In this gripping and haunting narrative, a renowned psychiatrist sheds new light on the psychology of the war criminals at Nuremberg
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.
"Since before the Second World War ended psychiatrists and psychologists have been trying to understand the minds of the Nazi leadership. Dimsdale takes a fresh look at the nature of wickedness, and at our attempts to explain it. This is a must read."-Sir Simon Wessely, Royal College of Psychiatrists
"This harrowing tale and detective story asks whether the Nazi War Criminals were fundamentally like other people, or fundamentally different. Compelling and well told, it reexamines a historical period we must never forget, and its central question is at the heart of what it is to be human."- T.M. Luhrmann, author of When God Talks Back
"In this fascinating and compelling journey into the depraved minds of some of the Nazi leaders, a respected scientist who has long studied the Holocaust asks probing questions about the nature of malice. I could not put this book down."-Thomas N. Wise, MD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
"Exciting, provocative, and surprising, this compelling book explores the diverse personalities that contributed to the evil of the Nazi regime. Collecting and integrating their stories, Dimsdale explores the frequently unsolved challenges of psychiatric and psychological assessments and the role of the assessor."- Winfried Rief, University of Marburg, Germany
"A masterful and rigorous portrayal of the trial of the Nazi war criminals. Superbly written and meticulously researched, this is a riveting narrative of the trial, the Nazi criminals, and the psychologist who analyzed them."-Irvin Yalom, Stanford University
"In Anatomy of Malice, [Joel Dimsdale] provides a meandering, thoughtful . . . overview, for the layman, of the minds of Nazi leaders, the differing views of the doctors who examined them, and psychology's possible contribution to explicating the causes of evil."-New York Times Book Review
About the Author:
Joel E. Dimsdale is distinguished professor emeritus and research professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego. He lives in San Diego, CA.