Hans Asperger and neurodiversity

As soon as the Nazis annexed Austria, paediatrician Hans Asperger ingratiated himself to them. He praised their doctrines, joined their organisations, and created the autism diagnosis to capture those who did not conform to their regime. Within two years he was central to Austria’s experiments on and murders of disabled children. And yet, not only was he allowed to continue practicing, but for decades he was venerated as a saviour of disabled people under Nazism. This paper explores the conditions that made this possible, and their continuing relevance to autistic people in particular, and disabled people in general.

Amanda Tink is a PhD candidate at Western Sydney University’s Writing and Society Research Centre, researching Australian disabled authors and the Nazi genocide of disabled people. Her chapter ‘“If You’re Different Are You the Same?”: The Nazi Genocide of Disabled People and Les Murray’s Fredy Neptune’ appeared in Genocide Perspectives IV, and was shortlisted for the nonfiction category of the 2021 Woollahra Digital Literary Award. With Jessica White, she recently co-edited a special issue of Australian Literary Studies titled ‘Writing Disability in Australia’.