The Psychologist: “The aftermath of the Hans Asperger exposé”

AHP readers may be interested in a piece in the September 2020 issue of the British Psychological Society’s The Psychologist magazine, “The aftermath of the Hans Asperger exposé” by Rabbi David Ariel Sher. As Sher writes,

Perhaps the most shocking discovery Czech shared on that day was a medical note from Spiegelgrund hospital concerning a two-year-old girl named Herta Schreiber. Am Spiegelgrund was founded in the summer of 1940 on the grounds of the Steinhof Hospital in Vienna. It was led by Erwin Jekelius, a former colleague of Asperger and a leading figure of the Nazi ‘euthanasia’ programme. It was here that children who did not meet the Nazi criteria of ‘racial purity’ and ‘hereditary worthiness’ were sent. Almost 800 children were killed at Spiegelgrund between 1940-1945, many by poisoning or through the administration of barbiturates over a period of time; the cause of the children’s death was listed as ‘pneumonia’ on documentation.

On 27 June 1941, Asperger assessed Herta at his clinic. In brief notes he wrote that ‘At home the child must be an unbearable burden to her mother, who has to care for five healthy children.’ Using the euphemistic language characteristic of German state documents of the period, Asperger wrote; ‘Permanent placement at Spiegelgrund seems absolutely necessary.’ A few days later, on 1 July, Herta was admitted to Spiegelgrund and on 2 September, a day after her third birthday, Herta died of ‘pneumonia’, the cause of death regularly induced at Spiegelgrund. Herta was not even afforded dignity in death; her brain was preserved and used for research alongside hundreds of organs of other Spiegelgrund victims. The hospital only released these for burial in 2002.

The full piece can be read online here.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.