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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 Nurember 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.


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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 Nurember 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.

30 review for Hitler's American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sara Salem

    In which you find out that the Nazis thought American race laws were TOO severe.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Vincent Li

    This book is fascinating, disturbing, and nuanced. With the bold title, and swastika on the cover, the book certainly turns heads (I learned quickly that I probably should have taken the book cover off while reading it in public). However, at the end of the day the author is a law professor, and like most law professors writes in a hedged, and nuanced tone. The book suggests more than tells, but is a valuable read regardless. At some level, the book seems not to match the provocative title at al This book is fascinating, disturbing, and nuanced. With the bold title, and swastika on the cover, the book certainly turns heads (I learned quickly that I probably should have taken the book cover off while reading it in public). However, at the end of the day the author is a law professor, and like most law professors writes in a hedged, and nuanced tone. The book suggests more than tells, but is a valuable read regardless. At some level, the book seems not to match the provocative title at all, but I argue that this makes it more worth reading than otherwise. At the core of Whitman's thesis is that American legal traditions and laws in the late 1890s-1930s are more influential (influential to Whitman does not mean the Nazis always admired or approved but does mean beyond superficial intellectual engagement) in Nazi thinking than previously suggested in the historical literature. People looking for silver bullet answers that America is to blame for the Nazi regime will be sorely disappointed. Whitman does not argue that the Nazis lifted American laws or that the American legal tradition is responsible for the horrible crimes of the Nazis. His argument is more subtle, he argues that America was a "model" for the Nazis (the Nazi attitude towards the United States at least before the war seemed ambiguous, they approved of certain American race laws but saw Germany as the logical culmination of such laws, and the US in constant threat of backsliding into its liberal open door traditions). Through varied and meticulously researched historical record piecing (this itself is worth the read without the analysis), Whitman shows that the Nazis were deeply interested and surprisingly well versed in American law in the areas of Jim Crow, immigration law and most damningly anti-miscegenation laws. Partially, this was not unique in that this was something that the Anglo-legal world had in common but since the United States was the leading power of the world it provided an interesting model for Nazi legal thought. Unflatteringly, Whitman argues that America was on the frontier of race law. Whitman shows that there was intense domestic Nazi interest and discussion of American law from within Mein Kampf to the internal discussions leading up to the Nuremberg laws. The Nazis were particularly interested in the laws that created de facto second class citizenship in the US for non-whites (ultimately, choosing to not wrestle with the American struggle between the 14th amendment equality guarantees and its de facto removal of citizenship rights through literacy tests and disenfranchisement but choosing to have an openly racist state). Interestingly, the Nazis found some American measures such as the one drop rule and racial social segregation as too extreme and harsh. Whitman admits that obviously, the Nazis had to adapt Jim Crow to their racist policies towards Jews, but that did not rule out the use of Jim Crow as a legal model for trained lawyers. The Nazis praised early American immigration laws creating quotas on nationalities (unique in the world at the time) as recognition of "healthy" race policy. Most damningly, when the Nazis debated the Nuremberg laws over banning marriage between Germans and Jews, American anti-miscegenation laws played a large role. The more traditionally "moderate" Nazi legal scholars objected to the criminalization of interracial marriage, since in Germany only bigamy was criminalized and the scholars were concerned with the lack of a "scientific" definition for Jews. However, the "radical" faction brought up American anti-miscegenation laws as an example of a system that both criminalized interracial marriage (rare for the world at the time, and complete with maps of different state laws) and operated without a clear definition of race. In fact, according to Whitman, the Nazis had great admiration for the common law and its flexibility. Even more disturbingly, the Nazis had an admiration for the legal realism of the 1930s, with its desire to replace "formalism" with political and "flexible" lawmaking. Whitman argues that in Germany, legal scholars trained in the civil law tradition acted as brakes on the Nazi legal regime in the early days, and that there is a disturbing similarity between the legal realism and the lawlessness of the Nazi regime. Whitman argues near the end that the US differed vastly from the Nazis because it never made race policy the center of its state apparatus (being bound by the 14th amendment). I can't decide if I'm annoyed with (what I assume is) the publisher's decision to feature such an inflammatory cover and title. On one hand it draws attention to a fascinating scholarly topic, but on the other hand it suggests a thesis different from the content of the book. On a minor note, this book seems to continue the annoying trend of publishing what should be a long law review article in a small hardcover book priced at an outrageous 25 dollars!, but I digress.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    Yikes. If you're going to make a claim like this, you better provide ALL the receipts. The claim is that the Nazis borrowed heavily from American race law to craft their own. And the receipts are unfortunately all there. Turns out, the US legal system was the global innovators in racial exclusion, segregation, and anti-miscegenation laws. On that last point, our laws were too strict for the Germans. Now, obviously, they went well beyond where the US went with the holocaust, but as Whitman points Yikes. If you're going to make a claim like this, you better provide ALL the receipts. The claim is that the Nazis borrowed heavily from American race law to craft their own. And the receipts are unfortunately all there. Turns out, the US legal system was the global innovators in racial exclusion, segregation, and anti-miscegenation laws. On that last point, our laws were too strict for the Germans. Now, obviously, they went well beyond where the US went with the holocaust, but as Whitman points out, the initial point was not extermination, but containment and removal of rights. And it turns out the US legal system taught them how to do that. Yikes. One of the most fascinating tidbits (as a law professor) is how appealing our common law system was to them and how much more amendable it was than a civil law system to exploitation by the Nazi party. I had never considered that. The flexibility of our common law courts allow for cases like Brown v. Board of Ed, but they also suited the enforcement of the Nurenmberg laws. Yikes.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Randall Wallace

    Hitler in 1928 openly admired the United States, saying we had “gunned down the millions of Redskins to a few hundred thousand, and now keep the modest remnant under observation in a cage.” Hitler saw how fellow Jew-hater Henry Ford was into building cars for the American masses and that led Hitler to the making of the Volkswagen - designed by none other than Porsche. Then following Hitler’s lead, the Nazis studied the archives of US racist eugenics theory and studied our own long genocidal ques Hitler in 1928 openly admired the United States, saying we had “gunned down the millions of Redskins to a few hundred thousand, and now keep the modest remnant under observation in a cage.” Hitler saw how fellow Jew-hater Henry Ford was into building cars for the American masses and that led Hitler to the making of the Volkswagen - designed by none other than Porsche. Then following Hitler’s lead, the Nazis studied the archives of US racist eugenics theory and studied our own long genocidal quest for Lebensraum (esp. California) - Isn’t it great how the U.S. is such an inspiration to others! “In the early twentieth century, the United States was not just a country with racism. It was THE leading racist jurisdiction.” If only we were taught in school to picture the 1930’s as a time when not one but two “unapologetically racist regimes unmatched in their pitilessness” existed: we were all taught about the Nazis with the Jews in the 30’s, while conveniently told nothing about our similar treatment of blacks then in our own country (Jim Crow). And it should be noted, blacks were being lynched well after WWII was over. Thurgood Marshall said the American Constitution “was defective from the start” and “many of the Founders held beliefs we find reprehensible”. Nazis loved US race law with its separate water fountains, separate bathrooms, schools, bus seating etc. Never in my life have I seen photos of Jews with their signs and restrictions NEXT to photos of Blacks during Jim Crow with their equally evil 1930’s restrictions. Our culture cannot tolerate us making that connection. When as a teen-aged bully, the U.S., took its ‘guns-a-blazing’ show on the road in the Philippines, it found it could control foreign locals by legally defining them as “non-citizen nationals” – thus, on a people who merely wanted independence like us, was bestowed “a de jure form of second-class citizenship for the newly conquered populations.” We were taught how Nazis made Jewish people second class citizens, but never taught that at the same time in the US, Puerto Ricans, Filipinos, Chinese, Blacks and Native Americans were ALSO considered second-class citizens. I’ve never heard any American point out that example of hypocrisy, all I ever heard was how Germans took away freedom and fairness in the 30’s, while the U.S. was somehow a bastion of freedom and fairness. Let’s look at it: Americans alone came up with “lynch justice” and for a while “there a plan to create a Negro reservation in the Southern states, similar to the Indian reservations.” Did you know famed black boxer Jack Johnson wasn’t allowed to return to the U.S. for the shocking crime - of marrying a nice white woman who loved him. “The US was THE model for anti-miscegenation legislation.” “Nazi lawyers, even radical ones, found American law on mongrelization TOO harsh to be embraced by the Reich.” Southerners love their tradition and will enjoy that American anti-miscegenation law dates back to Virginia 1691 – Nazi’s saw how vagueness worked well in the US South – a sign that simply said, “colored” was all that was needed for the oppression to take hold. When the Nazis in 1934 got together to dress as transvestites and debate the best way to institutionalize hardcore racism, they first asked: how did the Americans do it? They admired how Thomas Jefferson said, “It is certain that the two races, equally free, cannot live in the same government.” Then, they admired all those early white American Founders in wigs. The Nazi’s released their Nuremburg Laws to try to minimize the nasty type of street lynchings they had noticed in the U.S. South – the U.S. responded to the German Nuremburg Laws the only way it knew how – lynchings in the US “noticeably” rose at that time. Lynch justice was not to be denied in the land that invented both institutionalized racism and the selling of lynching postcards. This book reveals Nazi efforts “to mine American race law for inspiration during the making of the Nuremburg Laws.” It was great, because it made me think of a lot more critical but uncomfortable things in American History that all citizens need to know to resist the myth of our exceptionalism and/or the branding of “the other.”

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mike Thomas

    Contains important and fascinating research, but it was written in a very repetitive way.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Fiona

    This book is written in what I think of as "academic recursive," a writing style most frequently exhibited by post-secondary professors. It stems, I believe, from the traditional essay structure employed by university students everywhere wherein the writer tells you what they are going to say, and then they say it, and then they remind you of what they just said. It annoys the crap out of me. Allow me to save you the trouble of having to read this book: the Nazis thought American laws relating t This book is written in what I think of as "academic recursive," a writing style most frequently exhibited by post-secondary professors. It stems, I believe, from the traditional essay structure employed by university students everywhere wherein the writer tells you what they are going to say, and then they say it, and then they remind you of what they just said. It annoys the crap out of me. Allow me to save you the trouble of having to read this book: the Nazis thought American laws relating to marriage between people of different "races" were inspirational. Its tarted up like a bigger scandal than it is frankly, and the book focuses on what the Nazis said about the laws rather than discussing the restrictions themselves.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

    A painstakingly researched, deeply disturbing, and completely conivncing study of the profound influence America's eugenics movement and racist laws had upon Nazi codification of its own racist agenda.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    The Holocaust professors I had in my academic experience rarely discussed the jurisprudence for Nazi race laws and, rightfully, focus on the impact Nazi race laws had on European Jewry and other victims of the Holocaust. When evolution of Nazi thought has come up, the lectures I attended focused on the debunked Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the Treaty of Versailles, the history of pogroms in Poland, and the “science” of eugenics. On the latter topic, I remember one professor saying eugenics w The Holocaust professors I had in my academic experience rarely discussed the jurisprudence for Nazi race laws and, rightfully, focus on the impact Nazi race laws had on European Jewry and other victims of the Holocaust. When evolution of Nazi thought has come up, the lectures I attended focused on the debunked Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the Treaty of Versailles, the history of pogroms in Poland, and the “science” of eugenics. On the latter topic, I remember one professor saying eugenics was rising in popularity in the United States during the 1930s, championed by men like Henry Ford and the pilot Charles Lindenberg. But we never discussed how the Nazis could have been inspired by the Jim Crow laws of the United States and the Supreme Court codified practice of “separate but equal” for black citizens. According to Whitman, the reason professors skip over these discussions is because, historically, scholars have tried to make an apples-to-apples comparisons. They’ve looked to American laws towards to Jews, found the discrimination was not codified in legal statues, and go on to assert that the Nazis concocted their legal framework on their own. Whitman asserts that such apples-to-apples comparisons are incorrect. Instead, as he documents in the book, the Nazis completed an apples-to-oranges comparison and drew inspiration from American race laws as applied to blacks for their own against Jews. In their view, American law was constructed to “protect” whites from blacks and other undesirable groups through separate schools and facilities, voting disenfranchisement, tiered citizenship, and bans on interracial marriage. The lawyers crafting Hitler’s Nuremberg laws were certain they would escape international condemnation in the 1930s if they crafted their laws similar to those used by the Americans (and other Anglophile nations like Australia). They were also certain, according to Whitman, that America would eventually awake to the other “threat” among them from the Jews given how aware they were able the threat posed by blacks and other “Mongrel” races. The assertions by the Nazis and the way they crow about the brilliance of American race law is difficult to read. It was especially shocking to read conversations and documents cited by Whitman that assert American race laws are simultaneously too barbaric – the orderly, judicially focused German people would never accept public lynching and mob rule – and too lenient given the educated, wealthy foothold that Jews in Germany were starting from. As interesting and important as Whitman’s thesis is for Holocaust scholarship (and America's reckoning with its racist history), the writing style of the book leaves much to be desired. It is written in a tedious, academic tone with clunky sentences and repetitive passages. The book is comprised of only three chapters plus an introduction, but it could have easily been trimmed down to one scholarly article with a stronger argument and impact.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dschreiber

    In a memorable scene from the movie "Judgment at Nuremberg," the defence lawyer played by Maximilian Schell reads a legal opinion to the court: “We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange indeed, if it could not call upon those who already sapped the strength of the state for these lesser sacrifices in order to prevent our being swamped by incompetence. It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute d In a memorable scene from the movie "Judgment at Nuremberg," the defence lawyer played by Maximilian Schell reads a legal opinion to the court: “We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange indeed, if it could not call upon those who already sapped the strength of the state for these lesser sacrifices in order to prevent our being swamped by incompetence. It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offsprings for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent their propagation by medical means in the first place. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” Snapping the book closed, Schell continues, “The opinion upholds the sterilization law in the State of Virginia, of the United States and was written and delivered by that great American jurist Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes.” It is an unsettling moment in the film. Although the American precedent is not developed any further, it hints at a disturbing reality. Could Oliver Wendell Holmes really have written such a thing? Could the words have been taken out of context? Could it be more than a rhetorical flourish? While racism was there for all to see in the American South with its segregationist Jim Crow laws, putting America side-by-side with Nazi Germany sounds almost obscene. And even if we must acknowledge that the Nazis regularly quoted U.S. eugenicists and U.S. race laws as precedents, we want to believe that such efforts were sheer propaganda, a shabby effort to put a veneer of respectability on their own odious regime. Unfortunately, as J. Q. Whitman shows in Hitler's American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law, the truth is much uglier than this. The truth is that the Nazis undertook a deep and sustained study of the laws of America as they were designing their infamous anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws, because America was for them, as Hitler himself said in Mein Kampf, the one state that had made progress in developing a “healthy racial order.” To be sure, Britain was no slouch, along with its colonies and dominions, when it came to racist immigration preferences, treatment of non-whites, and so on. But America appealed to the Nazis more by being explicit in its laws—and harsher. Until at least 1936 Nazi Germany remained hopeful that it could “reach out the hand of friendship” to the U.S. on the basis of a shared commitment to white supremacy. This may seem at first to be an extreme interpretation, but doubts quickly disappear as Whitman, Professor of Comparative and Foreign Law at Yale Law School, offers copious quotations from German texts of the 1930s. With chilling effectiveness, Hitler's American Model reveals how deeply a second current runs in the American system, counter to its high ideals of freedom, equality, and the rights of man, a current of white, even Aryan, racism. While today Jim Crow laws probably come to mind most easily for us, they were not the focus of the Nazis who, after all, did not plan to create an apartheid regime. Their aim was—before the 1942 Wannsee Conference and its genocidal Final Solution—to drive non-Aryans out of the country and create a racially pure state. Their tools would be new laws on citizenship and sexual relations. Citizenship law in America drew a clear race line as far back as 1790 when the Naturalization Act allowed citizenship to “any alien, being a free white person.” In the following century denying citizenship to Asians became the focus. Indigenous peoples were marginalized by being deemed “nationals” but not citizens. And when the Spanish-American War brought new non-white peoples into the American system, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the creation of second-class citizenship for Puerto Rican and Filipino subjects, a disempowered status of “non-citizen nationals,” “foreign to the United States in a domestic sense.” African-Americans presented a special difficulty as a result of the Fourteenth Amendment of 1868, which gave them citizenship rights; however, the Nazis were careful to note that, especially at the state level, “all means are used to render the Negro’s right to vote illusory” through petty measures such as poll taxes, literacy tests, etc. Most states, too, had laws to restrict African-Americans in their freedom of movement and career possibilities. The few Asians and Mexicans who had made it into the country had their voting rights blocked with similar legislation. Legal ingenuity such as this was appreciated by the Nazis, and in the case of the Czechs they did use a second-class status similar to the American example. But within Germany they were determined to be direct in their purposes by instituting straightforward racist laws. According to Whitman, from the late nineteenth century to the 1920s and 1930s the United States came to be regarded not just by the Nazis but throughout Europe as “the leader in developing explicitly racist policies of nationality and immigration.” As the National Socialist Handbook put it, until the coming of Hitler, the United States had held “the leadership of the white peoples” in the “Aryan struggle for world domination”—although it had merely groped its way toward the historic mission to be undertaken by Germany. The passing of the U.S. Immigration Act in 1924 delighted Hitler. He took as a given its Asian Exclusion Act (an extension of the 1922 Cable Act which revoked the citizenship of American women who married an Asian), but the National Origins Act struck him as especially revealing, for it favoured immigrants from the “Nordic” countries while limiting immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. For him it was a prime example of völkisch citizenship legislation—in fact, the only in modern times. Hitler spoke of it in combination with the earlier genocidal wars on indigenous peoples, believing that it showed clearly that the U.S. was “the model of a state organized on principles of Rasse and Raum,” that is, on the principles of race and the seizure of territory for a völk defined by race. But immigration and citizenship laws are not enough to create a racially pure nation. There had to be metrics to determine the degree of acceptable racial purity and laws to prevent racially mixed births ("mongrelization," in Germany, "miscegenation" in America). Here again America provided the precedents for Germany, and in particular for the Nuremberg Blood Law where, according to Whitman, the American model is seen at its most influential. In many societies mixed marriages have been discouraged through social constraints and sometimes they have been annulled as a matter of civil law, but historically bigamy has been the only form of marriage subject to criminalization and prosecution. In their review of American legislation, the Nazi researchers found that thirty states had passed criminal laws against miscegenation, some of them with penalties as severe as ten years imprisonment. (Virginia continued to enforce its miscegenation statute until 1967, when the Supreme Court, in the case of Richard and Mildred Loving, struck it down. See the 2016 Hollywood film, “Loving.”) The Nazis passed their own criminal laws against race mixing, but the Americans, they thought, had been too harsh, especially with the “one-drop” rule that some states used to define Negroes. As a result, the Reich Citizenship Law of 1935 was milder, defining a Jew as a person having three Jewish grandparents; and it allowed as a mitigating factor the degree of a person’s assimilation into non-Jewish society. The Jim Crow laws, too, were seen by the Nazis as going too far; German laws prohibited German women from consorting “indecently” with black men in public, but they did not place sanctions on private behaviour, as in the U.S. Nazi Germany showed racism in its ugliest, most murderous form. However, a clear-eyed look at the historical record, such as we get in Hitler's American Model, is a healthy reminder that the nations that banded together to destroy Nazi Germany were also infected by the same disease, the difference being simply in the degree of toxicity.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    Fascinating and disturbing. Builds its main (and most terrifying) argument around the single transcript of a meeting of Nazi lawyers prior to the adoption of the Nuremberg Laws. The deeper point that the author makes is about the ways of constructing and applying law, and how America’s common law tradition, in combination with its history of racism, enabled jurists to embed racist concepts into law.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ben Anderson

    “This too has to be part of our national narrative.” Damn straight.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Lance Eaton

    Whitman offers a powerful and well-argued discussion of how American legal and cultural racism inspired and provided models for Hitler and the Nazi regime to form the laws and practices that would ultimately lead to upholding the Holocaust. For some, this may be an eye-opening book, realizing that how the US treated African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and other groups through law and through cultural practices (e.g. lynching, work restrictions, unable to enter certain spaces, u Whitman offers a powerful and well-argued discussion of how American legal and cultural racism inspired and provided models for Hitler and the Nazi regime to form the laws and practices that would ultimately lead to upholding the Holocaust. For some, this may be an eye-opening book, realizing that how the US treated African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and other groups through law and through cultural practices (e.g. lynching, work restrictions, unable to enter certain spaces, unable to marry across race, testify against whites in court, etc). Whitman works to make his argument clear by emphasizing where Nazi Germany was inspired by the US (e.g. in segregation laws) and where they looked to the US as a model (e.g. miscegenation laws) and he also skillfully lays out the evidence for how it can be shown that this is in fact true through extensive archival research. On its own, it's a powerful book to help Americans reflect on the fact that while Germany went the path of Holocaust and has since worked to reconcile its history, the US, which has yet to atone for its racial violence, dehumanization, and genocides. Thus, the tendrils of the racism that perpetuated legal and cultural practices in 20th century US are still with us today. And that's where I wish Whitman would have gone a bit further and done a bit more analysis on connecting this history with the present. He does so, every so lightly, in the final pages of the book, but a more robust critique would have been more appreciative.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Blok

    Admittedly, I don't know much about historical law or the rise of the Nazis. But, I heard about this book somewhere and thought it sounded like an important piece of history I should know about. There were parts here that were a bit of a stretch for my untrained brain, but for the most part, Whitman clearly and accessibly lays out how the Nazis did and did not find inspiration for their racist laws in the lead up to the Holocaust. In what feels like an honest and fair reading of the history (com Admittedly, I don't know much about historical law or the rise of the Nazis. But, I heard about this book somewhere and thought it sounded like an important piece of history I should know about. There were parts here that were a bit of a stretch for my untrained brain, but for the most part, Whitman clearly and accessibly lays out how the Nazis did and did not find inspiration for their racist laws in the lead up to the Holocaust. In what feels like an honest and fair reading of the history (coming from someone who has to take it on faith a bit), Whitman clearly delineates where he thinks American law provided, at the very least, materials Nazis read carefully and interestedly in establishing a ethnic state.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Doug Gillan

    Hitler's American Model, greatly reduced in length, would have made a wonderful article in the New Yorker or the Atlantic. It contains some very interesting ideas and informations, perhaps four major points. But in book length, it becomes repetitive to the edge of belief. Several times, I thought that I must be rereading a section of the book because, I believed, that the exact same words were being repeated. Is there such a thing as self-plagiarism within a book? But the interesting ideas are v Hitler's American Model, greatly reduced in length, would have made a wonderful article in the New Yorker or the Atlantic. It contains some very interesting ideas and informations, perhaps four major points. But in book length, it becomes repetitive to the edge of belief. Several times, I thought that I must be rereading a section of the book because, I believed, that the exact same words were being repeated. Is there such a thing as self-plagiarism within a book? But the interesting ideas are very good -- including ***SPOILER ALERT****(1) that Nazi race laws were informed by, if not based on, race laws in the American South; (2) that the pragmatic American system of common law, in comparsion to the European system of civil law, was also attractive to the Nazis because they could bend it to their needs; (3) that Nazism was a populist movement, intended to make access to many of Germany's resources available to every member of the German Volk (so, only Nordic, non-Jewish people). ***END SPOILER SECTION****

  15. 5 out of 5

    Coleen Dailey

    One of the most frightening books I have read in a long time. This book describes how the Nazi's reviewed and studied American law, specifically race relations prior to the 1930s, immigration, citizenship and marriage laws and Jim Crow to use to draft the Nuremberg laws. Unfortunately parts of it remind us too much of what is going on in America today. I think everyone should read this book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Peter Bradley

    Please give my Amazon review a helpful vote - https://www.amazon.com/Hitlers-Americ... I have a vague recollection of seeing "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" with my parents as a child. I remember a line by Spencer Tracy where he tells his daughter that her plans to marry Sidney Poitier would be "illegal in 20 states." That must have been 1967, the same year that the United States Supreme Court struck down anti-miscegenation laws. I am pushing 60. 1967 was not so long ago. It's amazing how much thi Please give my Amazon review a helpful vote - https://www.amazon.com/Hitlers-Americ... I have a vague recollection of seeing "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" with my parents as a child. I remember a line by Spencer Tracy where he tells his daughter that her plans to marry Sidney Poitier would be "illegal in 20 states." That must have been 1967, the same year that the United States Supreme Court struck down anti-miscegenation laws. I am pushing 60. 1967 was not so long ago. It's amazing how much things have changed in the space of a single lifetime. "Hitler's American Model" by James Q. Whitman takes us back to a period when American led the world in race law. Briefly, in 1934, Hitler's new regime wanted to bring its racial ideas into reality. The German legal profession tackled this issue as it handled most legal problems by performing a survey of race laws around the world in order to find precedents. This search brought it to America, where states had pioneered racial laws that prohibited miscegenation and made non-white racial minorities into second-class citizens. America also had progressive laws allowing for the sterilization of the disable for eugenics reasons. Whitman examines the history and state of American racial law as of the 1930s. Whitman does not claim that Germans modeled their race law on the American version. The Germans recognized the differences between the situation of non-whites in America and Jews in Germany as preventing any such use. Moreover, the professional German lawyers were horrified at the legal treatment of minorities. The German legal class was committed to its commitment to a legal system that defined violations in such a way as to limit judicial discretion. On the other hand, the Nazi zealots found American common law an inspiration since it enabled judges to "work toward Hitler" by importing Nazi principles into the formation of laws on a case by case basis. As Whitman points out, several times, it is a mistake to claim that the Nazis would not have enacted the Nuremberg laws without the American model or that the American model provided an inspiration for Nazis, but the Nazis did find a way to use American law, particularly in their internal debates between the zealots and the legalists. The history here is fascinating as background for Nazi actions. For example, the Swastika was adopted as the official flag of the Nazi state as the first Nuremberg law because of a riot of New York Jews concerning the ship "Bremen" and a judicial opinion by Jewish magistrate Brodsky describing the Nazi flag as a "pirate flag." This gave the Nazis the excuse to make the Swastika the national flag. This is an obscure bit of history that exemplifies the contingent nature of history, and the willingness of the Nazis to use actions of foreign Jews to justify domestic actions. Also interesting was the American part of the history. Whitman says that miscegenation laws were not known outside of the American context. This surprises me, but it may be correct. Catholic cultures were not as racist as Protestant countries.[See e.g., [[ASIN:B00LPMJ1CK Almighty God Created the Races: Christianity, Interracial Marriage, and American Law]] - certainly not as racist when it came to intermarriage. So, that basically leaves the Anglophone world as providing the Protestant variant, which basically leaves America as the country that might be the outlier from global policy. On the other hand, although something like 30 states had anti-miscegenation laws at some point, that leaves 20 that never had anti-miscegenation laws at any time, and of the remaining 30, a good number, including California, had repealed those laws. Likewise, although the Immigration Act of 1924 was incredibly racist in prohibiting immigration or citizenship of non-whites, in 1964 this policy was totally repudiated. (The Supreme Court decision in US v. Thind (1923), involving the question of whether a high class Hindu qualified as "Caucasian" is an eye-opening bit of race science. Eventually, however, the court rejects science and goes with a common law approach to defining Caucasian. Thind is not taught in law school; as a bit of history it is illuminating.) So, interestingly, despite the Nazis' fulsome praise for America as the pioneer of race law, there was a different thread of American law that was less supportive of their policies. Another question I have is what role the German involvement in South-west Africa, particularly the Herero Genocide, played their legal deliberations. Did the Germans have any laws pertaining to interracial marriages? It seems like a good area for future inquiry. Whitman points to other affinities between National Socialism and America, namely the commitment of both the Nazis and the New Deal for "legal realism," which basically means dispensing with formalities in favor of imposing social policy on pragmatic grounds. Whitman writes: "There was more to “Realism” in New Deal America and Nazi Germany than I can explore here; the topic requires a book of its own. Here I would like to emphasize only the obvious point: The “realists” of both countries shared the same eagerness to smash the obstacles that “formalistic” legal science put in the way of “life” and politics—and “life” in both New Deal America and Nazi Germany did not include only economic programs designed to lift the two countries out of the Depression. “Life” also involved racism. It is here that the affinities between the realisms of Nazi Germany and New Deal America should really begin to make us shift uneasily in our seats. American Legal Realism was not just the possession of liberals like Karl Llewellyn; there were also many prominent American racists of the 1930s who embraced it.73 The “realistic” attitude in American law did not just involve yielding to political decision makers when it came to economic legislation; it was also involved yielding to political decision makers when it came to racist legislation. And while some prominent realists spoke out against American racism, during the 1930s, most passed over the race question in silence.74 In that sense the American Legal Realism of the early 1930s was entirely at home in the early New Deal, founded as it was on the Mephistophelean bargain between economic reformers and southern racists. The same “realistic” legal philosophy that could be invoked to defend the “bold [economic] experiments” of FDR could also be invoked to defend the racism of the Southern Democratic Party." It makes a person wonder about the "zeitgeist." Whitman is handling a touchy subject that can provoke a negative reaction in so many different ways. He has done a good job of addressing the issues in a fair and scholarly way. I found the book interesting. I think it hit the right scholarly note.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ailith Twinning

    If you're actually interested in the book, it's got little real content, so here's the TL;DR "Nazis admired some stuff about America, especially its racism and Jim Crow as movements to a racial state and pro White Supremacy - and the lack of traditional legal classifications to allow for innocence until proven guilt or precedent for miscegenation laws was discussed in the context of those of the US. However, the US should never be compared to the Nazis, are not responsible for the Nazis, and are If you're actually interested in the book, it's got little real content, so here's the TL;DR "Nazis admired some stuff about America, especially its racism and Jim Crow as movements to a racial state and pro White Supremacy - and the lack of traditional legal classifications to allow for innocence until proven guilt or precedent for miscegenation laws was discussed in the context of those of the US. However, the US should never be compared to the Nazis, are not responsible for the Nazis, and are a force for good now, regardless our past, or indeed, our present." ---- Not only is this book painfully long for how little it has to say -- the above is the entire argument -- it's a cowardly defense of the US' behaviour before, during and after the War. This falls firmly in the camp of center-right apologetics. And yet the author seems to feel like he's being naughty. Tell me mate, what is the difference between the Nazis and the Mao Mao 'revolt'? How about the US and Cambodia, Korea, Laos, Vietnam, Chile, or any other of our Cold War victims of our terrorism and wars of aggression? Hitler had two crimes, War of Aggression, and Genocide. Either of which America has him beat to shit on. For God's sake we killed half a million children in Iraq, in 1996. Even if you want to throw in "Overthrew a Democracy" for Hitler, then the US' running tally is over 50 at this point, we still win for evilest empire ever. If you're going to compare the USA to Nazi Germany, do it. Otherwise, fuck off with your milquetoast rebellion.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dexter

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is an extremely academic and scholarly work which chronicles the neglected history of Nazi efforts to mine American race law for inspiration during the making of the Nuremberg Laws, and to ask what it tells us about Nazi Germany. The scholarly nature of the book is understandable because it deals with an extremely provocative topic of American jurisprudence and its inspiration of the Nuremberg Laws of Nazi Germany. Although a dry and factual read, the author makes his case—the relationship This is an extremely academic and scholarly work which chronicles the neglected history of Nazi efforts to mine American race law for inspiration during the making of the Nuremberg Laws, and to ask what it tells us about Nazi Germany. The scholarly nature of the book is understandable because it deals with an extremely provocative topic of American jurisprudence and its inspiration of the Nuremberg Laws of Nazi Germany. Although a dry and factual read, the author makes his case—the relationship was undeniable. As the book points out, the history of American racism is not just a history of the Jim Crow South. If we do so, we equate race law in America with the law of segregation. America’s influential role in the 20th century had to do with national and nationwide programs of race-based migration, second class citizenship, and anti-miscegenation law. These are the aspects of American law appealed to Nazi Germany as opposed to the narrow confines of Nazi Germany. This book is relevant today and should be read by all Americans to realize how lucky we are to have been in a time, culture, history, demographic, mindset and geography that would have lead us into something has horrific as the holocaust. The pillars of our democracy are no guarantee against the tribalism currently manifested in our culture and three branches of government. We must remain wary, otherwise we face the the consequences of our complacency and ignorance of racial history in this country.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ben Burtzos

    Focuses primarily on the period from 1933-1935 and the debate leading up to the Nuremburg Laws of 1935. Research is substantial and persuasive; writing quality, less so. Whitman spends a great deal of time apologizing for making the comparison between American race law and Nazi law. In truth, I suspect few people would pick up this book unless they knew what they were getting into. This is not a period of Nazi history likely to be overly familiar to casual readers. Whitman drops names like Schlei Focuses primarily on the period from 1933-1935 and the debate leading up to the Nuremburg Laws of 1935. Research is substantial and persuasive; writing quality, less so. Whitman spends a great deal of time apologizing for making the comparison between American race law and Nazi law. In truth, I suspect few people would pick up this book unless they knew what they were getting into. This is not a period of Nazi history likely to be overly familiar to casual readers. Whitman drops names like Schleicher and von Papen with little to no explanatory information. Worth the read, but most beneficial to readers with fairly substantial knowledge of Nazi bureaucracy. I continue to think William Shirer's "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" should be the initial point of study for students of Nazi Germany.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sasha

    Despite its bombastic, eye-catching title, the book is a sober historical and legal analysis of source material related to the crafting of Nazi Race Law and the inspirations (and limitations) of the United States example in that process. Through published materials, transcripts of contemporary discussions, and memoir accounts from the period, the author deftly explores the influence the example of the United States was to a foreign state as a model of a white supremecist legal system - one even Despite its bombastic, eye-catching title, the book is a sober historical and legal analysis of source material related to the crafting of Nazi Race Law and the inspirations (and limitations) of the United States example in that process. Through published materials, transcripts of contemporary discussions, and memoir accounts from the period, the author deftly explores the influence the example of the United States was to a foreign state as a model of a white supremecist legal system - one even many Nazis thought went too far in its callousness. In the conclusion, we do not just see an analysis of the influence of the American example in international racist lawmaking, but we also see a warning - a warning that the same legal philosophies and institutions that allowed for the propogation of racist laws and human misery still undergird the system today and allow for repetition if left unaltered.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bob H

    A well-researched account of how U.S. race law informed and preceded Nazi laws -- the Nuremberg laws that provided legal cover for the degradation of German Jews. It's an uncomfortable look at how much inspiration the Nazis took from Jim Crow, and how the Nazis found some American practices to be a bit much even for them. While the book mainly covers the 1930s anti-Semitic campaigns, before the war and the complete abandonment of the rule of law altogether, it does fill some places in Holocaust A well-researched account of how U.S. race law informed and preceded Nazi laws -- the Nuremberg laws that provided legal cover for the degradation of German Jews. It's an uncomfortable look at how much inspiration the Nazis took from Jim Crow, and how the Nazis found some American practices to be a bit much even for them. While the book mainly covers the 1930s anti-Semitic campaigns, before the war and the complete abandonment of the rule of law altogether, it does fill some places in Holocaust research and is an unpleasant mirror on U.S. law of the early 20th Century. (Note: this book doesn't focus on the U.S. eugenics laws and their influence on Nazi human experimentation. That's a subject for another book, but it's of the same unpleasant relationship between U.S. and Nazi practice.)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Andre

    If you read this book and are fiercely pro-American than you might get pretty enraged. If you are anti-American, this will be a feast. Based on the title you would be correct to assume that it deals with segregation in the US South, however, that is only a small part of it. The book is a short study on the interest the makers of the Nuremberg Laws had in and what inspiration they took from the US Race laws. Fun fact, based on the author this fact is actually known for a time by now but having co If you read this book and are fiercely pro-American than you might get pretty enraged. If you are anti-American, this will be a feast. Based on the title you would be correct to assume that it deals with segregation in the US South, however, that is only a small part of it. The book is a short study on the interest the makers of the Nuremberg Laws had in and what inspiration they took from the US Race laws. Fun fact, based on the author this fact is actually known for a time by now but having constantly been downplayed because the American race laws did not deal with Jews, however I agree with the author that this is a bad line of reasoning because by that line “inspiration” would only be there if direct copying was involved but inspiration usually is not meant to mean that, in fact in art such copying would be considered plagiarizing. However, the facts are pretty strong when it comes to the claim that not only did the makers of the Nuremberg Laws were heavily inspired by the USA but the most radical Nazis present were the most ardent champions of the lessons that American approaches held for Germany. Nor was this transcript the only record of Nazi engagement with American race law. In the late 1920s and early 1930s many Nazis, including not least Hitler himself, took a serious interest in the racist legislation of the US. Furthermore, apparently it was long known that the Nazis praised Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal in the early 1930s. Looks like he was considered a man who had seized dictatorial power and embarked on bold experiments in the spirit of the Führer. They also called it sometimes the fascist New Deal and until 1937 or even 1939 FDR never singled Hitler out despite being troubled by the anti-Semitism and the New Deal heavily depended on the segregationist South. This is something that is not usually dealt with in the USA. And that this is necessary is also shown by the short trips further into history, like the Naturalization Act of 1790 which stated that naturalization is open for "any alien, being a free white person," second class citizenship for Filipinos and Puerto Ricans, a literacy test trick that was also once applied to Irish and Australia had it as well and anti-miscegenation law was already in the Virginia statute of 1691. Not to mention the entire Anglophone world had restrictive immigration laws, but who talks about that? And it really does not stop there, as we get to see thinks like: an almost fascist Jew being interested in American race law, the USA as THE model for race and immigration laws and being constantly monitored by Nazis and other racists for inspiration and hope that they will not "Fall to degeneracy of race mixing". And when Nazi lawyers considered the American deprivation of black rights, they saw, bizarrely, a precisely parallel effort to combat black "influence." For them, American blacks were not a desperately oppressed and impoverished population, but a menacing "alien race" of invaders that threatened to get "the upper hand," and therefore had to be thwarted. This view was one Nazis shared with American racists. But don’t worry, they did not just invoke the American precedence, but others as well. You see prior to the Nuremberg Laws there was the Prussian Memorandum which was less radical than the Jim Crow laws, only targeted public interactions, while Jim Crow also did the personal race mixing and not only invoked American but also Australian immigration law. The Nazis searched across the world for kindred spirits and precedence in what they considered their basically holy mission. And American race laws often seemed almost perfect for them, especially since it applied race laws without having a clear definition of the races, something that bothered moderate Nazis but appealed to the radical ones. In the end, what might be the most ironic points this book makes are: The Nazis rejected the American one drop rule as too extreme when they wrote the Blood Law. Someone contributing to the Nueremberg Laws not only was very knowledgeable of American race law, but he considered Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln his heroes and believed that had the latter not been assassinated, America would have become a "truly healthy race based order." And according to him American law was content to devide the population in whites and coloureds.... hm not much changed there." Krieger noted that there was a growing tendency in judical practice to "assign a person to the group of coloreds whenever there is even a trace of visible Negro physical featuresm and beyond that to do so when the Negroe descent of the individual is common knowledge, without regard to how far the degree of descent reaches back. So in this case the USA seems to have gotten worse, according to my experience. Apparently the Nazis were also interested in the American way of doing things, the innovation, realism and flexibility of the common law. Something Americans never question as it seems. What appealed to them about American common law is exactly what is praised today. You see it was only ordinary citizens who should blindly obey but Nazi officials were expected to take a different attitude. They were supposed to act in the spirit of Hitler, act more independently and they steadfastly opposed the traditions of the civil law as they had existed in Germany before the Nazi takeover. The author states that what was appealing to Nazis about America back then is, in regards to the common law, still appealing today. PS. I think it is safe to say that no one reading this will live long enough to see the book’s content in a mainstream movie.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rt

    Repeatedly, Nazis looking for inspiration looked to the US system of racial discrimination, primarily in the treatment of immigration, the rights of those in non-state territories, and anti-miscegnation laws. Whitman emphasizes that the Nazis’ crimes were their own and that they also rejected liberal and democratic parts of American law. They also appealled to racist practices among other European colonial powers. Still, Whitman argues that, because the Nazis didn’t envision the Holocaust when t Repeatedly, Nazis looking for inspiration looked to the US system of racial discrimination, primarily in the treatment of immigration, the rights of those in non-state territories, and anti-miscegnation laws. Whitman emphasizes that the Nazis’ crimes were their own and that they also rejected liberal and democratic parts of American law. They also appealled to racist practices among other European colonial powers. Still, Whitman argues that, because the Nazis didn’t envision the Holocaust when they started out, they found compelling analogies in American discriminatory practices, even though these practices were often not aimed at Jews. As with everything about America, it was possible to be selective, and the Nazis had no problem claiming that New York City had “very little to do with ‘America’” because of all its race-mixing and Jews. Hitler was able to see the US as a model of Nordic supremacy, and he wasn’t alone; a Nazi historian described the Founding, in what Whitman says was the received wistom of the time, as “a historic turning point in ‘the Aryan struggle for world domination.’” One detailed scholarly work, Race Law in the United States, had as heroes Jefferson and Lincoln—Jefferson because of his insistence that blacks and whites couldn’t live under the same government if both were free, and Lincoln because of his early calls for black resettlement outside the US. Similarly, “Nazi expansion eastward was accompanied by invocations of the American conquest of the West, with its accompanying wars on Native Americans…. Indeed as early as 1928 Hitler was speechifying admiringly about the way Americans had ‘gunned down the millions of Redskins to a few hundred thousand, and now keep the modest remnant under observation in a cage’ ….” Jim Crow segregation, Whitman contends, wasn’t all that important to the Nazis, but citizenship and sex/reproduction were, and it was there that they took lessons from the US. In fact, “Nazis almost never mentioned the American treatment of blacks without also mentioning the American treatment of other groups, in particular Asians and Native Americans.” American immigration and naturalization law was, almost uniquely, racist and race-based, and Hitler praised it for being so in Mein Kampf. And there were various forms of de jure and de facto second-class citizenship for African-Americans, Filipinos, and Chinese, to which the Nazis could look as they created second-class citizenship for Jews—drawing on, for example, the distinction between “political rights” and “civil rights” that American whites offered to excuse segregation. Indeed, some Nazis considered openly race-based laws to be more honest about keeping “alien races” from getting the upper hand; they had no need for grandfather clauses, and they devised the Nuremberg Laws in part to “institute official state persecution in order to displace street-level lynchings,” which offended the facist need for state centralization. The US was also unique in anti-miscegnation laws, with careful rules about blood quantum—in fact, there were no other models for such laws for the Nazis to consult. And it mattered, Whitman suggests, that America was seen as a dynamic country—confirmation for the Nazis that the future was going in their direction. Among other things, American creativity on the definition of race showed that one didn’t need a purely scientific or theoretical definition of race, despite the leanings of German law; one could proceed with a political, pragmatic definition in enforcing anti-miscegnation and other discriminatory laws. Indeed, that’s ultimately what the Germans did when they defined Jews as including people with one Jewish parent if and only if they practiced Judaism or married Jews (rejecting, along the way, the even more aggressive American one-drop rule). Whitman concludes that we have to acknowledge that the Nazis practiced a particular kind of Legal Realism, whereby the law was supposed to assist in the process of social transformation, throwing formalism aside and recognizing reality—and reality, in both countries, was racist. “[T]o have a common-law system like that of America is to have a system in which the traditions of the law do indeed have little power to ride herd on the demands of the politicians, and when the politics is bad, the law can be very bad indeed.” Whitman finds the most prominent modern manifestation of this in the US in its harsh criminal justice system.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Luis

    Coming to this book I was already startled by the idea that the United States had "influenced" or "inspired" Nazi German policies during the rise of Hitler's Third Reich. Too simplistic in light of the author's conclusion which discusses the USA's common-law tradition and how it was that which the German lawyers sought to emulate even more. This is particularly disturbing as that common law tradition, for all the good it has contributed to American society and culture, has also been weaponized t Coming to this book I was already startled by the idea that the United States had "influenced" or "inspired" Nazi German policies during the rise of Hitler's Third Reich. Too simplistic in light of the author's conclusion which discusses the USA's common-law tradition and how it was that which the German lawyers sought to emulate even more. This is particularly disturbing as that common law tradition, for all the good it has contributed to American society and culture, has also been weaponized to rationalize the irrational and legalize the unlawful. Germany's lawyers operating under the Nazi regime discovered in America's philosophy of law the means to foment their version of legal realism towards a racist state which they were convinced the United States was destined to become but was being held back by liberal as well as formalistic legal appreciations. Despite America's appeal to its founding documents the Constitution in amendments like the 14th, the Nazi lawyers keenly observed contradictory existence of a legal philosophical "loophole" the allowed politics and ideology to influence the creation and execution of racist laws that would allow for the creation of a "legal" second class citizenry (e.g. blacks, Puerto Ricans, Native Americans, etc.). Granted, as James Whitman emphasizes, this American legal tradition paved the way for social democracy to finally take root in American politics in the form of the New Deal and the civil rights movements but it was also used by racist political leaders to institutionalize racism. As Whitman warns in his conclusion, "...to have a common law system like that of America is to have a system in which the traditions of the law do indeed have little power to ride herd on the demands of the politicians, and when the politics is bad, the law can be very bad indeed." Among a host of other things, Nazi Germany is a lesson of what happens when lawyers and judges become mere politicians in robes governed by a perverse irrational political theory that will stop at nothing to support heinous and cruel policies. Whitman correctly points to a current example in the USA: our criminal justice system. One of the most punitive in the democratic world that is negatively influenced by individuals --judges and prosecutors-- yielding primarily to ideological and political considerations that trump lawfulness while denying a reasonable path towards restorative justice. Even today, the American legal system remains vulnerable to the political headwinds that allow for racial injustice and the unequal treatment of "undesirables" to continue. This should put fear in the hearts of those concerned about the direction of American politics and how it will impact our courts, and our lives, for generations to come.

  25. 5 out of 5

    David Buccola

    This is an interesting book on many levels but it also contains some of the worst writing I’ve encountered in some time. Couple that with the author’s penchant to defend America at nearly every turn and it became somewhat tiresome. Here’s an example of Whitman’s writing, “Erich Mobius, a Nazi doctor attached to the Interior Ministry, raised once again, sorrowfully, the difficulties caused by foreign objections to the criminalization of consorting with ‘colored races’—and reported, memorably, on a This is an interesting book on many levels but it also contains some of the worst writing I’ve encountered in some time. Couple that with the author’s penchant to defend America at nearly every turn and it became somewhat tiresome. Here’s an example of Whitman’s writing, “Erich Mobius, a Nazi doctor attached to the Interior Ministry, raised once again, sorrowfully, the difficulties caused by foreign objections to the criminalization of consorting with ‘colored races’—and reported, memorably, on a conversation with an American, to which Freisler gave his own memorable response.” Clunky. Whitman is Captain Clunky. Sentence after sentence like this throughout the book and I just kept wondering who killed the editor? Then there is the constant and unnecessary reminders that despite directly influencing and inspiring Nazis, America is still awesome! It’s just constant throughout the book. No matter how dreadful, draconian and racist our laws were it really wasn’t so bad. Whitman is constantly going out of his way to assure his American audience that, “The Nazis, let us all agree, would have committed monstrous crimes regardless of how intriguing and attractive they found American race law.” Why should we agree on that? Left out, of course, is the pioneering and globally influential work on eugenics in America that also was a major influence on the Nazis. How can we pretend that we could remove that—all of that—and the Nazis still do what they go on to do? Do we also remove the major corporate help provided by the likes of IBM, Ford, Firestone and others in helping the Nazis carry out the Holocaust? Whitman also, unnecessarily, reminds us, “America proved a generous place of refuge for at least some of the victims of Nazism.” He fails to mention that we also were provided a generous place of refuge for thousands of Nazi scientists through Operation Paperclip. Nevertheless his conclusions about the dangers of our jurisprudence realism and the ways in which unscrupulous politicians have used it to the detriment of our society is sobering. Whitman does a good job of illustrating just how that realism is impacting our country through our current criminal justice system through draconian three strikes laws and our leading share of the world’s prison population. As Michelle Alexander so poignantly illustrates in “The New Jim Crow,” we are still very much dealing with a very racist legal system. In summary there’s a lot of good information here if you can get past the clunky writing and endless platitudes for the USA. As Whitman writes, “The United States has produced an admirably uninhibited racist jurisprudence.” It’s time we deal with this as a country.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Elena Akers

    “Seeing America through Nazi eyes tells us some uncomfortable things about the character of American legal culture.” Pg 137. The most interesting part of this book by far was seeing the tidbits of American history as understood by Nazis, especially parts they found to be too harsh or too unclear. This perspective was somewhat eye-opening for me, as poor American history education has always glorified America’s successes and minimized its faults, and there were a number of specific race-related l “Seeing America through Nazi eyes tells us some uncomfortable things about the character of American legal culture.” Pg 137. The most interesting part of this book by far was seeing the tidbits of American history as understood by Nazis, especially parts they found to be too harsh or too unclear. This perspective was somewhat eye-opening for me, as poor American history education has always glorified America’s successes and minimized its faults, and there were a number of specific race-related laws I never knew about. Yes, NAZIS thought AMERICA was too harsh. This might not be surprising for those who have analyzed America’s hard history before, but the author presents this in a way that makes it approachable for those unfamiliar with critical analysis of the US. While I found the tone in that sense to be a bit too apologetic at times, I think this is effective for those more hesitant readers. It is important to understand the influences that American law (specifically, as the author explains, citizenship and immigration laws, with a sprinkle of miscegenation laws and a dash of segregation) had on Nazi law markers. The author really drilled this point home, and while I appreciated the depth of research, I think this could have been done more concisely. I essentially understood the main argument within the introduction and after that was very bogged down in details, which were insightful, but not my preference for reading. I am pretty shocked to learn that some historians do not see the influence of American law on that of the Nazis, as there are SO MANY EXAMPLES of direct references to American race laws. The author dives particularly deeply into a transcript of one Nazi meeting, using 10 pages to describe it basically line by line, and this is an interesting look at “the detailed record of how the process of influence transpired” pg. 111. All in all, I think I would only recommend this book for those very interested in legal history. Despite the focus on the Nazi regime, which I nearly always find interesting, the level of detail in this book just made it a bit boring for me. I might have preferred to consume this information via a podcast or editorial article.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    All I can say is that this is an important book. In the United States, we seem to accept, unequivocally, that the US was on the "good side" in the second World War. We also assume, that while it may have been reprehensible, surely American race law wasn't as terrifying of the laws of the Nazis. Whitman's book shatters all such notions, and indeed asks us all to question not only our understanding of American history and identity, but of the way we practice law (particularly in regards to our cri All I can say is that this is an important book. In the United States, we seem to accept, unequivocally, that the US was on the "good side" in the second World War. We also assume, that while it may have been reprehensible, surely American race law wasn't as terrifying of the laws of the Nazis. Whitman's book shatters all such notions, and indeed asks us all to question not only our understanding of American history and identity, but of the way we practice law (particularly in regards to our criminal justice system). To be clear, Whitman never asserts that the US and Nazi Germany were identical in any way. However, he simply (but thoroughly) informs us that "when the leading Nazi jurists assembled in early June 1934 to debate how to institutionalize racism in the new Third Reich, they began by asking how the Americans did it." A powerful and uncomfortable notion, to be sure. Whitman also reminds us that twentieth-century American race law wasn't just about Jim Crow segregation. It was far more complex, including anti-miscegenation law and complicated systems of determining what it meant to be "colored." It is clear that our history courses paint American racism in far rosier colors than we can justify, and reading books like this one is a necessary reminder of the truth. Lastly, for law nerds like me, Whitman discusses the debate between the lauded American "common law" (realism) and the more rigid formalistic interpretations of the law. Indeed, Whitman notes that "to have a common law system like America is to have a system in which the traditions of the law do indeed have little power to ride herd on the demands of politicians, and when the politics is bad, the law can be very bad indeed." This whole book, like any good book, is a big question mark in the way we interpret our history, our legal systems, and our national identities. I highly recommend this, now more than ever.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Khitkhite Buri

    I will admit this kind of anglo-americancentrism. I think it’s the only position to take today with respect to America, albeit America as bracketed under a global phenomenon. In fact, I think this book lacks the arrogance, the bombast necessary to offer controversial declarations. Without that, it has to rely on apologies and reassurance. Who doesn’t know that the swastika is hardly an alien sight in America, forget subtle symbolism? It’s almost as if you can see the censor board looking over it I will admit this kind of anglo-americancentrism. I think it’s the only position to take today with respect to America, albeit America as bracketed under a global phenomenon. In fact, I think this book lacks the arrogance, the bombast necessary to offer controversial declarations. Without that, it has to rely on apologies and reassurance. Who doesn’t know that the swastika is hardly an alien sight in America, forget subtle symbolism? It’s almost as if you can see the censor board looking over its shoulder to account for the book's salvation by the economic demands of the conspiracy theorists trawling through a bookstore. It also has to rely on the past tense of Auschwitz to make ‘us shift in our seats’, the controversy, unfortunately, remains in its relegated shelves of historical and legal scholarship. What is relevant is denied, except one taut note to current criminal jurisdiction. Increasingly disappointed with the naivety of this book, despite the research. It's as if every association to the 'absolute evil' of Nazism has to be understood from a relativist point of view. And then there are things like this “What horror we all ought to feel when we learn that Hans Frank referred to the Jews of Ukraine as “Indians” in 1942” Who should feel the horror and on whose behalf? Is there a hierarchy of horror, a bucketful to go around? (Is there some underlying perverse curiosity as to how rich, white men were hopelessly annihilated?)The last chapter is liberally starred and striped. “America did indeed (and does) lack a “centralized and efficient bureaucracy.” Okay. Discussion about the incompatibility of liberal economic reform experiments in law vs conservative civil law, where the former loses? Okay then. I can see the Yale colours, Whitman.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    * The Nuremberg Laws emulated American race laws. They limit citizenship (African Americans during Jim Crow, Philippino and Puerto Ricans becoming nationals but not citizens after the Spanish American War in spite of the 14th Amendment) and race mixing via marriage / coupling in general. * They looked at not just South but the whole country; and when they rejected parts of our race laws, it was for being too racist. * Germans liked the American expansion West and genocide of Native Americans justi * The Nuremberg Laws emulated American race laws. They limit citizenship (African Americans during Jim Crow, Philippino and Puerto Ricans becoming nationals but not citizens after the Spanish American War in spite of the 14th Amendment) and race mixing via marriage / coupling in general. * They looked at not just South but the whole country; and when they rejected parts of our race laws, it was for being too racist. * Germans liked the American expansion West and genocide of Native Americans justifying their interest in claiming lands for themselves and wiping out the people living there. * Nazis also liked the New Deal for its socialism. * Nazis originally hoped for "coerced emigration" by Jews sounding like current self-deportation of immigrants in present US. * People were divided into Citizens, Nationals, and Aliens in both American law and German laws based off them * In the Germans' eyes, American law had "Devious Legal Pathways" to get around the 14th Amendment and boasts of equality going back to the Constitution. American law couldn't be open about its racist goals. * German Blood Law prevents race mixing particularly in marriage. Germans were particularly frightened by a "single unified humanity" which they felt Jews advocated for by always being nomadic and a mix of various races... so of course they'd like to see borders disappear and races mix. * Nazis reject as too extreme the "one drop" rule of American racists of one drop of black blood destroying the faculties of a previously wholly pure white person. * "Mongrelization" had a long history in the states because of masters having sex with their slaves. * Free of vigilante justice like lynching mobs put the job of racist persecution in the hands of the state and not the individual unlike the US. For this reason, some argue, the US South shouldn't be considered fascist as its enforcement came less from the government. * In 1934, moderate German lawyers held the line against the criminalization of mixed race marriages and who would count as a Jew. They weren't heroes but just wanted persecution to hew to German lawfulness. Still their efforts slowed the worsening German laws. * Germans felt Jim Crow segregation could only work on an already marginalized minority population * Should the German laws be simply race based separating the races or racist asserting the superiority of the white race? It was difficult to come up with an ironclad definition of who a Jew was which would count in a court of law. American laws showed it could move forward with discriminatory laws without the clarity preferred by the Germans. All this examination of American laws were considered during the drafting the Nuremberg Laws. * Remember America did not lead to Naziism - its genesis lays in Germany. However, it's laws were inspected in service of Naziism. * Germans weren't just interested in Jim Crow but almost always cited in addition discriminatory laws against Asians, Native Americans, and other minorities. They also cited Manifest Destiny in their right to run over the rest of Europe. * Germans were trying to be egalitarian among all Aryan Germans... no longer would there be aristocratic and poor such Germans. This is similar to Jacksonian America trying to be egalitarian among white Nordic descended Americans but trampling minorities. * Common law of America vs. Civil law of Germany / Europe. One would think the Civil law was the underpinning of Naziism and Common law its enemy but this book shows that Common law had plenty to over the Civil law of Naziism. * "Realistic" law was exemplified in America by the New Deal and in Germany by Naziism. This law honored the spirit of the law and not so much strict adherence to law. * The American system is set so that when the politics is bad... the law is bad and less able to reign in the bad politics. * Nazis expected loyalty from citizens but discretion in its high ranking officers.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    This is what should have been a New Yorker or Atlantic Monthly magazine article stretched out into book form. The Nuremberg Laws took inspiration from America's miscegenation laws and from some of our citizen laws. The end. Ok, no, but that's the gist of the book. He then goes on in great detail for 161 pages. I did find the various details about crazy American laws interesting. Whoa, what was up with the Cable Act?! An American woman would lose her citizenship if she married a foreigner who was This is what should have been a New Yorker or Atlantic Monthly magazine article stretched out into book form. The Nuremberg Laws took inspiration from America's miscegenation laws and from some of our citizen laws. The end. Ok, no, but that's the gist of the book. He then goes on in great detail for 161 pages. I did find the various details about crazy American laws interesting. Whoa, what was up with the Cable Act?! An American woman would lose her citizenship if she married a foreigner who was Asian. She didn't lose it if she married a white foreigner. This was repealed in 1931, but still! It went hand in hand with the citizen law stating that people from Asia couldn't apply for American citizenship. The part about American politicians contorting themselves into trying to figure out how to not allow Puerto Rico to become a state like the law said it should because of "icky brown people" was shocking and yet not shocking. It was a glimpse at the systemwide racism that ran rampant in the country. I was shocked to learn that Nazi lawyers and politicians thought American miscegenation laws went too far. Yes, we were too racist for the Nazis. They were all "Hey, wait a minute, that one drop rule is too extreme! Let's not get carried away here." It's depressing how most Americans don't know about American history and what went on. When I read internet comments that there was no racism until Obama, well, the mind reels. How anyone can say that with a straight face is beyond me. I wish more Americans would learn about the past because the past is still affecting and influencing current events. Sigh.

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