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

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  • Posted October 25, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    The Nazi and the Psy­chi­a­trist: Her­mann Göring, Dr. Dou­glas

    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.

    This is a good book, but it 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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2013

    Brilliant and fast, fast read. El-Hai brings to life one of the

    Brilliant and fast, fast read. El-Hai brings to life one of the most important men from World War 2 that most of us have never even heard of, Dr. Douglas Kelly. His story is devastating, complex and completely gripping. It's perfect for history buffs, as well as fans of medical thrillers.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2014

    A fascinating and telling story of Dr. Douglas Kelly's interview

    A fascinating and telling story of Dr. Douglas Kelly's interviews and studies of the most infamous collection of war criminals ever. The lessons learned and the story told are as important today as they were after WWII. An outstanding read. I couldn't put it down.

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  • Posted August 9, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    A Great Read!

    I found this book difficult to put down. It is well written and flows easily in addition to being highly intriguing subject matter. Central to the book is the vying interpretations of the psychology of the minds of Nazi leaders yet this does not overwhelm the excellent story-telling from El-Hai.

    At times it is unclear whether this is a biography of Goring or Kelley or an academic contribution to the aforementioned debate. However, as one gets engrossed in the story, it hardly seems to matter that it doesn't necessarily have a defined goal beyond the storytelling itself.

    I would certainly recommend this to anyone interested in the history of WW2 or psychiatry in the 20th century. Overall, it is an enjoyable and fascinating read.

    *Disclosure - I received a free ARC copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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