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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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