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
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.
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.
There are plans to make this into a movie already, read more about it: http://screenrant.com/nazi-psychiatrist-movie-book/
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