El-Hai, Jack. The Nazi and the Psychiatrist: Hermann Göring, Dr. Douglas M. Kelley, and a Fatal Meeting of Minds at the End of WWII. Public Affairs. 2013. 304p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781610391566. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781610391573. HIST
An outgoing, ambitious U.S. Army psychiatrist, Dr. Douglas M. Kelley was assigned to “maintain the mental fitness” of Nazi war criminals before the Nuremberg Trials. While interviewing and testing the accused leaders, Kelley developed a close relationship with Hermann Göring, Hitler’s right-hand man. Helping the charismatic Göring lose weight and overcome his addiction to painkillers, Kelley remained aware of the Reichsmarschall’s evil but was still shocked when Göring committed suicide via cyanide. Through his extensive research, Kelley came to believe that the qualities that led Nazi leaders to commit acts of horror were not unique to Nazi Germany, and this deeply troubled him over the years. Journalist El-Hai (The Lobotomist: A Maverick Medical Genius and His Tragic Quest To Rid the World of Mental Illness) explores not only the mental states of the Nazi war criminals but also that of the overworked, distressed Kelley, who surprisingly committed suicide himself, also with cyanide, during a domestic dispute in 1958. Although more dramatic, this book is equally as well researched and well written as Eric Jaffe’s A Curious Madness, reviewed below, which details the Tokyo war crimes and the army psychiatrist assigned to assess the sanity of one of its key defendants. VERDICT Recommended for those interested in the Nuremberg Trials, the Nazi criminal mind, or stories of human instability.
Jaffe, Eric. A Curious Madness: An American Combat Psychiatrist, a Japanese War Crimes Suspect, and an Unsolved Mystery from World War II. Scribner. Jan. 2014. 320p. notes. index. ISBN 9781451612059. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781451612127. HIST
Jaffe (former web editor, Smithsonian magazine) tells the story of two men whose lives converged at the Tokyo war crimes trial following World War II. One was Shumei Okawa, a Japanese civilian considered by many as the intellectual leader of Japanese militarism; the other was Maj. Daniel Jaffe, the U.S. Army psychiatrist assigned to determine the accused’s sanity (and the author’s grandfather). This book explores not only the mystery surrounding Okawa’s mental state but also that of the quiet, war-fatigued psychiatrist. The only civilian on trial, Okawa slapped former Prime Minister Tojo’s head the first day in court; Major Jaffe’s assessment of Okawa helped him be removed from the proceedings. A considerable part of the book is devoted to the author’s grandfather’s story: his mentally ill Jewish immigrant mother, his education and training, and his work with shell-shocked soldiers in combat. This book is equally as compelling as Jack El-Hai’s The Nazi and the Psychiatrist, above. VERDICT Recommended for those interested in the Tokyo war crimes trials, the nature of mental illness, or the treatment of combat exhaustion.