When the ashes had settled after World War II and the Allies convened an international war crimes trial in Nuremberg, a psychiatrist, Douglas Kelley, and a psychologist, Gustave Gilbert, tried to fathom the psychology of the Nazi leaders using extensive psychiatric interviews, IQ tests, and Rorschach inkblot tests. Never before or since has there been such a detailed study of governmental leaders who orchestrated mass killings.
Before the war crimes trial began, it was self-evident to most people that the Nazi leaders were demonic maniacs. But when the interviews and psychological tests were completed, the answer was no longer so clear. The findings were so disconcerting that portions of the data were hidden away for decades, and the research became a topic for vituperative disputes. Gilbert thought that the war criminals' malice stemmed from depraved psychopathology. Kelley viewed them as morally flawed, ordinary men who were creatures of their environment. Who was right?
Drawing on his decades of experience as a psychiatrist and the dramatic advances within psychiatry, psychology, and neuroscience since Nuremberg, Joel E. Dimsdale looks anew at the findings and examines in detail four of the war criminals: Robert Ley, Hermann Göring, Julius Streicher, and Rudolf Hess. Using increasingly precise diagnostic tools, he discovers a remarkably broad spectrum of pathology. Anatomy of Malice takes us on a complex and troubling quest to make sense of the most extreme evil.
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- Farren Joy