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The Nuremberg Character Assessments



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Podcast Transcript

On the finish of the second world warfare, the allies indited 24 prime, surviving Nazi leaders, and put them on trial in Nuremberg, Germany. 

With these high-ranking Nazi officers incarcerated, psychologists noticed a once-in-a-lifetime alternative to review the boys liable for a few of the most heinous crimes in human historical past.

What made them tick and why did they do what they did?

Study extra concerning the Nuremberg Character Assessments and what they found about Nazi leaders, on this episode of All the pieces All over the place Every day.


The Second World Warfare didn’t finish like different wars previously. Beforehand, a conquered ruler may need been exiled like Napoleon, or summarily executed if there was a conflicting declare to a territory. 

On the finish of the primary world warfare, the Kaiser lived the remainder of his life in seclusion within the Netherlands. Main German navy officers have been merely out of a job and located various employment.

World Warfare II, nevertheless, didn’t finish like the primary world warfare. It wasn’t determined by a treaty, it was determined by complete unconditional give up and occupation. 

When the warfare was over, the query amongst the allies was, ‘what can we do with these Nazi officers?’

Nobody wished them to get off scot-free, but there was no precedent in navy historical past or in worldwide regulation for prosecuting folks for crimes performed throughout a warfare. 

The British wished abstract executions. The Soviets wished a present trial. The Individuals, nevertheless, wished due course of.

The allies finally decided that high-ranking Nazi officers who have been liable for the conduct of the warfare, together with civilians, have been to be tried as criminals. 

To this finish, they wrote the Constitution of the Worldwide Navy Tribunal. This is able to function the premise for making an attempt officers for crimes in opposition to peace, warfare crimes, and crimes in opposition to humanity. 

As an alternative of a decide and a jury, a tribunal of judges from every allied nation would serve judgment and sentencing on these discovered responsible. 

There have been a number of trials that have been performed over the course of a number of years, however for the aim of this episode, I’m going to give attention to the primary trial which obtained many of the consideration, which was the Worldwide Navy Tribunal itself, which had 24 of the highest-ranking surviving Nazi defendants.

High German leaders akin to Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, and Joseph Goebbels had all dedicated suicide. One of many 24 indited Nazis, Martin Borman, had gone lacking. His stays have been found in 1972 and have been positively recognized through DNA evaluation in 1998. 

Those that have been captured have been nonetheless very excessive up within the German command construction. The largest fish was the pinnacle of the Luftwaffe Hermann Göring. Others included overseas minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, main generals Wilhelm Keitel and Alfred Jodl, and head of the Kriegsmarine, Karl Dönitz. 

All 24 males have been accused of at the least two of the 4 following crimes:

  1. Participation in a standard plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of against the law in opposition to peace
  2. Planning, initiating, and waging wars of aggression and different crimes in opposition to peace
  3. Collaborating in warfare crimes
  4. Crimes in opposition to humanity

The tribunal lasted nearly a 12 months, from November 1945 to October 1946.

This episode isn’t concerning the tribunal per se. 

Through the trial, the prisoners got to medical doctors, dentists, chaplains, and, what’s related to this episode, psychiatrists. 

Particularly, an American psychiatrist by the identify of Douglas Kelley. 

Kelley was a researcher on the Rorschach Institute and volunteered for the military proper after Pearl Harbor. On the finish of the warfare, he was the chief psychologist for the whole European Theater. 

His preliminary task was to find out if the defendants have been mentally competent to face trial. 

Kelley recruited as his assistant one other American officer Gustave Gilbert, who along with being a social psychologist, additionally spoke German. 

They’d ample entry to the entire accused prisoners, and he truly discovered that they have been greater than prepared to speak. Most of them have been bored and wished to brag about their achievements. Kelley stated they have been the best group of sufferers he ever needed to interview. 

Each Kelley and Gilbert knew that they have been sitting on a psychological gold mine. They’d a restricted period of time to interview and examine males who have been liable for a few of the best crimes in historical past. 

There have been three medical exams that have been administered to the prisoners. 

The primary was the Thematic Apperception Take a look at or TAT. The TAT is a projection check the place the affected person is given a picture they usually then need to assemble a narrative telling the occasions which led as much as the picture, and the backstory of the characters. 

The second check was the basic Rorschach Take a look at. The Rorschach check, as you may be conversant in, is a sequence of ink blots that don’t have any explicit that means or form. The affected person then has to interpret the ink blots as to what they appear like. 

The ultimate check which was administered was the Wechsler-Bellevue intelligence check to measure IQ.

The one a part of Kelley and Gilbert’s analysis that was a part of the tribunal was that the entire males have been competent to face trial. None of them had any important psychological impairment which prevented them from being tried. 

Lots of the exams which they administered have been by no means formally accepted. They simply went forward and did it on condition that they’d the chance. 

Their findings weren’t what they anticipated, and doubtless not what most of you’d most likely count on. 

They assumed that these males could be discovered to be monsters and psychopaths. That isn’t what they discovered. They discovered them to be wholly regular. 

The outcomes of the Rorschach have been extraordinarily common. There was no basic distinction between the outcomes of the Nazi prisoners and of a median of Individuals who took the check. 

30 years after the exams have been administered, a psychologist by the identify of Molly Harrower performed a double-blind check to check the Nazi outcomes with a bunch of members of the clergy, and hospital sufferers. She discovered no distinction between the teams. 

The IQ check outcomes have been surprising and weren’t made public for years. Of the 21 prisoners examined, they scored a median of 128, which was the cut-off stage for “very superior” or genius-level, on the check. 

Lots of the Nazis have been excited to take the check and have been fairly happy with the outcomes. Wilhelm Keitel famous how a lot better the exams have been than the “foolish nonsense that German psychologists resorted to.” It was later found that he banned intelligence exams from the German navy when his son failed one to change into an officer. 

The very best-scoring German was Hjalmar Schacht who scored a 143. He was truly one of many solely accused to be completely acquitted. He was previously head of the Reichsbank however spent nearly the whole warfare in a focus camp due to his objections to Hitler. He was shocked to have been arrested given his imprisonment through the warfare and his work with numerous Hitler assassination plots. 

Arthur Seyss-Inquart, the chancellor of the Netherlands and individual liable for the deportation of tens of hundreds of Jews to focus camps, scored a 141.

Each head of the navy Karl Dönitz, and the pinnacle of the air power Herman Göring, scored 138.

The bottom rating by an honest margin, but nonetheless above common, was Julius Streicher. Streicher was the Nazi that different Nazis thought was loopy and be happy to replay that once more to let it sink in simply how loopy that assertion is. 

Streicher was the editor of the principle Nazi newspaper, Der Stürmer, and was a real believer. He was a virulent antisemite and regarded by many Nazis to be essentially the most anti-semitic of all of them, which once more is admittedly saying one thing. 

The exams weren’t the one issues gleaned from the Nazis. A lot of what was realized got here from conversations with the boys over a interval of months. 

One American who had entry was a translator by the identify of Howard Triest. Triest was a German-born jew who managed to flee Germany when he was a toddler, however most of his household didn’t. He was liable for censoring mail for the prisoners and obtained to know a number of of them fairly properly. 

Streicher, the virulent anti-semite, took a liking to Triest as a result of he appeared like a robust Ayrian….not realizing that he was truly Jewish. 

The Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Hoess took pleasure in having killed so many Jews, and in reality, having gone properly past his quota. 

On October 16, 1946, 10 of the convicted Nazis have been executed by hanging. Goering killed himself with a cyanide capsule simply hours earlier than. One prisoner, Robert Ley, killed himself earlier than the trial started, and it was believed he had superior dementia. Three have been acquitted, and the remainder have been sentenced to imprisonment various from 10 years to life. 

Even after the trial was over, the interpretation of the psychological knowledge was simply starting. 

Each Kelley and Gilbert later launched books that gave their theories on the Germans they studied. They’d very totally different interpretations. 

Gilbert’s ebook was titled The Psychology of the Dictatorship which was launched in 1950. He felt that the Nazi leaders did what they did as a result of they grew up in an environment of absolute submission to authority.  Intelligence and morality took a backseat to loyalty and a capability to comply with orders. 

Kelley’s ebook was titled Twenty-two Cells in Nuremberg.

Kelley’s take was what occurred was the results of what he known as a ‘socio-cultural illness”. 

He hoped to search out that there was some kind of Nazi persona sort that future researchers may search for as some kind of early warning signal.

He couldn’t discover one. He discovered that the defendants have been basically sane.

He wrote a paper in 1946 earlier than the trial was even over through which he stated he felt “not solely that such personalities usually are not distinctive or insane, but additionally that they may very well be duplicated in any nation of the world as we speak.”

Regardless of the above-average intelligence of the boys on trial, Kelley thought that they have been really nothing particular. They have been “weren’t spectacular sorts, not personalities akin to seem solely as soon as in a century.”  They have been males who displayed “overweening ambition, (and) low moral requirements”.

The narrative after the warfare was that the Nazis needed to be particular person monsters as a result of that was the one factor that made sense of what occurred.  

He wrote 75 years in the past, “I’m fairly sure that there are folks even in America who would willingly climb over the corpses of half of the American public if they may achieve management of the opposite half.” 

Douglas Kelley died on New Yr’s Day in entrance of his household when he mimicked the suicide of Herman Goering by swallowing a cyanide capsule.

A number of years later, the political thinker Hannah Arendt defined this phenomenon through the trial of Adolf Eichman by coining the phrase “the banality of evil”.  What she present in Eichman, and what Kelley discovered on the tribunal have been males who weren’t psychopaths, though some actually have been and never even fanatics. Slightly, they have been individuals who didn’t suppose for themselves and have been prepared to place morality apart for private development. 

The controversy concerning the psychology of Nazis hasn’t ended and it most likely by no means will. The work performed by Gilbert and Kelley, regardless of being the one work of its sort, has been each criticized and supported. 

In lots of respects, the interpretation of Douglas Kelley and Hannah Arendt is extra scary pondering the Nazi leaders have been all psychopaths. As a result of if the individuals who did such heinous issues, or allowed them to occur, have been considerably regular and never essentially sadistic psychopaths, it implied that, if the situations have been proper, it may occur wherever. 



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