- In the aftermath of World War II, American psychiatrist Douglas M. Kelley worked closely with captured Nazis as their general physician and psychiatric evaluator.
- Despite Kelley’s abhorrence of Nazi crimes, he formed a close relationship with the highest-ranking prisoner, Hermann Goering, who impressed Kelley with his intelligence, tenacity, and dedication to his country, family and friends.
- The balancing act Kelley performed—as he tried to remain loyal to his superiors as well as dedicated to his patients’ health and wellness—is echoed in the modern dilemmas faced by doctors and psychologists in situations such as the prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
In the early summer of 1945 a 52-year-old prisoner arrived at Mondorf-les-Bains, a town in Luxembourg that included an American detention center for suspected war criminals. The prisoner, dragging 49 suitcases, gem-encrusted jewelry, gold cigarette cases, precious watches and nearly the entire world’s supply of the narcotic paracodeine, had surrendered to Allied officials several weeks earlier. After a dozen years in which he held nearly unchecked power and could demand anything he desired, he now occupied a small cell furnished only with a toilet, bed, chair and table. The bloody collapse of the Third Reich, whose Nazi government he now represented as the highest-ranking captive, had left him a leader without followers, a commander without fighters, anda prisoner accused of murdering millions and committing other crimes against humanity. He acknowledged the right of the victors of World War II to punish the Nazi leadership, but he planned a vigorous defense of his actions at his forthcoming war crimes trial.
This was the situation of Hermann Goering, formerly deputy of Adolf Hitler, president of the Reichstag, commander in chief of the German air force, member of the Secret Cabinet Council and Reich Marshal (along with a slew of other official titles), when a 32-year-old American psychiatrist named Douglas M. Kelley entered his cell for the first of many meetings. Kelley was among the few people—along with other medical personnel, lawyers and guards—allowed access to Goering. During the next six months the prisoner and the psychiatrist would hash over the outcome of the war, the fate of Goering’s family and the Reich Marshal’s legacy.
This article was originally published with the title The Nazi and the Psychiatrist.