The Nazi and the psychiartrist

10 Jul



• Author:  Jack El-Hai
• Genre:  History
• Title: The Nazi and the psychiatrist
• Published: 2013
• Table of Contents: 10 chapters,  223 pages
• Published:   Public Affairs Books
• Setting:  Nuremberg, Germany
• Themes:  Dr. Kelley’s  ambitions was to  examine the personality patterns of these men and the techniques they used to win and hold power.


In 1945, after his capture at the end of the Second World War, Hermann Göring arrived at an American-run detention center in war-torn Luxembourg, accompanied by sixteen suitcases and a red hatbox.  The suitcases contained all manner of paraphernalia:

  • medals, gems, two cigar cutters, silk underwear, a hot water bottle, and the equivalent of $1 million in cash hidden in a coffee can,
  • There was a set of brass vials housed glass capsules containing a clear liquid and a white precipitate: potassium cyanide.

Among the elite 52 senior Nazis were:


  1. To ensure that the villainous captives were fit for trial at Nuremberg (20 November 1945 and 1 October 1946),  the US army sent Captain Douglas M. Kelley, to supervise their mental well-being.
  2. Kelley  wanted to discover a distinguishing trait among these arch-criminals that would mark them as psychologically different from the rest of humanity.
  3. So began a remarkable relationship between Kelley and his captors.
  4. Jack El-Hai had  unique access to Kelley’s long-hidden papers and medical records.
  5. Kelley’s was a hazardous quest, dangerous because against all his expectations he began to appreciate and understand some of the Nazi captives, none more so than the former Reichsmarshall, Hermann Göring.
  6. Evil had its charms.


  • Owned a 5 pound ivory baton embossed with gold eagles and platinum crosses and embedded with 640 diamonds. it  was a gift from Hitler!
  • Luggage seized from Goring contained more than 20.000 pills.
  • Goring  was taking paracodeine as if they  were M&M’s!  When the stress of the war was too much for him, he took 160 pills a day, litteraly feeling no pain.
  • Goring beamed when the indictment  accused him of theft: 87 million bottles of champagne!


  • Tables in room where Nazis were held  could not support a man’s weight to prevent  suicide  hanging.
  • Albert Speer (Minister of War Production) and  Hans Frank (Governor of Occupied Poland)  were was the only Nazis who said ‘sorry’ at the Nuremberg Trials.
  • Andrus, commander of  Nuremberg jail,  feared the prospect of a prisoner grabbing a gun from a guard.During the Nuremberg Trials there were only TWO  persons carrying guns in the court room. The rest carried billy clubs.


  1. I have no idea where my fascination for all that is  WW II and Nazis  comes from.
  2. I’ve read  Ravensbruck  (G. Tillmon) and   HHhH  (L. Binet). Both were excellent books..
  3. Was there a ‘Nazi mental flaw” that caused the top twenty captives to participate in the monstrous deeds of the Third Reich? Was Nazism an illness?
  4. Without official sanction, Dr. Douglas Kelley was developing  a plan to explore the psychological recesses of the brains of the Nazi leaders!
  5. Strong point El-Hai’s style of writing. Setting is an important part of this book and  the author uses  descriptive words and phrases. Nothing was left to chance, spiral staircases enclosed with wire netting  to prevent suicides. In the prison “door slammed and heels thudded on the hard floors. Keys jangled. The very air feels imprisoned.” (pg 51)  
  6. El- Hai creates  strong sense of  atmosphere and makes the story come alive.
  7. Strong point: chapter 5:  Mental evaluations with the help of inkblot tests were documented. The charges laid at the Nazis’s  cell doors were extraordinary. Dr. Kelley noted each mans’s reactions when handed the indictments. Powerful.
  8. Reporters noted every detail of the prisoners actions in the court room at Nuremberg. Rebecca West reported for The New Yorker, John Dos Passos  for Harper’s and Life magazines.
  9. I’ve never read a more ‘up close and personal’  account  about the Nazi elite.
  10. Here were men who had terrified millions of people and now they were dying of fright.

Score: 5

 Hans Frank:  Governor of occupied Poland

  • “Don’t let everyone tell you that they had no idea.
  • Everyone sensed there was something wrong (death camps).
  • ….even if we did not know all the details. They didn’t want to know”. (pg 135)

The Class of  1945:



Jack El-Hai 



The author is so kind …..received a  twitter  message thanking me for the reveiw!




Posted by on July 10, 2014 in Uncategorized


10 responses to “The Nazi and the psychiartrist

  1. Ste J

    July 10, 2014 at 16:47

    I share your fascination with WWII but it never crossed my mind what with all the other events of that time, that there would be such a dialogue before the Nuremberg Trials. It is a fascinating subject for a book.

    The whole idea of any number of people perpetrating or causing the perpetration of such horrifying and downright disgusting acts is, I think a question that will always affect the human race..perhaps that is the source of fascination. If these people did it, is it within human nature for any of us to do so, in the same circumstances.

    The 87 million bottles of champagne, that is epic, just how that sum was calculated I would be most interested in.

    • N@ncy

      July 10, 2014 at 17:06

      Dr. D. Kelley gives an answer to your question in chapter 8 “The Nazi Mind” ! This book was a great history lesson. It gives the reader a rare glimpse how the prisioners were kept in Camp Ashcan in Luxembourg and the Nuremberg jail, You would be amazed what the nazis were able to hide in their cells. Two of the captives were even able to commit suicide. Next book….The Good Nazi, about Albert Speer.

      • Ste J

        July 10, 2014 at 17:14

        I will add this to the obscenely bloated to read list then and await the next with great interest. I find that the more incomprehensible and despicable a human act, the more humans seem drawn to reading about it.

        I read Hunting Eichmann which was interesting, especially as it detailed the Nazi’s who escaped to South America but I doubt my morbid fascination will ever run dry for these types of books.

  2. N@ncy

    July 10, 2014 at 17:18

    The one that got away….Joseph Mengele. Fled to South America, never captured and died in a freak swimming accident.

  3. SilverSeason

    July 11, 2014 at 14:18

    There is a memoir by Albert Speer (written in prison?) which I read years ago. He came across as intelligent, hard working, proud of what he accomplished, and not really very sorry.

    • N@ncy

      July 11, 2014 at 14:35

      I just ordered Eichmann in Jerusalem. My silver threads may be showing because I remember when he was captured! His name was scrawled on the bookbags of some daring elementary school boys! You can imagine what news Eichmann’s capture was, so much so to impress 11-12 year olds! Since living in The Netherlands I came across Pastorale 1943 about the Dutch resistance. Review is on the blog, book is not available in English. Albert Speer, The Good Nazi….want to read if it is possible…Good Nazi or if the title is meant to be ironic! Thank so much for your comments….

  4. james b chester

    July 15, 2014 at 17:41

    Interesting review. I was going to recommend Eichmann in Jerusalem. It’s not what you’re expecting, but it’s very good. Rebeccas Wests book is also excellent. I can’t recall the title. I think it’s in a book of her collected journalism paired with some essays about the southern U.S.

    As for why they all went along with it, I think Ionesco’s play Rhinocerous is the best statement on why people join groups. I’ve never read it, but I’ve seen five or six different productions and always seem to get more insight into human behavoir each time.

    • N@ncy

      July 15, 2014 at 18:05

      James, thanks so much for your comments and suggestions. I ordered Eichmann in Jerusalem just a few days ago,,,so I’m anixious ot see what that will be like. The Good Nazi ( about Albert Speer) is another book I want to read.

  5. TracyK

    July 19, 2014 at 07:16

    Nancy, I am also very interested in WW II and Nazis, although I stick more with the fictional side of those topics. I did read The Coming of the Third Reich by Richard J. Evans, but could not finish the 2nd book in that series, The Third Reich in Power. My husband is also very interested in that topic and has all three books ( and read them all). I am read Monuments Men right now.

    • N@ncy

      July 19, 2014 at 07:44

      Since moving to The Netherlands I was suddenly confronted with WW II as no history book has done, .You can listen to people’s stories or bike along a small monument where local resistance members were shot. The building where I have to pick up my passport was once a head office of the SS where people were tortered right here in Leeuwarden. I referred to a historical fiction Pastorale 1943 that was written by Simon Vestdijk, one of our best writers. I just ordered the book “De Velzer Affaire” about conspiracy in the town of Velzen, Holland and the WW II resistance there. It is a period of history that I just cannot read enough about.


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