Letter to the Editor
Evil Behavior
Psychiatric News
Volume 36 Number 18 page 26-26

Reading "Psychiatrist Helps Court Define ‘Evil Behavior’" in the June 15 issue was wearisome indeed. In 40 years of practicing forensic psychiatry, I have never been called upon to define evil, and I hope I never will. Evil is a moral concept, the effort to give scientific validity to such concepts as "atrocious," "outrageous," and "vile" with an instrument called the Depravity Scale is junk science at its worst. These are concepts that have no place in psychiatric nomenclature. I take issue with your characterization of Michael Welner, M.D., as an "inventor" of the Depravity Scale. A more suitable term would be that he made it up.

As a Holocaust survivor and a scholar of the subject, I strongly disagree with Michael Nelken, M.D., who is quoted as saying that "up to age 30, Hitler had done nothing bad; then something snapped, and he engineered the Holocaust."

Dr. Nelken is reported also as saying that President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1938 decision not to let European Jews immigrate to the United States was a trigger for Hitler. Dr. Nelken believes that Hitler felt emboldened by this and decided to get rid of the Jews. This is pure poppycock.

Hitler called for the destruction of Jews in the 1920s. Since when does the president determine immigration laws? Would Congress have agreed to accept 11 million European Jews if President Roosevelt introduced such a proposal in 1938?

We Holocaust survivors are deeply grateful to President Roosevelt for his heroic efforts to motivate the United States to intervene in Europe against tremendous opposition from the conservatives in the country.

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