Jack El-Hai signs books outside the Donaldson mansion on Mt. Curve. Photo by Claude Peck.
Author Jack El-Hai, who specializes in accounts of historic events and relationships in medicine and science, got an historic setting in which to introduce his latest book -- the Donaldson mansion on Lowry Hill. Built in 1906 for department-store magnate Lawrence Donaldson, the spacious home is on the market and can be yours for $5.5 million. The launch as hosted by Peter Hutchinson and Karla Ekdahl, who moved it from their own nearby home to accommodate the crowd of about 150 or so.
But back to the book, which goes on sale Sept. 10: “The Nazi and the Psychiatrist” tells the story of Dr. Douglas Kelley, charged with getting inside the heads of the Third Reich’s top brass still alive at the end of World War II. Kelley developed a relationship with Hermann Goering, Hitler’s second-in-command for much of the war, that occasionally bordered on warm, finding they had things on common. “I’m not saying Goering was a great guy,” El-Hai said. “But it raises the question of what a doctor should do in this situation. Is he more responsible to his patient or to the world? Who is his master here?”
The hardest question of the evening, El-Hai said, was on the nature of evil. “Researching the book made me believe that evil and good are not black-and-white phenomena. These Nazi leaders displayed occasional flashes of admirable qualities along with their many terrible ones.”
El-Hai reveals early in the book that Kelley killed himself the same way Goering, and other Nazis before him, did – via cyanide capsule. After the many tests he conducted on the Nazis awaiting trial, Kelley concluded, much to his dismay, that they were psychologically normal.