Book Review: The Nazi and the Psychiatrist by Jack El-Hai

October 17, 2013

About:
The Nazi and the Psychiatrist: Hermann Göring, Dr. Douglas M. Kelley, and a Fatal Meeting of Minds at the End of WWII by Jack El-Hai is a non-fiction book about the doctor and his interaction with the war criminals.

  • 304 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; First Edition edition (September 10, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 161039156X

Book Review The Nazi and the Psychiatrist Hermann Goring Dr Douglas M Kelley and a Fatal Meeting of Minds at the End of WWII by Jack El-Hai

My rat­ing for The Nazi and the Psychiatrist4

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Thoughts:
The Nazi and the Psychiatrist: Hermann Göring, Dr. Douglas M. Kelley, and a Fatal Meeting of Minds at the End of WWII by Jack El-Hai is not the book I thought it would be. In my head I was imagining Göring on the proverbial couch, or sitting across from Dr. Kelley engaging in war of the minds. What I got was a study by Dr. Kelley of what is considered evil using the Nuremberg trials as a laboratory.

Dr. Kelley jumped on the opportunity to diagnose the Nazi mindset, to find out what made these people tick, how could they murder millions (including their own people), what was their defense mechanisms and justifications that allowed them to live without guilt or remorse.
Interesting questions indeed!

Göring, the highest ranking Nazi being tried, was convinced that he will be set free, arriving to his incarnation with16 suitcases, one filled with valuables. As a former head of state he figured that the trial was just victors’ propaganda. When confronted with evidence of concentration camps and Nazi murders he claimed that he didn’t know what was happening.

Dr. Kelley admits that Göring is a charismatic personality and the two got along very well. Along with Göring, the book also talks a lot about Hess who is presented as an unstable person who might, or might not, be able to stand trial.

The book also talks a great deal about the Rorschach tests and Dr. Kelley’s interpretation of the prisoners’ answers and extrapolated their meanings. Since Dr. Kelley worked through an interpreter, the results of the tests were still being evaluated half a century later.

Upon his return to the US Dr. Kelley settled into a family life and became a noted psychiatrist specializing in forensics. Dr. Kelley taught at top schools, researched and worked with police all over the country. In an ironic twist, Dr. Kelley was caught in his own nightmarish existence (by his own making) and committed suicide the same way Göring did before him.

The conclusions Dr. Kelly made are frightening and still relevant to this day. In his writings, Dr. Kelley stated that there was nothing “special” about these top Nazis and their personalities,  what happened during Germany’s Third Reich could happen in any country.

While I found the premise of the book to be fascinating, I didn’t feel the narrative came together once the Nuremberg trials were over. This book could is actually more of a biography of Dr. Kelley than his interaction with his infamous clients.

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Dis­claimer: I got this book for free.
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4 Comments

  • Anna October 17, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    The psychology of it all really is fascinating, so I will keep an eye out for this book. I have Gitta Sereny’s Into That Darkness set aside to read soon (hopefully) and that’s supposed to be a psychological examination of the commandant of Treblinka. Thanks for bringing this one to my attention.

  • Sharon Henning October 17, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    This is a fascinating book. It’s interesting how people identify and explain (or even justify) evil. I also believe that what happened in Germany could happen anywhere, including here. Education and technology doesn’t deliver people from barbarism, it only makes them more sophisticated in their approach.
    Thanks for reviewing this book.

  • Laurie C October 18, 2013 at 7:08 am

    You’ve gotten me curious about what happens to Dr. Kelly after he gets back to the U.S.!

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