How American race law provided a blueprint for Nazi Germany
Nazism triumphed in Germany during the high era of Jim Crow laws in the United States. Did the American regime of racial oppression in any way inspire the Nazis? The unsettling answer is yes. In Hitler's American Model, James Whitman presents a detailed investigation of the American impact on the notorious Nuremberg Laws, the centerpiece anti-Jewish legislation of the Nazi regime. Contrary to those who have insisted that there was no meaningful connection between American and German racial repression, Whitman demonstrates that the Nazis took a real, sustained, significant, and revealing interest in American race policies.
As Whitman shows, the Nuremberg Laws were crafted in an atmosphere of considerable attention to the precedents American race laws had to offer. German praise for American practices, already found in Hitler's Mein Kampf, was continuous throughout the early 1930s, and the most radical Nazi lawyers were eager advocates of the use of American models. But while Jim Crow segregation was one aspect of American law that appealed to Nazi radicals, it was not the most consequential one. Rather, both American citizenship and antimiscegenation laws proved directly relevant to the two principal Nuremberg Laws—the Citizenship Law and the Blood Law. Whitman looks at the ultimate, ugly irony that when Nazis rejected American practices, it was sometimes not because they found them too enlightened, but too harsh.
Indelibly linking American race laws to the shaping of Nazi policies in Germany, Hitler's American Model upends understandings of America's influence on racist practices in the wider world.
James Q. Whitman is the Ford Foundation Professor of Comparative and Foreign Law at Yale Law School. His books include Harsh Justice, The Origins of Reasonable Doubt, and The Verdict of Battle. He lives in New York City.
"The uncomfortable truth is that Nazi policy was itself influenced by American white supremacy, a heritage well documented in James Q. Whitman’s recent book Hitler’s American Model."--Sasha Chapin, New York Times Magazine
"Eerie. . . . [Whitman] illustrates how German propagandists sought to normalize the Nazi agenda domestically by putting forth the United States as a model."--Brent Staples, New York Times
"Hitler’s American Model delivers a powerful and timely reminder that it is not only liberal legal orders that look abroad for normative instruction. Profoundly illiberal law travels just as well as liberal law."--Lawrence Douglas, Times Literary Supplement
"In his startling new history, Whitman traces the substantial influence of American race laws on the Third Reich. The book, in effect, is a portrait of the United States assembled from the admiring notes of Nazi lawmakers, who routinely referenced American policies in the design of their own racist regime. . . . Whitman’s book contributes to a growing recognition of American influences on Nazi thought."--Jeff Guo, Washington Post
"A small book, but powerful all out of proportion to its size in exposing a shameful history."--Kirkus
"Interesting and eye opening. . . . In spite of the Nazis’ disdain, to put it mildly, for our stated and evident liberal and democratic principles, they eagerly looked to the United States as the prime example for their own goals of protecting the blood, restricting citizenship, and banning mixed marriages. Reading this book could make many Americans doubt the possibility of ever forming a more perfect union with such a legacy."--Thomas McClung, New York Journal of Books
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Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by James Q. Whitman: