The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine


EPISODE # 339

Gerald & Patricia Posner on Evil

Shermer and the Posners discuss:

  • advice for would-be writers
  • how books are researched and written
  • the nature of human nature
  • the nature of evil
  • the Stanford Prison Experiment
  • Milgram’s shock experiments on obedience to authority
  • Abu Ghraib and other war crimes
  • the banality of evil
  • The Pharmacist of Auschwitz: from pharmaceutical salesman to death camp criminal
  • Mengele, Eichmann, Himmler and other Nazis: what drove them to evil?
  • No Hitler, no Holocaust? No Hitler, no World War II?
  • What situations can cause good people to act bad?
  • Are we all potential Nazis?
  • Hugo Mercier, Not Born Yesterday, Germans ≠ Nazis, most people don’t join cults, most political advertising doesn’t work, etc.
  • restorative justice and reparations for war crimes, art theft, slavery, etc.
  • big pharma and who is responsible for the opioid crisis
  • the Vatican, the Pope, and the future of Catholicism.

Gerald Posner is an award-winning journalist who has written twelve books, including the Pulitzer Prize finalist Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK. His 2015 book, God’s Bankers, a two-hundred-year history of the finances of the Vatican, was an acclaimed New York Times bestseller. Posner has written for many national magazines and papers, including the New York Times, The New Yorker, Newsweek, and Time, and he has been a regular contributor to NBC, the History Channel, CNN, CBS, MSNBC, and FOX News. His other books include Killing the Dream: James Earl Ray and the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Secrets of the Kingdom: The Inside Story of the Saudi-U.S. Connection, Mengele: The Complete Story, Hitler’s Children: Sons and Daughters of leaders of the Third Reich Talk About Themselves and Their Fathers, Warlords of Crime: Chinese Secret Societies — the New Mafia, and Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9/11. He lives in Miami Beach with his wife, author Trisha Posner.

Patricia Posner is a British-born writer who has collaborated with her husband, the author Gerald Posner, on twelve non-fiction books, including Mengele: The Complete Story — a biography of Dr. Josef Mengele; Hitler’s Children — a 1991 collection of interviews with the children of Nazi perpetrators; and most recently, God’s Bankers — a financial history of the Roman Catholic Church. Her work has appeared, among other places, in the Miami Herald, The Daily Beast and Salon. She lives in Miami Beach. Her book, The Pharmacist of Auschwitz, is the little known story of Victor Capesius, a Bayer pharmaceutical salesman from Romania who, at the age of 35, joined the Nazi SS in 1943 and quickly became the chief pharmacist at the largest death camp, Auschwitz. Based in part on previously classified documents, Patricia Posner exposes Capesius’s reign of terror at the camp, his escape from justice, fueled in part by his theft of gold ripped from the mouths of corpses, and how a handful of courageous survivors and a single brave prosecutor finally brought him to trial for murder twenty years after the end of the war.

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This episode was released on April 11, 2023.

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