A new study has concluded Hans Asperger, the Austrian pediatrician for whom a form of autism is named, collaborated with the Nazis and actively assisted in the killing of disabled children.
The study, published in the journal Molecular Autism, and written by medical historian Herwig Czech, reports on eight years of research that included previously unseen Nazi-era documents, The New York Times reported.
Czech concluded, even though Asperger was not a member of the Nazi party, he participated in the Third Reich's child-euthanasia program that killed hundreds of children considered untrainable and a burden on society.
The deaths were carried out at Am Spiegelgrund clinic in Vienna from 1940 to 1945.
"The picture that emerges is that of a man who managed to further his career under the Nazi regime, despite his apparent political and ideological distance from it," Czech wrote.
Reaction on social media was swift.
"My overriding feeling is one of anger, that I thought Hans Asperger was someone who tried to protect and save children who were just like me," one Twitter poster wrote. "Instead, it appears he was part of the Nazi machine that intended to exterminate us."
The editors of Molecular Autism said they believed Asperger was guilty of the accusations against him.
"We are aware that the article will be controversial," Simon Baron-Cohen, a co-editor of the journal, said in a statement, The New York Times reported.
"We believe that it deserves to be published in order to expose the truth about how a medical doctor who was seen as only having made valuable contributions to the field of pediatrics and child psychiatry was guilty of actively assisting the Nazis in their abhorrent eugenics and euthanasia policies."
"This historical evidence must now be made available," he added.
Asperger, who died in 1980, was a pioneer of autism research and is best known for shaping the understanding of the developmental disorder that came to be known as Asperger syndrome.
The study comes as a new book on the subject, "Asperger's Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna," by Edith Sheffer, hits bookshelves in May.
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