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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 Hardcover – September 10, 2013

4.3 out of 5 stars 70 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Ace reportage on the unique relationship between a prison physician and one of the Third Reich’s highest ranking officials…. El-Hai’s gripping account turns a chilling page in American history and provides an unsettling meditation on the machinations of evil.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Journalist El-Hai’s haunting historical account raises questions about the human capacity to cause harm.... In this thoroughly engaging story of the jocular master war criminal and the driven, self-aware psychiatrist, El-Hai finds no simple binary."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Well researched and well written”—Library Journal

"Jack El-Hai’s biography of Army psychiatrist Douglas Kelley provides a riveting look at the top Nazis awaiting trial — and reveals the dangerous power of intimacy with evil."—Minneapolis Star Tribune

"If you liked Eichmann in Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt, try The Nazi and the Psychiatrist by Jack El-Hai."—Psychology Today

"With full access to Kelley’s notes on Nazi psychology, El-Hai infuses his story with the messy, compelling details of people’s lives. These tug the reader inside Kelley’s head for an engrossing exploration of human nature, sanity and despair."—Science News

"This intimate and insightful portrait of two intersecting, outsized personalities—one an exemplar of public service and the other an avatar of evil—is as suspenseful as a classic Hitchcock film that hinges on an eerie psychological secret. Readers of The Nazi and the Psychiatrist will be riveted by Jack El-Hai’s moving study of how good and evil can converge in a heightened instant and across a lifetime.” — Andrew Solomon, National Book Award-winning author of Far From the Tree

“In the chilling tale of Dr. Douglas Kelley, a young U.S. Army psychiatrist and his secret evaluations of Nazi leader Hermann Göring, Jack El-Hai weaves a harrowing narrative that brilliantly probes the depths of evil… [A]n utterly fascinating book.” — Gilbert King, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Devil in the Grove

"In this little known and completely gripping story of the American psychiatrist sent to analyze Nazi leaders following their World War II capture, Jack El-Hai tells of an encounter both scientific and deeply haunting. But more than that, he tells the story of efforts to understand evil—in its most chilling human incarnation—and to overcome it in the pursuit of our better selves.” — Deborah Blum, author of The Poisoner’s Handbook

About the Author

Jack El-Hai is a widely-published journalist who covers history, medicine, and science, and the author of the acclaimed book The Lobotomist. He is the winner of the June Roth Memorial Award for Medical Journalism, as well as fellowships and grants from the McKnight Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, and the Center for Arts Criticism. He lives in Minneapolis.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (September 10, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 161039156X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610391566
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #783,033 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Maine Colonial TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover
For more than seven decades, we've been trying to understand the nature of the Nazi mind. Was there something uniquely psychopathic about them, or could their horrors be wreaked by any country's leaders and citizens?

One of the first people to get an opportunity to try to answer this question was Captain Douglas M. Kelley, a 32-year-old psychiatrist in the U.S. Army medical service, who was assigned to attend to the 22 top Nazi defendants being held in Nüremberg, Germany, in the months before their trial began for crimes against humanity. Kelley spent long hours talking to the defendants and administering what were then relatively new psychiatric tests, like Rorschach ink blot testing and Thematic Apperception Tests.

Among the Nazi bigwigs Kelley was responsible for, the top patient was Hermann Göring, former head of the Luftwaffe and Hitler's one-time designated successor. Göring's huge personality and appetites were like a tractor beam for Kelley. He was charming, intelligent and quick-witted, but it soon became clear that he had no regard for anyone outside his small circle of family and close friends.

As the book description tells us, Göring managed to kill himself with a cyanide capsule in his cell the night before he was scheduled to be hanged. Twelve years later, Kelley also killed himself with cyanide, after a long slide into emotional illness and alcoholism. The book description concludes that Kelley's suicide shows "the insidious impact of the Göring-Kelley relationship, providing a cautionary tale about the dangers of coming too close to evil."

I think the book description is misleading.
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Format: Hardcover
When I was first offered an advanced copy of this book I envisioned Hermann Goring sitting opposite an American Doctor in a wooden chair that squeaked under his weight as he explained the horrors and atrocities he committed over the span of the second world war. I also envisioned a dramatic, bite-your-nails suspense story as the two men jousted back and forth for the truth. After reading the book and not finding this kind of presentation I should be a little disappointed, but I'm not, in any way. For me this book was not a dual of sorts, but rather a fly on the wall look at historical events as they happened.

Author Jack El-Hai paints a picture of events directly after the fall of the German Fuhrer himself, and as the story continues El-Hai tells how both sides continue their lives from both sides of the prison cell door. Told brilliantly, the book spells out every detail to the events that happened before, during, and after the tribunals. The reader becomes intimately familiar with each party involved, and is exposed to their brilliant minds and sadistic tendencies.

By the end of the book I felt as if I knew each character far more than any history book could have done. The story is both informative and entertaining. Even though the book is very heavy in parts with historical information, it also reads very well. The facts presented are done so in a manner that sucks the reader in and exposes them to a part of history not soon forgotten.

Well written and well told story.

*I received this book in ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Format: Hardcover
Dr. Douglas M. Kelley, who served as a psychiatrist for the U.S. Army in World War II, received an order to be the lead psychiatrist and work with the high level Nazis being detained for trial at Nuremberg after the war. He saw it as an opportunity to try to discern if there was there a common flaw among the Nazi leaders? "We must learn they why of the Nazi success so we can take steps to prevent the recurrence of such evil." "What made these men criminals?" "Were they born with evil tendencies?" "Did they share psychiatric disorders?" "The trial and it run-up served as fascinating laboratories for the study of group dynamics of aggression, criminal motivation, defense mechanisms of the guilty, depression, and the response of deviant personalities to the judicial process."
His conclusions are as relevant in the United States today, in 2013, as they were in 1947.
Hermann Göring, President of the Reichstag, Hitler's deputy, Prime Minister of Prussia, Reich Minister of Aviation and Commander in Chief of the Luttwaffe, Minister of Economics, member of the Secret Cabinet Council, director of the Hermann Göring Works manufacturing combine, field marshal, chairman of the Reich Council for National Defense, Reich Forestry and Hunting Master, and Reichsmarshall, was the highest ranking Nazi in detention. After seeing the films taken when the concentration camps were liberated, he stated he didn't know the extent of the atrocities committed against the victims and thought it was enemy propaganda. Until that point, he wanted all co-defendants to "defend themselves, be proud of their actions, and accept the punishment of the victors as a unified group.
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