BLOTZKRIEG! the Bizarre Tale of How Rorschach's Inkblot Psychological Test Became a Worldwide Phenomenon - and Even Sparked a Bitter Battle for Supremacy between Prominent Nazis on Trial at Nuremberg

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), February 26, 2017 | Go to article overview

BLOTZKRIEG! the Bizarre Tale of How Rorschach's Inkblot Psychological Test Became a Worldwide Phenomenon - and Even Sparked a Bitter Battle for Supremacy between Prominent Nazis on Trial at Nuremberg


Byline: craig brown PSYCHOLOGY

The Inkblots Damion Searls Simon & Schuster [euro]28 In the aftermath of World War II, the 24 most prominent surviving Nazis awaiting trial at Nuremberg were assessed by a psychiatrist called Douglas Kelley.

Over a period of five months, Kelley would visit them daily, talking to them at length, often for three or four hours at a time. He had, he said, never had such an easy lot of patients to interview. For the most part, they were bored and tense, and welcomed the chance to talk about themselves.

They also relished taking part in all sorts of tests. Given IQ tests, they became very competitive, determined to outdo each other. Albert Speer recalled that each of them 'strove to do the best he could and see his abilities confirmed'.

Hitler's former vice-chancellor Franz von Papen, bragged that his IQ test had placed him third among the defendants, when in fact he had come fifth. By and large, they all scored very well: out of 21 tested, all but three achieved IQ scores above 120, making them 'superior' or 'very superior'.

Of all of them, it was Hermann Goring who most enjoyed the tests. When he was told he had a high IQ, 'he could hardly contain himself for joy and swelled with pride'. Defeat and imprisonment had done nothing to curb his self-satisfaction. When the examiner said that perhaps he should have become a professor rather than a politician, he replied: 'I'm convinced that I would have done better than the average man no matter what I went into.' Kelley happened to be a specialist in the famous Rorschach 'inkblots' psychological test, in which patients are shown 10 coloured pictures that look like inkblots and are asked what they see. Proponents of the test felt it offered valuable clues to the psychology of each individual. As the inventor of the test once pointed out, it made a difference 'whether a patient interprets the red part of a card as an open wound or sees it as rose petals, syrup or slices of ham'.

Kelley and another, less experienced, psychologist called Gustave Gilbert administered the inkblot tests. Goring particularly enjoyed his test, laughing, snapping his fingers in excitement, and concluding that it was regrettable that 'the Luftwaffe had not had available such excellent testing techniques'.

How did Goring do? The two examiners came to very different conclusions. To the disappointment of many of his peers, who had hoped that the defendants would share a peculiarly repellent personality type, Kelley believed they were 'essentially sane', and not out of the ordinary. There was, he concluded, no 'Nazi personality'. Men like Goring, he said, had 'strong, dominant, aggressive egocentric personalities' of a type that abounds in senior management.

'They can be found anywhere in the country - behind big desks, deciding big affairs as businessmen, politicians and racketeers.' Gilbert, on the other hand, claimed to have detected something deeper and more resonant. After Goring was found guilty, he visited him in his death cell. Goring asked him what the inkblot test had shown about his personality.

'I told him: "Frankly, they showed that while you have an active, aggressive mind, you lack the guts to really face responsibility. You betrayed yourself with a little gesture on the inkblot test. Do you remember the card with the red spot? You hesitated but you didn't call it blood. You tried to flick it off with your finger as though you thought you could wipe away the blood with a little gesture.

"You've been doing the same thing all through the trial - taking off your earphones whenever the evidence of your guilt became too unbearable. And you did the same thing during the war, drugging the atrocities out of your mind. You didn't have the courage to face it. That is your guilt You are a moral coward. …

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