The Pursuit of the Nazi Mind: Hitler, Hess, and the Analysts by Daniel Pick - review by Richard Overy

Richard Overy

The Mind of Evil

The Pursuit of the Nazi Mind: Hitler, Hess, and the Analysts


Oxford University Press 357pp £18.99

Writing in his prison diary in Spandau jail, Albert Speer reflected on his fellow-prisoner Rudolf Hess, serving a life sentence for crimes he could not remember: ‘Now at last he can play the martyr and the buffoon, thus fulfilling the two sides of his personality.’ This was a rough-and-ready analysis. Speer was no psychiatrist, but for years professionals had been trying to unravel the secrets of Hess’s inner mind. They hoped that psychoanalysing Hess would help them to understand the psychological bond that held the German people in thrall to Hitler.

This endeavour forms the core of Daniel Pick’s fascinating study of the mobilisation of psychoanalysis not only for the Allied war effort, but for a postwar world momentarily seduced by the idea that war and violence might be eradicated by a bit of psycho-science. Pick argues that the general rejection

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