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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 archcriminals 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 Reichsmarschall, Hermann Göring. Evil had its charms.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “In the chilling tale of Dr. Douglas Kelley, a young US 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. The Nazi and the Psychiatrist is an utterly fascinating book.”

    Gilbert King, Pulitzer Prize–winning author

  • “A fast-paced, deeply researched psychodrama about an ambitious American military psychiatrist who is drawn into a sick and dangerous relationship with Hermann Göring, Adolf Hitler’s right-hand man and one of history’s most notorious criminals.The story of their terrible, intertwined fates opens a fascinating window into both the criminal minds of the Nazis and the nature of evil itself. This is a truly compelling book.”

    Debby Applegate, Pulitzer Prize–winning author

  • “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 

  • “An engrossing case study on the nature of evil…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)

  • “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)

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About the Author

Jack El-Hai is the former executive vice president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and a winner of the June Roth Memorial Award for Medical Journalism. A contributor to the Atlantic, the Washington Post Magazine, American Heritage, and numerous other publications, he lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two daughters.