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.
"A small book, but powerful all out of proportion to its size in exposing a shameful history."--Kirkus
"Hitler's American Model is a breathtaking excavation of America's shameful contribution to Hitler's genocidal policies. This book is a profound testament to what the past can teach us about the present and is more timely than Whitman could possibly have imagined when he began this remarkable excursion into our nation's original sin and its surprising European legacy. A brilliant page-turner."—Laurence H. Tribe, Harvard Law School
"This is a brilliant, erudite, and disturbing book. By looking at the United States through the eyes of Nazi legal theorists in the 1930s, Whitman contributes to our understanding of this darkest chapter of German legal history. Moreover, he shines a light through this unlikely lens on the worst sins of our own country's past."—Lawrence M. Friedman, author of A History of American Law
"In Hitler's American Model, Whitman tells the deeply troubling story of how Nazi lawyers drew inspiration from the American legal system. He offers a detailed and careful reading of how U.S. immigration laws and antimiscegenation legislation gave the Nazi legal establishment the sense of remaining within the boundaries of respectable jurisprudence. Filled with novel insights, this is a particularly timely book given today's political climate."--Jan T. Gross, author of Neighbors
"This is a critical book for our difficult times. Whitman forces us to see America through Nazi eyes and to realize how profoundly white supremacy has shaped this country. Chilling in its details, the unsettling insights of Hitler's American Model jump from every page. A must-read!"--Eddie S. Glaude, author of Democracy in Black
Table of Contents
Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by James Q. Whitman: