Edith Sheffer joined the History Department faculty in 2010, having come to Stanford as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in the Humanities in 2008. Her first book, Burned Bridge: How East and West Germans Made the Iron Curtain (Oxford University Press, 2011), challenges the moral myth of the Berlin Wall, the Cold War’s central symbol. It reveals how the barrier between East and West did not simply arise overnight from communism in Berlin in 1961, but that a longer, lethal 1,393 kilometer fence had been developing haphazardly between the two Germanys since 1945.
Her current book, Soulless Children of the Reich: Hans Asperger and the Nazi Origins of Autism, investigates Hans Asperger’s creation of the autism diagnosis in Nazi Vienna, examining Nazi psychiatry's emphasis on social spirit and Asperger's involvement in the euthanasia program that murdered disabled children. A related project through Stanford's Spatial History Lab, "Forming Selves: The Creation of Child Psychiatry from Red Vienna to the Third Reich and Abroad," maps the transnational development of child psychiatry as a discipline, tracing linkages among its pioneers in Vienna in the 1930s through their emigration from the Third Reich and establishment of different practices in the 1940s in England and the United States. Sheffer's next book project, Hidden Front: Switzerland and World War Two, tells an in-depth history of a nation whose pivotal role remains unexposed--yet was decisive in the course of the Second World War.