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The Nuremberg trials and Nazi IQs

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At Nuremberg, the International Military Tribunal was tasked to try the 24 most important players (1) in the 3rd Reich. As the weeks passed, the Tribunal sought convictions, but their members began to speculate on the prisoners' motivations. What drove them? Were the commandants of the death camps psychopaths or simply mentally ill? Or were they just ordinary men who made appalling decisions? Clearly, there was something fundamental that separated them from the rest of humanity.

The defendants may have been morally twisted but it appears they were exceptionally intelligent.

Hjalmar Schacht

With the aid of psychologists, the Tribunal submitted the prisoners to the Wechsler-Bellevue Intelligence Test, one of the premier IQ tests (2). A score above 128 was considered "superior", only 2% of the population scored in that range. The average score of the Germans was 128. The winner was Hjalmar Schacht at 141, Goering scored 138. The dummy on the list was Julius Streicher at 106, still above average according to the test.

The psychologists gave the scores to the Nazis; they were delighted, it was a diversion from the constant boredom of solitary confinement. The men compared their results with their co-prisoners and argued good-naturedly over bragging rights. Franz von Papen (Score: 134) said that IQ testing was one of the most enjoyable moments of their captivity.

Is there a lesson in there? One assumes that most great enterprises are- ipso facto- composed of smart and ambitious men (or women) in their higher echelons. But the cleavage between morality and intelligence was rarely so strikingly apparent as in the Nazi state.

The list:
http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/f ... dants.html

(1) It turned out to be 22. Martin Bormann was tried in absentia and Robert Ley committed suicide within a week of the trial’s commencement.
(2) The Nazis were very familiar with intelligence testing; the government authorized the murder of children with various mental deficiencies.

Edited by Childress
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Not only did the Nuremberg commission administer IQ tests to the prisoners but also Rorschach tests, ten in all. They were asked to elaborate on what they saw. 


Frank (senior nazi): Those are my darling bears. They’re holding a bottle. Beautiful prima ballerina dancing in white dresses with red light shining from below.
Rudolf Hess (Deputy Führer): Two men talking about a crime. Blood is on their mind.
Hermann Göring (Hitler’s #2): [laughs] Those are two dancing figures, very clear, shoulder her and face there, clapping hands. [cuts off the bottom part with hand] Top red is head and hat; the face is partially white.
https://historyofyesterday.com/the-resu ... a5e442f37c

One of the psychologists that diagnosed Goering's Rorschach test remarked on his "emptiness of his being" and that when he reported the hat as red, it "indicates an emotional preoccupation with status." Quite a leap. It seems a better take on Goering's personality was offered in the 1970s by Joel Dimsdale (1), an American psychiatrist and  Holocaust researcher: "[Goering] was a chameleon in terms of shaping his behavior based on audience. He could be warm and charming, or brutal," 

Were the tests worth it? The Rorschach assessments were never presented as evidence at Nuremberg. The tests of Nazi leaders were commingled with contemporary tests for mental patients and members of the clergy, and the experts could not distinguish the results for the Nazis from those of the clergy. Rorschach tests were en vogue at the time but are now little used, essentially a passing fad.

1- Survivors, Victims, and Perpetrators: Essays on the Nazi Holocaust. 1980

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