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

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  463 ratings  ·  89 reviews
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 La
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Kindle Edition, 214 pages
Published February 14th 2017 by Princeton University Press
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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 ·  463 ratings  ·  89 reviews


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Hadrian
"The American Union [...] simply excludes the immigration of certain races. In these respects America already pays obeisance, at least in tentative first steps, to the characteristic volkisch conception of the state."
-Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

It is common, only too common, to abuse the rhetorical device of a comparison to Hitler to discredit one's opponent. Hitler is rightfully a metonym for evil, but he is often invoked for anything which is inconvenient or the subject of personal distaste. But
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Sara Salem
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In which you find out that the Nazis thought American race laws were TOO severe.
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 ...more
Mehrsa
May 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Mike Thomas
Contains important and fascinating research, but it was written in a very repetitive way.
Fiona
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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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.
Dschreiber
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Randall Wallace
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Lee
Mar 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ben Anderson
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“This too has to be part of our national narrative.”

Damn straight.
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 ...more
Andrew Blok
Jul 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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 ...more
Peter Bradley
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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 o
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Dexter
Nov 18, 2017 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ben Burtzos
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Bob H
May 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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
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Rt
Aug 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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
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Luis
Sep 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
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, mem
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Mike
May 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
* 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 Ame
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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
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Julie Barrett
Oct 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: finished-2019, ww2
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 foreig
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Ailith Twinning
Feb 26, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
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 Naz
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Bookaholic
Feb 23, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
An interesting book that provides an insightful overview of the formation of the infamous Nuremburg Laws that were issued at the start of the Nazi’s regime.

If one were to read “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn first—one would not be surprised (and/or shocked) by the claims purported in this book, whatsoever.

Yes, United States was a great source of inspiration for the Nazis. In fact, the Ku Klux Klan is the original “Nazi”—and, there shouldn’t be any wonder her
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Reza Amiri Praramadhan
Right after the Civil War, the southern whites gradually succeeded in putting negroes ‘back to their rightful place’, with the sets of laws of segregation known as Jim Crow laws. In 1930’s, Germany fell under the rule of the Nazis, who began almost right away to formulate their own racial law to persecute the Jews. As a racist nation with the most advanced racial laws at that time, german lawyers looked on USA for inspiration. The funny thing was, American’s racial laws were deemed to extreme ev ...more
Kent
Dec 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"When we add it all up, the right conclusion is this: American white supremacy, and to some extent Anglophone white supremacy more broadly, provided to our collective shame, some of the working materials for the Nazism of the 1930s." From p. 145

In a disturbing and at times difficult book to read, Professor Whitman provides an unflinching review of the formulation of the Nazi Nuremberg Laws and the fact that those involved in that formulation looked to the legal racism of the United S
...more
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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.
“century America was a country, wrote Fritsch, that had finally learned the error of its egalitarian ways: “America, soaked in ideas of freedom and equality, has hitherto accorded equal rights to all races. But it finds itself compelled to revise its attitudes and its laws and create restrictions on Negroes and Chinese.”82 To Fritsch, the history of American immigration law offered a parable on the dangers of ignoring race in favor of a foolish egalitarianism. As we shall see shortly, Hitler and other Nazis would often repeat Fritsch’s interpretive line.” 1 likes
“Americans had to work around the requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment, and more broadly around their announced traditions of equality; and in consequence their law was a law of covert devices and legal subterfuges. American law, as Krieger wrote, was a law of Umwege, devious legal pathways.” 1 likes
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