Synopses & Reviews
In 1945, an improbable relationship between the captured Reichsmarschall, Hermann Göring, and an ambitious US Army psychiatrist, Douglas M. Kelley, becomes a hazardous quest into the nature of evil.
The Nazi and the Psychiatrist explores the unusual relationship that took shape in a small prison cell in 1945. The cell held two men: Hermann Göring, the most prominent Nazi leader still standing after Hitler's fall, and Douglas M. Kelley, a young American psychiatrist sent to assess the mental fitness of Göring and his top Nazi colleagues to stand trial at Nuremberg.
Sentenced to death at that trial, Göring cheated the hangman in 1946 by swallowing a cyanide capsule just before his execution date. Kelley's life spiraled downward into alcoholism, emotional outbursts, and depression. During an argument with his wife on New Year's Day in 1958, he, like Göring, ended his life by swallowing cyanide.
Given exclusive access to Kelley's records, award-winning journalist Jack El-Hai vividly re-creates the interactions and atmosphere, and explores the insidious impact of the Göring-Kelley relationship, providing a cautionary tale about the dangers of coming too close to evil.
“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
In a devastated Europe at the end of World War II, the improbable relationship between fallen tyrant Hermann Goöring and rising US Army physician Douglas Kelley becomes a becomes a hazardous quest into the nature of evil.
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, a set of brass vials housed glass capsules containing a clear liquid and a white precipitate: potassium cyanide. Joining Göring in the detention center were the elite of the captured Nazi regime Grand Admiral Dönitz; armed forces commander Wilhelm Keitel and his deputy Alfred Jodl; the mentally unstable Robert Ley; the suicidal Hans Frank; the pornographic propagandist Julius Streicher fifty-two senior Nazis in all, of whom the dominant figure was Göring.
To ensure that the villainous captives were fit for trial at Nuremberg, the US army sent an ambitious army psychiatrist, Captain Douglas M. Kelley, to supervise their mental well-being during their detention. Kelley realized he was being offered the professional opportunity of a lifetime: to discover a distinguishing trait among these arch-criminals that would mark them as psychologically different from the rest of humanity. So began a remarkable relationship between Kelley and his captors, told here for the first time with unique access to Kelley's long-hidden papers and medical records.
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. Evil had its charms.
About the Author
Jack El-Hai is a widely published journalist who covers history, medicine, and science. He is the author of The Lobotomist. El-Hai has contributed more than 500 articles to such publications as The Atlantic, Scientific American Mind, Wired, The Washington Post Magazine, and The History Channel Magazine. 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 and teaches in the MFA program in creative writing at Augsburg College.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: The House
Chapter 2: Mondorf-les-Bains
Chapter 3: The Psychiatrist
Chapter 4: Among the Ruins
Chapter 5: Inkblots
Chapter 6: Interloper
Chapter 7: The Palace of Justice
Chapter 8: The Nazi Mind
Chapter 9: Cyanide
Chapter 10: Post Mortem
[Possible Appendix/art of Rorschach blots]