffee that she made, became close. They both had a fairly critical view of the East German state. They both felt that the world on the other side of the Wall was more desirable than their own. Years later, Schindhelm, who became a theatre and opera director, was revealed to have been coerced by the Stasi into serving as an informer, though he apparently never betrayed anyone. He expressed a belief that Germans, in facing their past, could redefine their identity and future. But in East Germany, where ideology had twisted the history of the Third Reich beyond recognition, the speech was virtually unknown.
Merkel had procured a rare copy through her connections in the Church, and she was deeply struck by it. Being an East German meant retaining faith in the idea of Germany even though many West Germans, who needed it less, had given up on reunification. As East Germany decayed, its citizens had nothing else to hold on to, whereas Westerners had been taught to suppress feelings of nationhood. After riding the miraculously comfortable trains through West Germany, she returned to East Berlin convinced that the socialist system was doomed.
Instead of joining the delirious throngs pouring through the Wall, which had just been opened, she took her regular Thursday-evening sauna with a friend. Her actions on that momentous night have been ridiculed as a sign of banality and a lack of feeling.
Mädchen im Dritten Reich.
But, in the following months, no East German seized the new freedoms with more fervor than Merkel. Few irreducible principles have been evident in her political career, but one of them is the right to the pursuit of happiness. A month after the Wall fell, Merkel visited the offices of a new political group called Democratic Awakening, which were near her apartment. She was soon put to work setting up the office computers, which had been donated by the West German government. She kept coming back, though at first hardly anyone noticed her.
It was the kind of fluid moment when things happen quickly and chance and circumstance can make all the difference. In March, , the leader of Democratic Awakening, Wolfgang Schnur, was exposed as a Stasi informer, and at an emergency board meeting Rainer Eppelmann, the dissident clergyman, was chosen to replace him. She understood that she had to do a job here and do it well, but not to be the chief.
They married in Some participants were from the East, others from the West; at each meal, the host would narrate his or her upbringing, illuminating what life was like on one side of the divide. She rarely speaks publicly about herself and has never explained her decision. But when the moment came, and Merkel found herself single and childless in her mid-thirties—and laboring in an East German institution with no future—a woman of her ambition must have grasped that politics would be the most dynamic realm of the new Germany.
Reunification really meant annexation of the East by the West, which required giving East Germans top government positions. In October, , she won a seat in the new Bundestag, in Bonn, the first capital of reunified Germany. She had no political agenda at all. She had to be taught how to use a credit card. Cabinet meetings were dominated by Kohl, and though Merkel was always well prepared, she seldom spoke.
But inside her ministry Merkel was respected for her efficient absorption of information, and feared for her directness and temper. According to her biographer Evelyn Roll, she acquired the nickname Angie the Snake, and a reputation for accepting little criticism. Subsequent pictures display growing confidence. During the sessions, Merkel was always in a hurry, never making small talk. She became such an assiduous student that some colleagues from the former East found it unsettling. She joined the Christian Democratic Union after Democratic Awakening merged with it, ahead of the elections; the C.
But the C. It is only a function of her power, nothing else. He told her that young people had needed to break with the authoritarian culture that had never been repudiated in West Germany after the defeat of the Nazis. What did kids in the West have to protest about? For all the catching up Merkel had to do in her political education, being East German gave her advantages: she had learned self-discipline, strength of will, and silence as essential tools. Everything was a question of survival, and it was impossible to make errors if you wanted to succeed.
Early in her career, Merkel hired a young C. Baumann, who remains her most influential adviser, was the perfect No. I still need time, but one day the time will come for this, and I am already looking forward. The producer, a C. In November, , the C. Merkel, who had risen to secretary-general after the C.
She telephoned Karl Feldmeyer. Feldmeyer suggested that, instead of doing an interview, she publish an opinion piece. Five minutes later, a fax came through, and Feldmeyer read it with astonishment. Merkel, a relatively new figure in the C. She succeeded. Within a few months, Merkel had been elected Party chairman. Kohl receded into history. That was the moment when many Germans first became aware of Angela Merkel. He told another friend that championing young Merkel had been the biggest mistake of his life. In , Merkel found herself on the verge of losing a Party vote that would determine the C.
She hastily arranged a breakfast with her rival, the Bavarian leader Edmund Stoiber, in his home town. Disciplined enough to control her own ambitions, Merkel told Stoiber that she was withdrawing in his favor. John Kornblum, a former U. Careful: unpretentiousness can be a weapon! One of the secrets of the success of Angela Merkel is that she knows how to deal with vain men.
Angela Merkel is a patient hunter of courting mountain cocks. With the patience of an angel, she waits for her moment. German politics was entering a new era. She has them for her cereal. The two men despised Merkel, and the sentiment was reciprocated. During the campaign, Fischer said in private talks that Merkel was incapable of doing the job. Through most of the campaign, the C. Merkel had made two near-fatal mistakes.
Second, many of her advisers were free-market proponents who advocated changes to the tax code and to labor policies which went far beyond what German voters would accept. Merkel, looking shell-shocked and haggard, was almost mute. Many viewers thought he was drunk.
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Indeed, the C. And I promise we will not turn the democratic rules upside down. Those who know Merkel say that she is as lively and funny in private as she is publicly soporific—a split in self-presentation that she learned as a young East German. Through her spokesman, Merkel, who gives few interviews—almost always to German publications, and all anodyne—declined to speak to me. In off-the-record conversations with German journalists, she replays entire conversations with other world leaders, performing wicked imitations.
Do you do things like that? Nor is she above embarrassing her minions. Throughout her Chancellorship, Merkel has stayed as close as possible to German public opinion. Kornblum, the former Ambassador, once asked a Merkel adviser about her long-term view. But Germany remains so traumatized by the grand ideologies of its past that a politics of no ideas has a comforting allure.
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To Merkel, the crisis confirmed that grand visions can be dangerous. Kohl, who thought in historical terms, had tied Germany to a European currency without a political union that could make it work. Germany had by far the strongest economy in Europe, with a manufacturing base and robust exports that benefitted from the weakening of the euro.
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Throughout the crisis, Merkel buried herself in the economic details and refused to get out in front of what German voters—who tended to regard the Greeks as spendthrift and lazy—would accept, even if delaying prolonged the ordeal and, at key moments from late through the summer of , threatened the euro itself. No vision at all. In exchange, the countries of southern Europe submitted to strict budget rules and E. Merkel realized that she could not allow the euro-zone crisis to capsize the project of European unity.
The euro was saved, but at the price of ruinous austerity policies and high unemployment. The German economy has slowed this year, while European growth is anemic. Nevertheless, Germany remains committed to a balanced budget in , its first since , and is standing in the way of a euro-zone monetary policy of stimulating growth by buying up debt. In recent weeks, with global markets falling, a divide has opened between Merkel and other European leaders. After , Merkel had to mute her free-market thinking at home in order to preserve her political viability.
Instead, she exported the ideas to the rest of the Continent, applying them with no apparent regard for macroeconomic conditions, as if the virtues of thrift and discipline constituted the mission of a resurgent Germany in Europe. Merkel is obsessed with demography and economic competitiveness. She loves reading charts.
In September, one of her senior aides showed me a stack of them that the Chancellor had just been examining; they showed the relative performance of different European economies across a variety of indicators. In unit-labor costs, he pointed out, Germany lies well below the euro-zone average. But the population of Germany—the largest of any nation in Europe—is stagnant and aging. Completely complacent. It makes Germans acutely uneasy that their country is too strong while Europe is too weak, but Merkel never discusses the problem. Joschka Fischer—who has praised Merkel on other issues—criticizes this silence.
The two world leaders with whom Merkel has her most important and complex relationships are Obama, who has won her reluctant respect, and Putin, who has earned her deep distrust. When the Wall fell, Putin was a K. He used his fluent German and a pistol to keep a crowd of East Germans from storming the K.
After decades of war, destruction, and occupation, German-Russian relations returned to the friendlier dynamic that had prevailed before the twentieth century. Two hundred thousand Russian citizens live in Germany, and Russia has extensive connections inside the German business community and in the Social Democratic Party. But, as a former East German, Merkel has few illusions about Putin. Never trust this guy. Detesting would be too much emotion. As the dog approached and sniffed her, Merkel froze, visibly frightened.
Russia has nothing, no successful politics or economy. All they have is this. In early , when President George W. She remained careful to balance European unity, the alliance with America, German business interests, and continued engagement with Russia. Kaiser Wilhelm I is supposed to have remarked that only Bismarck, who tied Germany to a set of countervailing alliances, could juggle four or five balls. When, this past March, Russia annexed Crimea and incited a separatist war in eastern Ukraine, it fell to Merkel to succeed where earlier German leaders had catastrophically failed.
The Russian aggression in Ukraine stunned the history-haunted, rule-upholding Germans. The moral that many Germans drew was to tread carefully—small fires could quickly turn into conflagrations. In early polls, a plurality of Germans wanted Merkel to take a middle position between the West and Russia. Petersburg, a month after Russia annexed Crimea. Merkel, true to form, did nothing to try to close the divide. For most Germans, the crisis inspired a combination of indifference and anxiety.
Ukraine was talked about, if at all, as a far-off place, barely a part of Europe not as the victim of huge German crimes in the Second World War. He made sure that local authorities and hospitals cooperated and that the operation ran smoothly. From June to the end of , Jekelius directed the child killing facility Am Spiegelgrund, where hundreds of disabled children were murdered.
The two men maintained professional contacts during the Nazi period. In , when Jekelius became the first chairman of the newly established Viennese Association for Therapeutic Pedagogy, Asperger represented the Pediatric Clinic along with Hamburger [ 4 ]: —3. Erwin Jekelius represents Nazi medicine in its most inhumane extremes: a fanatical Nazi and a murderer responsible for the deaths of thousands of patients. Had Asperger deviated from the party line, Jekelius would certainly have reined him in.
Instead, this is what Jekelius had to say about Asperger and his therapeutic approach:. At this opportunity, I would like to remind you of the substantial lecture on therapeutic pedagogy which our Dr. Asperger gave last year in this same place. To be sure, when their writings are set side by side, there is an enormous divide between the two men in tone.
I wanted to emphasize this from the beginning, when I talk today about our Aesculapian obligation specifically towards the psychologically abnormal individual, as I see this obligation. Our time has brought revolutionary changes in the field of education: Whereas in earlier times a number of philosophical, political, and religious orientations stipulated their pedagogic goals and consequently were in competition with each other, today National Socialism has established its pedagogic goal and demands that it be the only valid one. As much as this development is to be approved, we nevertheless have to stress: This one goal, the integration into the National Socialist state, can only be achieved with these children by using different means.
This is how we know that the success of our work is worth the effort [ 67 ]. This paper was originally presented in September at a prominent pediatric conference in Vienna. Asperger was one of only three speakers from Vienna. This argument is problematic for several reasons. While this position anticipated later advances in autism research, the question arises whether under the circumstances it was prudent to put such an emphasis on heredity. Had protecting his autistic patients been his primary goal, he could have taken a more flexible position, one less likely to draw the attention of race hygienists to his patients [ 2 ]: — Fritz had for his age outstanding abilities in mathematics, but was incapable of attending regular school, having passed the first three school years by homeschooling.
These latter cases, according to Asperger, were often very similar to conditions caused by organic brain damage such as birth trauma. Nevertheless, the argument that Asperger focused on the better-functioning cases in order to protect all of his patients presumably, by deflecting attention from the less well-functioning is questionable given that Asperger by no means withheld from his readers the severe impairments of some of the boys. Third, there is a fundamental flaw in the assumption that highlighting the potential of some of his patients would benefit all of them.
Focusing on the higher functioning children did nothing to lift the boat for all of them; those on the lower end still risked being left to drown. Highlighting the potential of some patients should not then be mistaken for the defense of all children with disabilities. Asperger, who had begun his career under Hamburger, shared many of these views, including a staunch opposition to psychoanalysis [ 76 ]. This increased demand, together with the exclusion of Jewish doctors, 78 led to additional career opportunities for Asperger, for example, his appointment as an expert witness in May to the Vienna Juvenile Court.
In some cases, however, he demonstrably cooperated in such matters. In two of these cases, both Asperger and the Spiegelgrund staff suggested a hereditary etiology. In two other cases, Asperger included a reference to heredity in his report, but the Spiegelgrund staff did not. This raises the question whether this non-cooperation by omission should be considered a form of resistance. It is important to note that the sterilization program in Nazi Austria was never implemented on a scale comparable to Nazi Germany between and and that children were not its primary targets.
In Vienna, the Hereditary Health Court decreed a total of sterilization cases. There is one case in which documents suggest that Asperger may have helped shield a patient from possible persecution. In the fall of , he examined Aurel I. His family then moved him to the countryside, where he spent the war in the care of relatives.
His role in this context is the topic of the next section. In his wartime publications, Asperger appears as someone who declared his willingness to cooperate with the Nazi state, propagated—albeit less enthusiastically than others—elements of Nazi race hygiene, and tried to argue that his discipline had an important role to play within the new political order.
His professed pedagogical optimism reached its limits, however, in children with greater degrees of mental disability. In this regard, as we will see, his record was mixed. The youngest of nine children, Herta showed signs of disturbed mental and physical development ever since she had fallen ill with encephalitis a few months before. Severe personality disorder post-encephalitic? At home the child must be an unbearable burden to the mother, who has to care for five healthy children.
Permanent placement at Spiegelgrund seems absolutely necessary. Herta was admitted to Spiegelgrund on 1 July On 2 September, a day after her third birthday, Herta died of pneumonia, the most common cause of death at Spiegelgrund, which was routinely induced by the administration of barbiturates over a longer period of time. Mother asks to be notified if the condition of the child should get worse. The husband should not be informed, he would be too upset. She says in tears that she can see for herself that the child is mentally not well. If she cannot be helped, it would be better if she died.
She would not have anything in this world, she would only be ridiculed by others. As the mother of so many other children she would not want that for her, so it would be better if she died. Or did he decide independently what he thought best, based on the information she provided? From the available documents, we cannot know with certainty. As previously mentioned, he repeatedly called for giving people with mental anomalies the best available care in order to develop their potential as far as possible.
However, he never addressed the question of what should happen in cases without hope of improvement. The children Asperger advocated for were those who promised some future benefit to society. Erethic imbecility, probably on a post-encephalitic basis. In the family, the child is without a doubt a hardly bearable burden, especially under their crowded living conditions, and due to her aggressions she endangers the small siblings.
Therefore it is understandable that the mother pushes for institutionalization. Spiegelgrund would be the best possibility. What can be said with a degree of certainty is that she sought institutional care for her daughter and that Asperger recommended transferal to the killing facility.
However, Elisabeth was not immediately transferred to Spiegelgrund, probably because there was no bed available. Instead, she was sent to another institution for children with mental defects, where she stayed for a few months. In March , she was transferred to Spiegelgrund. Was Asperger aware that Elisabeth would have almost no chance of survival at Spiegelgrund, that he was sending Herta to her death? Significantly, the extermination of the mentally ill was never explicitly referred to in written documents, at least not outside the smallest circles of the initiated.
In documents not protected as state secrets, it would have been a grave breach to even mention the possibility of killing patients. I point out that my clinic [Spiegelgrund] was always overcrowded, since other clinics […], including the University Pediatric Clinic, transferred—or wanted to transfer—such hopeless cases, evidently because they believed that in my clinic euthanasia was possible on account of the mentioned circular, while they were not allowed to practice euthanasia.
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I am absolutely convinced that the directors of the mentioned institutions were aware of euthanasia and the mentioned circulars. Illing had every reason to diminish his own responsibility, but there is further evidence for the close ties between Spiegelgrund and the university clinic. After the experiments, the children were sent to Spiegelgrund, where they were murdered so that the vaccine results could be compared with the pathological findings. Staff at the pediatric clinic were not only aware of what happened at Spiegelgrund but exploited the research opportunities created by the murders [ 85 ].
Even abroad, the killings at Spiegelgrund became known. In light of this evidence, it seems extremely implausible that Asperger—a longtime colleague of Erwin Jekelius and a well-connected player in his professional field—was unaware of the activities at Spiegelgrund. In the cases of Herta and Elisabeth, were there alternatives to sending them to Spiegelgrund? Could he have saved their lives? Nevertheless, Asperger was under no obligation to send children directly to the killing facility, even if they suffered from severe disabilities.
He could, without any risk to himself, have transferred them elsewhere, and in a number of other cases, he did just that. The evidence in these two cases suggests that at least under the given circumstances he accepted the killing of disabled children as a last resort. Jekelius as soon as possible. Due to overlapping jurisdictions the Gugging hospital was on Viennese territory and property of the city, but leased to the Niederdonau administration , the committee consisted of seven members from both provinces.
After children had been transported in March and May to the killing center in Hartheim, at the end of that year, patients remained on the ward. All of them were dead within a few months. By the end of that year, another 20 children 9 girls and 11 boys followed, only to meet the same fate.
During , 12 children 8 boys and 4 girls were taken to Spiegelgrund, none of whom survived. The commission relied on suggestions prepared by Schicker but examined the children individually and took a decision in each case. Among a group of 50 children whom the director deemed unfit for school and wanted to keep in Gugging, the committee found 18 who in their opinion warranted further pedagogical efforts. In all, 59 of children evaluated by the commission died at Spiegelgrund before the end of the war, a death rate of Was the commission in a position to save at least some of the children had they wanted to?
Due to the limited sources available, this question cannot be answered conclusively. What can be shown, however, is that at least in some cases their families wanted to take them into their care but were not permitted to do so by the authorities. He was deaf-mute from his birth in His case file mentions hydrocephaly and severe mental disability.
Although he could not attend school, there was hope he might be able to improve his physical abilities to perform simple tasks. He was described as lively and sociable. The requests were denied on all three occasions, the last under the pretext that further examinations were necessary. On 20 May , Engelbert was transferred to Spiegelgrund, where he died on 8 November. In this case, it seems that Asperger was a well-functioning cog in a deadly machine. In his publications, Asperger projected an image of himself as benevolent, optimistic, and affectionate towards the children in his care—a characterization echoed in the biographical literature.
While there is little doubt that he was passionate about his work and genuinely cared about many of his patients, in the context of this paper, we must ask whether this positive attitude extended to those children who did not offer hopes of future development or who defied attempts to educate or discipline them.
The following analysis focuses on the remaining 40 children 12 girls, 28 boys , who survived Spiegelgrund and were later transferred to other institutions or discharged. Unlike with Herta and Elisabeth Schreiber, in the 14 cases in question, there is no indication that Asperger expected the children he recommended for transferal to Spiegelgrund explicitly or by suggestion to be killed there.
The conditions of these 14 children appear not to have been so severe as to make them targets for extermination, although sending them to Spiegelgrund nevertheless put them at considerable risk. The senior staff at Spiegelgrund who were the authors or signatories of the medical reports analyzed here were committed Nazis and race hygienists. Against this background, any systematic bias Asperger might have had in favor of his patients would have to be visible in this sample.
And yet, out of these 30 cases, there are only 2 in which Asperger appears to judge the children less harshly than his peers at Spiegelgrund. In 16 or just over half of the cases, Asperger and the diagnosticians at Spiegelgrund came to comparable conclusions. In the remaining 12, Asperger took a more negative and in some instances an outright disparaging view of his patients. Gerald St. Gross now described the boy as emotionally responsive, cheerful, and excitable.
Gerald was initially described in similar terms by Asperger and at Spiegelgrund. Leo A. Born in April to a single mother, Leo was placed in foster care immediately after his birth. At age four, Leo was an intelligent but difficult child. He suffered from fits of rage and was accused of cruelty towards animals.
The case of year-old Johann K. As mentioned, of these 30 cases, there are only 2 in which Asperger appears to have taken a more positive position than his peers at Spiegelgrund: In November , he saw 6-year-old Johann T. It is hardly surprising then that Johann did not make much progress over the next years. The second case is similarly inconclusive. In October , Asperger saw the year-old Hildegard P. For Hildegard, it meant the difference between freedom and confinement to a reformatory.
In one regard, however, Asperger did show a certain restraint. Apart from this qualification, the sample yields no evidence that Asperger proved more benevolent towards his patients than his peers at Spiegelgrund when labeling children with diagnoses that could have an enormous impact on their future—quite the opposite. Like many of his colleagues, Asperger had a marked tendency to separate children from their families—which he often considered dysfunctional—and to commit them to closed institutions. Of course, many children were exposed to violence or neglect at home, and institutional education in principle could have been a means of protecting them.
In practice, though perhaps despite his best intentions, this meant that he regularly sent minors to institutions ripe with abuse and violence [ 89 ]. Asperger briefly mentioned his war experiences in his interview:. It is good that a man knows how he behaves in mortal danger, with the bullets whistling.
It is also a proving ground. And a ground where one has to care for others. It is also a great gift from destiny that I never had to gun anybody down [ 3 ]. This distinction allowed Asperger to emerge with a clean slate under the Austrian implementation of denazification since he had never joined the NSDAP. In , he moved to Innsbruck, where he headed the local university pediatric clinic until when he was formally appointed as Chair of the Vienna Pediatric Clinic, the most prestigious position in Austrian pediatrics.
According to some, Asperger in risked his life to speak out against the threat that race hygiene ideology posed to the children in his care. In , while explicitly addressing the war in a speech summarizing his intellectual legacy, he did not care to mention National Socialism, its millions of victims, or even the hundreds of children, some of them his patients, who had been killed practically under his eyes.
At least in Austria, he dominated the field for decades, curtailed only by competition from the emerging discipline of youth psychiatry. On a conceptual level, he saw his main opponents in the representatives of psychoanalysis and related theories focusing on dynamic psychological processes and childhood experiences [ 76 ]: 2—3, , and numerous other passages.
In principle, he also distanced himself from the genetic determinism typical of Nazi race hygiene, at least to the extent necessary to claim a space for his own discipline and its therapeutic options [ 76 ]: It is hardly surprising, then, that he would refer to his work as a heroic and often hopeless fight against the terrible odds of constitutional deficiencies of all kinds [ 76 ]: —5.
Despite his emphasis on heredity and constitution, he mostly avoided explicit references to eugenics, which due to its association with Nazi crimes had become discredited in mainstream scientific discourse, at least in Austria and Germany. Multiple studies, above all in Germany, have shown that these families procreate in numbers clearly above the average, especially in the cities.
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It is clear that this fact presents a very serious eugenic problem, a solution to which is far off—all the more, since the eugenic policies of the recent past have turned out to be unacceptable from a human standpoint [ 76 ] One troubling consequence arising from this approach is how Asperger regarded the sexual abuse of children. In a similar vein, Asperger rejected the possibility that constitutionally healthy children could suffer from war-related trauma. Any observable symptoms were again either due to some inborn constitutional defect or arose from the desire to gain material advantages, such as pensions [ 76 ]: , With his mother, Max then moved to Znojmo, a town annexed from Czechoslovakia after the Munich Agreement, from where he was expelled along with the German-speaking population in In August , Asperger wrote an expert opinion for the Juvenile Criminal Court on Max, who was accused of a series of thefts.
As in other countries, the Austrian public has over the last years been confronted with a wave of revelations on the violence, abuse, and neglect pervading institutions set up to protect children from precisely such conditions [ 74 , 97 — ]. The same is true for children with disabilities, who were often kept in asylum-type institutions where they were denied rehabilitation or therapy and exposed to severe hospitalism [ , ]. While there is no evidence that Asperger actively supported Nazism before , there was a common ideological ground, as he himself acknowledged after the war. After the Anschluss, like many Austrians who had not actively participated in the Nazi movement during the time it was banned — , Asperger tried to acquire political credentials by joining a number of organizations affiliated with the Nazi Party.
Overall, during the years of the Nazi regime, Asperger managed to extend his professional activities beyond his university position, mostly within the Vienna municipal administration and the juvenile court system. The exclusion of Jewish doctors, psychologists, and pedagogues from their professions opened new opportunities for those in the field who were not affected by anti-Jewish legislation or political persecution.
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Apart from some initial reservations due to his Catholic orientation, there is no evidence that the Nazi authorities considered Asperger an opponent of their race hygiene agenda or to their policies more generally or that he ever faced reprisals such as the alleged attempts by the Gestapo to arrest him.
At the same time, his relationships with Jewish colleagues indicate that he separated the anti-Semitic prejudices pervading the social and political spheres in which he was moving from his personal relations—not an uncommon phenomenon in the history of anti-Semitism. Given that Asperger used the same arguments after the war, there is no indication that the utilitarian logic of social worth he used to advocate for his patients—children considered difficult but who sometimes had normal or even above-average intellectual abilities—was merely a rhetorical strategy.
Just as with other diagnoses, everything depended on where they fell on the spectrum of intellectual and other abilities. Despite his advocacy, Asperger left the decisive question unanswered: What should happen with those who could not be helped by pedagogic, therapeutic, or medical means? On the other hand, he appears to have been less inclined to directly invoke the possibility of hereditary defects, which could have justified interventions such as forced sterilization.
The case records from his ward contain very few references to the sterilization program or other race hygiene measures, suggesting that he was reluctant to report his patients to the authorities for these specific purposes. However, the fact that in some cases he did provide information to the authorities tasked with the implementation of race hygiene suggests that he did not fundamentally oppose these policies. There is no evidence that Asperger deviated from the official position of the Nazi state on sterilization, which in this case had decided—at least in principle, and more so in Austria than in Germany—to institute mechanisms of due process for its implementation.
In this unwillingness to deal with the past, he was typical of large segments of Austrian post-war society. My special thanks go to Prof. Ernst Berger, Prof. Wolfgang Neugebauer, Prof. William Seidelman, John Donvan, Caren Zucker, and the three anonymous reviewers for Molecular Autism who read the draft manuscript and provided invaluable comments and helpful information. Arnold Pollak as director of the Vienna Pediatric University Clinic supported my research in its early stages and provided me with the opportunity to present the first results to a wider audience in I also thank the Vienna Municipal and Provincial Archives, as well as all the other archives that provided the source materials used in this paper.
Regarding the illustrations used in this article, Figs. In the case of Fig. Herwig Czech is the sole author. The author read and approved the final manuscript. Not applicable. All documents cited are held in public archives and can be published according to the pertinent Austrian legislation. Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. However, there is no indication that it differed substantially from the paper.
The volume has a notation on the back cover that the copy was indeed received in He had contacted me after discovering my work via reports in Austrian media [ ]. To his credit, Silberman quotes the new evidence against Asperger in the recent editions of his book. The files were found at the pediatric clinic and transferred to the archive in [ 77 ].
Medical Center, Kansas City. In his interview, Asperger described how the Bund influenced his experience of puberty, which also points to the early s. Overall, his account of the Bund was a-political. This state of affairs had to be ended in a quick and radical way. Since membership was obligatory for public employees, however, this is not a reliable indicator of political sympathies. Cited in [ 10 ] The translation is quoted from [ 20 ]: I will not forget this! As far as can be inferred from the written record, Hamburger after never used this alleged episode in his defense, although he faced considerable pressure due to his Nazi past.
IVb 3. Johann, signature illegible. Wolfgang Neugebauer, one of the leading historians of National Socialism in Austria, considers the Gestapo episode a complete fabrication personal correspondence with the author, 2 December In all of Austria no numbers available for Vienna only , a further 8. Marchet to Dekanat, 17 November and 15 April Cited in [ 10 ]: According to Austrian data protection laws, in many cases such as documents from public archives , full names can only be published if the person in question is confirmed dead.
Ivo P. B5, Standesprotokoll Jekelius was drafted into the army and sent to the front. After the war, Jekelius was arrested and put on trial by the Soviets. He died in a Moscow prison in For more details on Jekelius, see [ 13 ]. Nevertheless, in many psychiatric hospitals, patients continued to be killed until by means of starvation, neglect, and frequently also by more direct means such as poisoning or electric shock [ 80 , ]. August bis 4. September in Wien stattfindenden Conti hanged himself in in a prison cell in Nuremberg.
For the proceedings of the Vienna conference, see [ 72 ]. B prov. Due to his Jewish background, Heller became an early victim of Nazi persecution after the Anschluss. He died in December , months after a suicide attempt he never recovered from. His wife and daughter were later deported and killed in Riga [ ].
Franz Hamburger, Referaterstattung zur Habilitationsarbeit des Dr. Hans Asperger, 28 December A7, Parville to Vellguth et al. For details on this so-called erbbiologische Bestandsaufnahme hereditary inventory , see [ ]. I , S. Overall, files pertaining to out of a total of victims have been preserved. The human remains were buried in in Vienna cf. Kinderklinik Wien, 27 October , Dr. Illing, 22 October , cited in [ ]: In a sample of 76 files concerning children who died at Spiegelgrund or, in a few cases, at Gugging, 21 contain correspondence with parents.
A6, index card Friedrich K. Psychologisches Gutachten, 11 June , signed Igor Caruso. After , Caruso — rose to prominence in Austria as the founder of his own psychoanalytical school. His involvement at Spiegelgrund became the subject of heated debate following a publication in which the topic was raised for the first time [ ]. After , Heinrich Gross — became one of the most prominent psychiatrists in Austria, partly thanks to the scientific exploitation of the brain specimens obtained from the children killed at Spiegelgrund [ 85 ]—4.
Hans Asperger, 28 July On the denazification of the medical profession in Austria, see [ ]. The author wishes to thank Thomas Mayer for the reference to this passage. It served to deny benefits to war veterans who suffered from what today would be called PTSD. After World War II, the concept was often turned against survivors of Nazi medical experiments, concentration camps, and ghettoes, again by denying a causal link between experiences of persecution and long-term effects on mental health [ ]: A paper that Asperger published in with his colleague Heribert Goll demonstrates to what extent Asperger thought that inborn if not necessarily hereditary characteristics determined personality traits in later life.
The article was published in the journal Der Erbarzt , edited by leading race hygienist Otmar von Verschuer — [ ]. I thank Gertrude Czipke for these documents. There is no indication that Max actually suffered from epilepsy. His paternalistic approach, focus on segregation, use of non-approved drugs, and support for sterilization remain controversial [ , ]. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Journal List Mol Autism v.
Mol Autism. Published online Apr Herwig Czech. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Corresponding author. Received Feb 28; Accepted Mar This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Associated Data Data Availability Statement All the referenced archival documents are available at the public archives cited. Results Asperger managed to accommodate himself to the Nazi regime and was rewarded for his affirmations of loyalty with career opportunities.
Background Despite the international prominence of Hans Asperger Fig. Open in a separate window. The only known source for this claim is Asperger himself, who mentioned the incident in at his inauguration as the Vienna chair of pediatrics [ 48 ] and in the above-cited interview: It is totally inhuman—as we saw with dreadful consequences—when people accept the concept of a worthless life.
One of the most significant passages in this regard is contained in his paper on autism: We think that such individuals have their own place in the organism of the social community, which they fully occupy, some of them maybe in ways nobody else could. This is in line with his speech, in which he also expressed his determination to side with his patients: But let me discuss this problem today not from the standpoint of the Volk as a totality—in this case one would have to primarily focus on the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring—but from the standpoint of the abnormal children.
Instead, this is what Jekelius had to say about Asperger and his therapeutic approach: At this opportunity, I would like to remind you of the substantial lecture on therapeutic pedagogy which our Dr. Asperger briefly mentioned his war experiences in his interview: […] I was in the war, I was deployed in Croatia in the anti-partisan war… I would not like to miss any of these experiences. Acknowledgements My special thanks go to Prof. Availability of data and materials All the referenced archival documents are available at the public archives cited.
Ethics approval and consent to participate Not applicable. Consent for publication Not applicable. Competing interests The author declares that he has no competing interests. References 1. Asperger H. Das psychisch abnorme Kind. Wien Klin Wochenschr. Arch Psychiatr Nervenkr. Austrian Broadcasting Corporation. Geschichten und Geschichte. Autobiographische Aussagen von Hans Asperger. Accessed 28 March Hubenstorf M. In: Widhalm K, Pollak A, editors. Wing L. Psychol Med. Frith U. Asperger and his syndrome. In: Frith U, editor. Autism and asperger syndrome.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Translated and annotated by Uta Frith. Autism and Asperger syndrome. Schirmer B. Die neue Sonderschule. Asperger Felder M. In: Castell R, editor. Hundert Jahre Kinder- und Jugendpsychiatrie. Biografien und Autobiografien. Kondziella D. Thirty neurological eponyms associated with the Nazi era.
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Friedmann I. Austrofaschismus, Nationalsozialismus und die Folgen. Vienna: Facultas; Medizinische Fachgesellschaften im Nationalsozialismus. Bestandsaufnahme und Perspektiven. Berlin: LIT Verlag; Lyons V, Fitzgerald M. Did Hans Asperger — have Asperger syndrome? J Autism Dev Disord. Feinstein A. A history of autism: conversations with the pioneers. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell; Silberman S. The legacy of autism and the future of neurodiversity. New York: Avery; Asperger — and Kanner — , the two pioneers of autism. Fitzgerald M. New York: Informa Healthcare; Donvan J, Zucker C.
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