, (October 7, 1910 - November 2, 1963), was the younger brother and chief political advisor of South Vietnam's first President, Ngô Ðình Diệm. He was widely regarded as the brains behind Diem's autocratic regime.
He graduated from the École Nationale des Chartes, a French archivists’ school, and returned to Vietnam from France at the outbreak of World War II. He was influenced by personalism, a concept he had acquired in the Latin Quarter. It had been conceived in the 1930s by Catholic progressives such as Emmanuel Mounier. Mounier’s heirs in Paris, who edited the left wing Catholic review ’’Esprit’’ denounced Nhu as a fraud. He worked at Hanoi’s National Library and in 1943, he married Tran Le Xuan, making her known as "Madame Nhu". Prior to this, he was strongly rumoured to have been having an affair with his wife's mother, six years his senior. The French dismissed Nhu due to Diem’s nationalist activities, and he moved to Da Lat and lived comfortably, editing a newspaper.
According to Cecil B. Currey's book, Victory at Any Cost, Ngo Dinh Nhu was "an opium-smoking megalomaniac." (p 238)
In his youth he had formed student movements. He created a web of covert political, security, labor and other organizations. Emulating the communists, he built a structure of five man cells to spy on dissidents and promote those loyal to Diem’s regime.
Nhu was an opium addict and Hitler admirer. He modelled the Can Lao secret police's marching style and torture styles on Nazi designs. He and his wife amassed a fortune by running numbers and lottery rackets, manipulating currency and extorting money from Saigon businesses.
As Buddhist demonstrations against the Diem government continued throughout the summer of 1963, the special forces loyal to Diem's brother Nhu raided the Xa Loi Pagoda in Saigon in August. The Pagodas were vandalised, monks beaten, the cremated remains of Thích Quảng Đức, which included a heart which did not disintegrate, were confiscated. Simultaneous raids were carried out across the country, with the Tu Dam Pagoda in Hue being looted, the statue of Gautama Buddha demolished and a body of a deceased monk confiscated. When the populace came to the defence of the monks, the resulting clashes saw 30 civilians killed and 200 wounded. In all 1400 monks were arrested, and some thirty were injured across the country. The US indicated their disapproval of Diem's administration when their ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge visited the Pagoda in the aftermath. No further mass Buddhist protests occurred during the remainder of his rule.
During this time, his wife Madame Nhu, who was a defacto first lady due to Diem's bachelor life, inflamed the situation by mockingly applauding the suicides of Thích Quảng Đức and others, referring to them as "barbecues" while Nhu stated "if the Buddhists want to have another barbecue, I will be glad to supply the gasoline".
Over time, relations with the United States decayed. The Americans wanted Nhu removed, believing he was alienating the populace and hindering the war effort. Aid to the Special Forces was to be withheld unless they were used to fight rather than attack dissidents. Nhu accused the Americans of “destroying the psychology of our country and called Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. a “man of no morality”.