The Nazi and the Psychiatrist: Hermann Goring, Dr. Douglas M. Kelley, and a Fatal Meeting of Minds at the End of WWII

Jack El-Hai. PublicAffairs, $27.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-61039-156-6
Journalist El-Hai’s (The Lobotomist) haunting historical account raises questions about the human capacity to cause harm. Focusing on two charismatic but delusional men—Goring, who was in captivity, and Kelley, his interlocutor, El-Hai presents an engrossing case study on the nature of evil. Kelley, an American psychiatrist overseeing the U.S. Army’s psychiatric services during World War II, was called upon to assess war criminals’ ability to stand trial. His true ambition was to understand whether shared personality traits drove the horrors of the Nazi regime, and took the opportunity to study his subjects—most of whom were high-ranking Nazi officers. He did so with indifference to their culpability and little intention of treating them. One of his primary subjects was Goring, the designated successor to Hitler. Kelley’s fascination with the human mind was perhaps as boundless as the delusional optimism of Goring, who believed his contributions to the Nazi Party would be celebrated and memorialized. In this thoroughly engaging story of the jocular master war criminal and the driven, self-aware psychiatrist, El-Hai finds no simple binary. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 10/21/2013
Release date: 09/01/2013
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