A compelling picture of the evils of the Nazi regime and of the perversion of Nazi psychiatry.




The reputation of child psychiatrist Hans Asperger (1906-1980) comes under close scrutiny in this chilling and well-documented account of how the political and social values of Nazi psychiatry determined the fates of supposedly inferior children.

Sheffer (Modern European History/Stanford Univ.; Burned Bridge: How East and West Germany Made the Iron Curtain, 2011) reveals how the Nazi regime categorized children and examines Asperger’s role in its killing system. In its first conference in 1940 in Vienna, the German Society for Child Psychiatry and Curative Education established the doctrine of eugenicist selection and “the grandiose experiment of Nazi child psychiatry as a distinct field.” Experts would differentiate between children who were valuable to society and who, in the words of Paul Schröder, “the Reich’s ‘father’ of child psychiatry,” were “mostly worthless and ineducable.” Asperger, present at the convention, endorsed this doctrine and became director of the Curative Education Clinic at the University of Vienna Hospital, where, as a medical consultant for the Nazi administration, he assessed children. On numerous occasions—likely hundreds of times—he recommended transfer to Spiegelgrund, the clinic in Vienna where “inferior” children were killed under the state’s euthanasia program. Sheffer’s research demonstrates how Asperger’s diagnoses emerged from the values of the Nazi regime, and her account is filled with revealing notes from Asperger’s clinic and disturbing stories of the experiences of children who survived Spiegelgrund. The author examines Asperger’s writings and his career after the war, when he claimed that he was a resister of Nazism. She reports that he has been viewed in various ways: as “a resister who rescued children, as a determined perpetrator, or as a passive follower.” Her own conclusion—that he was a conscious participant—is persuasive.

A compelling picture of the evils of the Nazi regime and of the perversion of Nazi psychiatry.

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-393-60964-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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