So anyway, I’ve been in email contact with John Elder Robison recently and have offered to translate a chapter out of a German book on Hans Asperger that was contributed by Austrian researcher Herwig Czech. I managed to order it from U.S. Amazon, through an American used bookseller, but it is taking quite some time to arrive so I’m kinda wondering if they had to acquire theirs through back channels overseas first. Who knows? Anyway, it’s making me fidget having to wait so long, and I’m annoyed at the contributor for not having the paper easily available online. Most of it can be gotten at for free via Google Books and some creative use of screen capture, but I want the full text, not an excerpt. The chapter in question is at the heart of a controversy about Asperger’s relationship to the NSDAP regime that seized power in Austria during his tenure at the the Kinderklinik. While I happen to still agree with Steve Silberman’s assessment that Hans Asperger’s wider conception of Autism was correct and Kanner’s was too narrow (with tragic consequences), the good doctor himself may not have gone through that time and place completely unscathed and untainted. I am eager to make Herr Czech’s work more widely available in English to a wider world, so at least it can be out there and debated, and we must follow the evidence where it leads. My gut impression is that Dr. Asperger may have made some morally gray “Sophie’s choice” type decisions, sacrificing some to save others (and himself). But I don’t want to say much until I have Herwig Czech’s printed work in my own hands to read and translate for myself. There is a newspaper interview and follow-up article in Die Wiener Zeitung that I could be translating in the meantime, but I want to hold off doing so until I have the primary source in hand first. There have also been follow up articles in English that again, I’m putting off for now until I have all the materials in front of me to work with. I hate the idea of going off half-cocked, as it were.
My initial exchanges with John Elder were a bit stumbling and awkward, and I’m afraid I may have left the impression that I’m a bit flaky, but I am committed to doing this project properly. I’m eager to put my German skills to good use in service of our community. I just hope John Elder hasn’t written me off quite yet as an unreliable flake or worse someone else has beaten me to the punch and gotten their hands on the book sooner than I managed. I had assumed (wrongly) that the essay in question was easily available online and cited in a prominent journal. When John Elder got back to me with the suggestion to just Google a certain string of keywords and have at it, I balked and asked for the specific citation, only to find he didn’t have it. Flustered, I did my own searching, and got in touch with Herwig Czech directly, and was able to determine from multiple sources that the essay exists only in offline printed form in the pages of that specific printed monograph, which Herr Czech confirmed himself. Anyway, it’s been a bit anxiety inducing having to sit on my hands and let this important project sit on hold while the used book makes its way to me seemingly via slow boat from Hamburg or wherever.
I’ve read online that Steve Silberman had also gotten in touch with Herr Czech directly, and that Herr Czech had rebuffed Silberman’s request for access to the archival material cited in his research. Rather bad form, if true. But in any case, I am hoping the essay also has a “works cited” page and references that I can also translate for others to track down, though of course if these include private manuscripts then the Austrians need to be persuaded to make them available digitally to the wider research community. I’ve been trying to bone up my German skills in the meantime, listening to German news podcasts and video podcasts (tape delay) of tv news from Germany.