The Nazi and the Psychiatrist

  • by Jack El-Hai
  • Narrated by Arthur Morey
  • 8 hrs and 57 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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 16 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 $100,000,000 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 - 52 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.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

I Don't Understand The Complaints...

leveled at this brilliant narrative concerning unnecessary length and lack of structure. As to the first, I wanted more, not less! I found the book remarkably compelling. As to the second, a stirring and intriguing story should not read like a sixth grade history book, but rather something like a novel. El-Hai accomplishes this wonderfully well here, weaving in and out of plot-lines, developing characters richly and fully along the way. This historical narrative is not nearly so much about Goering--or Kelley--as it is about those incredible accidental meetings of personalities and circumstances at the most telling times in history and how much of what becomes cultural consciousness is developed in dark rooms under conditions and by people of which most remain forever unaware. El-Hai's book is a mystery and suspense tale, told as though Poe or Hawthorne had penned an historical drama. It comes highly recommended from these quarters, especially for anyone who prefers a literary turn put to what would otherwise be dry classroom facts.
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- Douglas "College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey."

"Between the admirable and the sinister"

This book might have been a riveting story, but it lacks essential editing and direction. Additionally, the research on Göring is slapdash and many errors made it through to publication, which is unfortunate.

I've read many biographies of Göring in English, German, and Swedish, and recently, Kersaudy's biography in French. These range from those written at the time of his ascendancy in Germany to those of recent days. Without a doubt, he is the most compelling figure in the Nazi regime and remains something of an enigma. In fact, the more I read, the more I want to know who the real Göring is. As this book says, he exists somewhere "between the admirable and the sinister."

I believe El-Hai sees Göring's relationship to his first wife incorrectly. This is important because of the profound effect she had on the direction of his life. Carin von Fock-Kantzow was not, as he says "a glamorous blonde singer," but the non-working wife of a Swedish Army captain. When Göring met her in 1920, he was an unsettled veteran pilot looking to make his way in the world. Her ambition for him was immense, and as many writers have said, she was as vehement a Nazi as ever there was. Even on her deathbed she pushed Göring to return to Germany because Hitler needed him. Without her ambition, support, and help, it is highly unlikely Göring would have been as successful as he was. El-Hai, on the other hand, glosses over the effect she had on his life, and as the only woman Göring ever allowed to influence him and his decision taking, that is a critical misunderstanding.

Furthermore, there is little if any mention of the profound personality changes that can and do take place after extended periods of opiate abuse. Megalomania is the most extreme result. If one takes an already over-confident, not to say conceited, personality such as
Göring had, the exacerbation of these tendencies shouldn't be glossed over.

The section on Nuremberg provides nothing new, and may be tedious to those who have read a great deal about it already. For those who haven't, it may be of some interest.

I could go on and on, but suffice to say, those familiar with Göring's life will find many errors and laborings under misapprehension. I believe all of these would have been put to right if deeper research had been done.

As for Kelley, I knew nothing of him. He is certainly an unforgettable, somewhat bizarre, character. However, El-Hai seems to be making a case that the way in which Kelley committed suicide was directly related to his interactions with Göring at Nuremberg. In my opinion, he fails to make his case. Psychiatrists do have an unusually high, and perhaps understandable, rate of suicide. I felt very sorry for Kelley's family and what they endured. Clearly Kelley was deeply troubled and it is tragic that he could not find the help he needed before it was too late.

Overall, I would not recommend this book. El-Hai can certainly write, but I think this book was rushed. If he took the time to deeply research his subject, I think his work could be stunning. On the other hand, three of us read it and we all disagreed about what we thought. So that means the work has some level of vitality. You decide for yourself.
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- Die Falknerin "Painter, musician, bibliophile..."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-10-2013
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.