Tag Archives: World War Two

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

A new book  on Hans Asperger will interest AHP readers: Asperger’s Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna by Edith Sheffer. As described on the publisher’s site:

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.

 

Seminar Series @ Oxford History of Medicine Wellcome Unit

The Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine‘s current series of seminars is on “Medicine & Modern Warfare.” Two talks may be of particular interest to the AHP community:

April 27:                                                                                                                                                                  ‘Culture, politics or biology? How does American PTSD relate to European war trauma?’        Speaker: Ben Shephard, Bristol.

June 8:                                                                                                                                                                            ‘“It would frighten you to see the people sent to this place”: Why did the emotional and nervous states of women factory workers provoke such concern in Britain in the Second World War?’                                                                                                                                                               Speaker: Hazel Croft, University of London

Find the full lineup of dates here.

25 Years of History of Psychiatry & A New Issue

The journal History of Psychiatry is celebrating its 25th anniversary. A special issue marking the occasion has just been released. Among the articles in the issue are ones addressing the history of nostalgia, the treatment of shell shock at the Maudsley Hospital, masculinity in Victorian asylums in New Zealand and Australian, the distinction between passion and emotion, and much more. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

Editorial: “The first 25 years of History of Psychiatry,” by German E Berrios.

“Some reflections on madness and culture in the post-war world,” by Andrew Scull. The abstract reads,

This article examines the treatment of madness as a theme in drama, opera and films, concentrating its attention for the most part on the period between World War II and the 1980s. These were the years in which psychoanalysis dominated psychiatry in the USA, and so Freud’s influence in the broader culture forms the central though not the sole focus of the analysis.

“Nostalgia: A conceptual history,” by Filiberto Fuentenebro de Diego and Carmen Valiente Ots. The abstract reads, Continue reading 25 Years of History of Psychiatry & A New Issue

APA Monitor: The Psychology of Hunger

The October 2013 issue of the American Psychological Association‘s Monitor on Psychology is now online. This month’s Time Capsule section features an article by David Baker and Natacha Keramidas on the Minnesota Starvation Experiment: “The Psychology of Hunger.”

In the 1940s, at the height of World War Two, researchers at the University of Minnesota recruited 36 young men to participate in a nearly year long study of the physical and psychological effects of starvation. Over the course of the study the men were charged with losing 25 percent of their normal body weight. The hope was that the findings of such research could be used in war related relief efforts. Needless to say, participation in this study was difficult. As Baker and Keramidas describe,

 

During the semi-starvation phase the changes were dramatic. Beyond the gaunt appearance of the men, there were significant decreases in their strength and stamina, body temperature, heart rate and sex drive. The psychological effects were significant as well. Hunger made the men obsessed with food. They would dream and fantasize about food, read and talk about food and savor the two meals a day they were given. They reported fatigue, irritability, depression and apathy. Interestingly, the men also reported decreases in mental ability, although mental testing of the men did not support this belief.

For some men, the study proved too difficult. Data from three subjects were excluded as a result of their breaking the diet and a fourth was excluded for not meeting expected weight loss goals.

The men and the study became subjects of national interest, even appearing in Life magazine in 1945. But in some ways, world events overtook the study. The war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945, barely halfway through the starvation phase of the experiment. Keys and the men worried that the data they had sacrificed for would not get to relief workers and the starving people they wished to serve in time to help them. Relief efforts were underway and there was no clear guide for rehabilitating those who were starving.

The article can be read in full here.

David Boder’s Interviews w/ Holocaust Survivors

In the mid-1940s, in the aftermath of World War II, psychologist David Boder (left) undertook a series of interviews with survivors of the Holocaust, a project that ultimately resulted in over 90 hours of audio recordings. Boder himself published exerts from these interviews, alongside his analysis, in the 1949 book I Did Not Interview the Dead.

Boder’s work is now the basis of a digital archive, Voices of the Holocaust. The project aims “to provide a permanent digital archive of digitized, restored, transcribed, and translated interviews with Holocaust survivors conducted by Dr. David P. Boder in 1946, so that they can be experienced by a global audience of students, researchers, historians, and the general public.” To this end both audio and transcriptions of his interviews can be found on the site.

The Voices of the Holocaust website also features a biography of Boder, which includes discussion of how he came to undertake this project and what the interviews themselves involved. As the site describes,

Arriving in Paris in late July, Boder would spend the next two months interviewing 130 displaced persons in nine languages and recording them on a state-of-the-art wire recorder. The interviews were among the earliest (if not the earliest) audio recordings of Holocaust survivors. They are today the earliest extant recordings, valuable not only for the testimonies of survivors and other DPs, but also for the song sessions and religious services that Boder recorded at various points during the expedition.

…. Boder left Europe in early October, having recorded over ninety hours of material and completely used up the two hundred spools of wire that he had brought with him.

Most of the interviews were conducted with Eastern European Jews, and of these the majority were from Poland. Yet Boder was keen on speaking to many different kinds of groups: Western European Jews (including six Greek Jews that did not fit neatly in either category) number close to twenty. His interviewees thus covered the extreme ends of the spectrum of modern Jewish experience, from passionately Torah-observant Jews who hailed from great yeshiva centers in Lithuania, to assimilated German Jews married to non-Jewish spouses. Most, however, fell somewhere in between. When it came to war time experience, the greater part—whether Eastern or Western, Hungarian or Greek—had ended up in labor or concentration camps. The terrible rigors were what Boder believed his American audience needed an education about: “We know very little in America about the things that happened to you people who were in concentration camps,” was how Boder would orient his narrator to the task and purpose of the interview. But such a mandate did not stop Boder from interviewing over twenty Jews who had not been in the camps. Their stories—of enduring the privation of ghettos, of hiding in woods or on farms, of fleeing to or fighting for Russia—presumably qualified as the “not unusual stories” that Boder said he was seeking and could similarly perform the task of educating an audience across the ocean.

Tip ‘o the hat to the Center for the History of Psychology’s Facebook page for bringing this resource to our attention. Included in the Center’s collections is the Peirce Wire Recorder Boder used in his interviews.