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Monday, October 14, 2013

The Greatest Success And The Greatest Disaster

Science News

On New Year’s Day in 1958, after a screaming fight with his wife, U.S. Army psychiatrist Douglas Kelley grabbed a poison pill from his study, shoved it into his mouth and swallowed.

So begins journalist El-Hai’s investigation into the mind of the man who sought to understand the minds of Nazis. At World War II’s close, Kelley, head of psychiatric services at a military hospital, was given a new task: preserving the mental health of Nazi leaders awaiting trial.

To this task Kelley tacked on a secret mission. He wanted to ferret out what made these men tick — to find some mental seed shared by the criminals. What he found haunted him: Nazi leaders were not insane or even unusual. After months of psychological testing, Kelley determined that the Nazis shared two traits: They were goal driven and tireless workaholics. “Their like could very easily be found in America,” he wrote.

That knowledge may have led Kelleyto suicide, El-Hai suggests. Twelve years after leaving the trials in Germany, he killed himself with the same poison one of his patients, top Nazi Hermann Göring, took before he was to be hanged.

After his psychological analyses of Nazis, Kelley worried that such atrocities could recur. His work had convinced him that people with the killers’ traits, combined with ambition and excessive patriotism, could be similarly corrupted.

With full access to Kelley’s notes on Nazi psychology, El-Hai infuses his story with the messy, compelling details of people’s lives. These tug the reader inside Kelley’s head for an engrossing exploration of human nature, sanity and despair.
What differentiates success from disaster is the goal one seeks, the motivation, and the means to achieve it.
A noble goal may be defeated and end in catastrophe, but the effort involved elevates every man and women that were united in trying to accomplish it.

The human beings who are capable of the greatest successes are the same as those who are capable of the greatest horrors.

The only difference is in the souls and hearts of those involved. How great are our hearts?


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