The Nazi and the Psychiatrist

The Nazi and the Psychiatrist

Hermann Göring, Dr. Douglas M. Kelley, and A Fatal Meeting of Minds at the End of WWII

Book - 2013
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Publisher: New York : PublicAffairs, c2013
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781610391566
Branch Call Number: 341.6902 ElHa
Characteristics: x, 281 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm


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Sep 07, 2019

In 1970 I entered the PhD program in Clinical Psychology at the University of Minnesota - the then bastion of dustbowl empiricism. If you could not test it, it did not exist. So I was taught to administer and score and TAT ( Thematic Apperception Test ), the Rorschach, and of course the MMPI ( developed at the U of M - beginning in the 1930's - manual published 1942 ) I mention the latter because it was developed completely on an statistically based data, not upon what a clinician might expect an individual with the diagnosis of paranoia to answer. Through my experiences I am skeptical about the validity of the Rorschach and TAT as "the diagnostic tools" of the Nuremberg subjects. After reading 20 books about the "scoring" of the Rorschach I found out in actual practice clinicians did not score the test on dozens of empirical scales, but instead interpreted the test on the basis of "experience". Hence tests like the Rorschach and TAT were only as diagnostic as the skill of the administrator. At the ripe old age of 21 I was sent into locked wards to determine whether murderers were "legally sane" to stand trial. I administered said Rorschach and TAT, but found them far inferior to the MMPI. This background is why I was particularly interested in the "psychiatric assessment" of the Nazis for the Nuremberg trial. ***** Review: First of all this book should have been titled "The Psychiatrist and the Nazis" because you learn far more about the examiner, Dr. Douglas M. Kelley than you do about any Nazi, even Goring. Kelley found the Nazis to be basically "normal" individuals, perhaps with a neurosis here and there. Not once did the idea of psychopathic personality disorder enter his diagnosis ( Another psychiatrist, Dr. Gilbert, clearly saw narcissistic / psychopathic tendencies.) By the end of the book I decided that the reason Dr. Kelley and Goring got along so well was that they had many traits in common. Both were addicts ( Kelley an alcoholic ), both were largely devoid of empathy ( Kelly may have been more deficient within the family than Goring ), both were self-aggrandizing narcissists ( I know, redundant), both were sadists ( Kelley subjected his son to a regimen of experimentation that was clearly child abuse ), both stole with glee ( Goring raided jewels, homes, and art while Kelley stole the data collected on the Nuremberg defendants and other property of the military) . There is another amazing way in which Kelley mirrored Goring, but I don't want to spoil the ending. Several Nazis were neglected over Kelley's obsession with Goring. Hans Frank was appointed Governor-General of the occupied Polish territories from 1939 to the end of the war. He instituted a reign of terror against the civilian population and supervised the mass murder of Jews, and civilians and POW's through forced labour. The death toll at 4 concentration camps in his district total Polish Jews: 490,000 killed at Belzec; 60,000 at Sobibor; 800,000 at Treblinka; 78,000 victims at Majdanek. The death toll of ethnic Poles under the German occupation at 2,770,000. This man defines Nazi EVIL. Yet he is barely a footnote in the book. The goal of the studies at Nuremberg was to establish a Nazi personality that was different from "normal individuals". How do you find one personality among such diverse people as Admiral Karl Dönitz, Albert Speer, and Hans Frank? All swore oaths to Hitler, but they were a military man, an architect and later director of armaments ( forced labor deaths ) and an exterminator? One conclusion with which I heartily agree is that it does not require a nation of psychopaths to result in a fascist state. It can happen here. I recommend this book as the perfect storm of a "mentally damaged" man attempting to assess the minds of Nazis to whom he was emotionally drawn. Kristi & Abby Tabby

Aug 24, 2019

Sometimes books with a military/war theme can be a little dry but this was an exception. I especially liked how the writer captures the nuances of each Nazi captive's personality. Lots of tics and eccentricities that are fascinating. I also enjoyed the reactions of the American military service members that dealt day to day with their Nazi charges (and their Nazi egos!) A good read all the way through.

Mar 16, 2017

Following Germany's surrender at the end of World War II, American psychiatrist Douglas Kelley accepted a military assignment to become familiar with, study, and otherwise mentally examine the surviving high-ranking Nazi officials leading up to the Nuremberg Trials. His hope was to identify a common personality trait or defect which would assist in explaining their willing participation in the inhuman atrocities that took place.

Kelley's notes reveal fascinating and shocking insights into the psyches and motivations of these famous prisoners, including Göring, Hess, Rosenberg, Streicher, et al, in ways generally excluded from history textbooks. Several of the top officials, including Göring himself, admitted openly that they didn't even sincerely believe that Jews were inferior, but rather were merely a convenient means of inciting fear and anger among the rest of the German population.

A few passages of note, some chillingly relevant in today's political climate:
* Kelley: "I was more than casually interested as a psychiatrist to find in Rosenberg an individual who had developed a system of thought differing greatly from known fact, who absolutely refused to amend his theories, and who, moreover, firmly believed in the magic of the words in which he had expressed them."

* Hess had founded an alternative-medicine hospital that bore his name, "where the only requirement was that men practicing there could not be medical doctors," Kelley reported.

* The anti-Semitism of the Nazis stuck Göring as useful bait for potential adherents with gripes more emotionally rooted than the mere imposition of an offensive peace treaty.

* Kelley: "They are people who exist in every country of the world. Their personality patterns are not obscure. But they are people who have peculiar drives, people who want to be in power, and you say that they don't exist here, and I would say that I am quite certain that there are people even in America who would willingly climb over the corpses of half of the American public if they could gain control of the other half..."

Minnesota Book Award finalist, 2014

Dec 06, 2016

A very good fact laced narrative that follows a timeline. However, I do wish that the book had a little more structure.

This book focuses on an amazing subject, Kelley (The Psychiatrist), and how he handled his job working with (re: on) some of the most notorious men in the history of the world. Great subject and an even better job of compressing countless details into a readable book as the reader stands alongside Kelley in the Nuremberg prison.

bibliotechnocrat Dec 06, 2014

There is a curious and tantalizing connection between the deaths of Hermann Goring and Douglas Kelley (the American psychiatrist who evaluated the Nazi prisoners at Nuremberg), but the similarities are really more superficial than linear. This book is marketed - and even structured - to focus on the connection, but this is not the most interesting focus of the narrative. Instead, the glimpses at the banality of evil personified by the Nazi prisoners raise questions about who is capable of atrocity. Does it take a certain kind of personality mixed with mental illness? Could anyone find themselves engaged in incomprehensible evil? The psychiatrist's arrogance and profound lack of self-awareness, serve to underline this question.

lib_apart Oct 24, 2013

There are plans to make this into a movie already, read more about it:


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