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

Hitler's American Model by James Q. Whitman
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
23760309
's review

it was amazing
bookshelves: history, fascism, racism, legal-realism, immigration

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.
flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Hitler's American Model.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

November 26, 2018 – Shelved
November 26, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
May 3, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
August 5, 2019 – Started Reading
August 5, 2019 –
0.0%
August 5, 2019 –
21.0%
August 8, 2019 –
27.0%
August 20, 2019 –
31.0%
August 20, 2019 –
34.0%
August 24, 2019 –
40.0%
August 30, 2019 –
50.0% "Most intriguing is the idea that German lawyers were attracted to American jurisprudence over the more "scientific" philosophy of law of the European civil code that was widely accepted in Europe. Americans actually coming out of their way to observe to the Germans why they were so blatant while America was more "subtle" about its racism."
August 30, 2019 –
50.0% ""A man like Freisler was drawn to American jurisprudence precisely because it was not hobbled by this sort of "outdated" respect for legal science and juristic tradition; and that ought to be enough to raise doubts in our minds about whether common-law liberty offers the defense against tyranny of the Nazi kind.""
September 2, 2019 – Shelved as: history
September 2, 2019 – Shelved as: fascism
September 2, 2019 – Shelved as: racism
September 2, 2019 – Shelved as: legal-realism
September 2, 2019 – Shelved as: immigration
September 2, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-1 of 1 (1 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

Luis Most intriguing is the idea that German lawyers were attracted to American jurisprudence over the more "scientific" philosophy of law of the European civil code that was widely accepted in Europe. Americans coming out of their way to observe to the Germans why they were so blatant while America was more "subtle" about its racism. The Germans had correctly pointed out the contradiction between the stated Enlightenment values/egalitarian principles of the nation's founding documents and the realities allowed by American laws that translated to racial engineering to keep America's dominant class as white as possible.


back to top