FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Review: James Q. Whitman’s “Hitler’s American Model”

James Q. Whitman’s chilling account of American influences on Nazi policy formulations about the extermination of European Jews, Hitler’s American Model, lays to rest any doubt about America being anything besides the most racist country civilization has ever known. The Nazis were inspired by American models (especially laws in Southern states designed to thwart any advancement of African-Americans).  The Nazis had “a shared commitment of white supremacy” in part because they realized that it had been successful in helping create America’s dynamism, especially its economic power.

For the Nazis, America was “a beacon of anti-miscegenation law” that could be emulated. As Whitman states at the conclusion of his opening chapter, “We will not understand the history of National Socialist Germany, and more importantly the place of America in the larger history of world racism, unless we reckon with these facts. In the early 1930s, Nazi lawyers were engaged in creating a race law founded on anti-miscegenation law and race-based immigration, naturalization, and second-class citizenship law. They went looking for foreign models, and they found them—in the United States of America.”

Hitler himself observed, in 1933, “The racially pure and still unmixed German has risen to become master of the American continent, and he will remain the master, as long as he does not fall victim to racial pollution.” The Nuremberg Laws of the same era were “to create a new Nazi law of citizenship, alongside a new Nazi law of sex and intermarriage…” There was plenty to draw upon from the United States, beginning with the extermination of Native Americans. Hitler had noted this in a 1928 speech, admiring Americans who had “gunned down the millions of Redskins to a few hundred thousand, and now kept the modest remnant under observation in a cage.” The American Immigration Act of 1924 “conditioned entry into the United States on race-based tables of ‘national origins,’” earning the praise of Hitler in Mein Kampf. There would subsequently be Chinese exclusion legislation, restrictions on immigration through literary tests (think of the way some states still today try to control voting by such onerous qualifications). Even the horrifying “lynch justice” that Whitman defines as “the natural resistance of the Volk to an alien race that is attempting to gain the upper hand.”

If you still doubt America’s on-going racism and status as the leader of the pact, consider our country’s blood laws. Nazis considered Jews as “vectors of mongrelization,” but “much of America was infected with the same race madness.”  Thirty states declared “racially mixed marriages civilly invalid.” The lovely state of Maryland where I have lived for close to a half a century had this gobbledygook on its books:

“All marriages between a white person and a Negro, or between a white person and a person of Negro descent, to the third generation, inclusive, or between a white person and a member of the Malay race or between a Negro and a member of the Malay race, or between a person of Negro descent, to the third generation, inclusive, and a member of the Malay race, or between a person of Negro descent, to the third generation, inclusive, and a member of the Malay race or between a Negro and a member of the Malay race, or between a person of Negro descent, to the third generation, inclusive, and a member of the Malay race, are forever prohibited, and shall be void; and any person violating the provisions of this Section shall be deemed guilty of an infamous crime, and be punished by imprisonment in the penitentiary for not less than eighteen months nor more than ten years.”

The release late last year of the movie Loving should be enough of a reminder that intermarriage was anathema to most Americans, by which I mean white Americans.

The Germans moved our miscegenation laws a step further: “Every form of sexual mixing between a German and a member of a foreign race is to be punished as race treason, and indeed both parties are to be subject to punishment….” In the early 1930s, Nazis were not yet preaching extermination of Jews, which would come later, but what they were preaching “arguably did represent a logical extension of much of American race law, much though we may want to pretend otherwise.”

Tragically, the American pretenders are operating with almost no visible cover today, pretty much with Republican complicity. It’s difficult to read Whitman’s book without gagging. As he concludes, there has always been “tension between two racial orders in America, a ‘white supremacist order’ and an ‘egalitarian transformative order.’”

Think of all the racist talk during the recent election, and if you are still uncomfortable with what I’ve been writing, look back no further than May 31st, when LeBron James responded to racist graffiti spray-painted outside his LA home: “No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being black in America—it’s tough.” And he added, “We got a long way to go for us as a society and for us as African-Americans until we feel equal in America.”

Whitman’s Hitler’s American Model won’t be read by the people who need to read it, including our president who doesn’t read anything at all. And that makes some of us believe that we are back in the 1930s about to embark once again into a horrific future.

James Q. Whitman: Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of   Nazi Race Law
Princeton, 208 pp., $24.95

More articles by:

Charles R. Larson is Emeritus Professor of Literature at American University, in Washington, D.C. Email = clarson@american.edu. Twitter @LarsonChuck.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
February 24, 2020
Stephen Corry
New Deal for Nature: Paying the Emperor to Fence the Wind
M. K. Bhadrakumar
How India’s Modi is Playing on Trump’s Ego to His Advantage
Jennifer Matsui
Tycoon Battle-Bots Battle Bernie
Robert Fisk
There’s Little Chance for Change in Lebanon, Except for More Suffering
Rob Wallace
Connecting the Coronavirus to Agriculture
Bill Spence
Burning the Future: the Growing Anger of Young Australians
Eleanor Eagan
As the Primary Race Heats Up, Candidates Forget Principled Campaign Finance Stands
Binoy Kampmark
The Priorities of General Motors: Ditching Holden
George Wuerthner
Trojan Horse Timber Sales on the Bitterroot
Rick Meis
Public Lands “Collaboration” is Lousy Management
David Swanson
Bloomberg Has Spent Enough to Give a Nickel to Every Person Whose Life He’s Ever Damaged
Peter Cohen
What Tomorrow May Bring: Politics of the People
Peter Harrison
Is It as Impossible to Build Jerusalem as It is to Escape Babylon?
Weekend Edition
February 21, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Election Con 2020: Exposing Trump’s Deception on the Opioid Epidemic
Joshua Frank
Bloomberg is a Climate Change Con Man
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Billion Dollar Babies
Paul Street
More Real-Time Reflections from Your Friendly South Loop Marxist
Jonathan Latham
Extensive Chemical Safety Fraud Uncovered at German Testing Laboratory
Ramzy Baroud
‘The Donald Trump I know’: Abbas’ UN Speech and the Breakdown of Palestinian Politics
Martha Rosenberg
A Trump Sentence Commutation Attorneys Generals Liked
Ted Rall
Bernie Should Own the Socialist Label
Louis Proyect
Encountering Malcolm X
Kathleen Wallace
The Debate Question That Really Mattered
Jonathan Cook
UN List of Firms Aiding Israel’s Settlements was Dead on Arrival
George Wuerthner
‘Extremists,’ Not Collaborators, Have Kept Wilderness Whole
Colin Todhunter
Apocalypse Now! Insects, Pesticide and a Public Health Crisis  
Stephen Reyna
A Paradoxical Colonel: He Doesn’t Know What He is Talking About, Because He Knows What He is Talking About.
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A New Solar Power Deal From California
Richard Moser
One Winning Way to Build the Peace Movement and One Losing Way
Laiken Jordahl
Trump’s Wall is Destroying the Environment We Worked to Protect
Walden Bello
Duterte Does the Right Thing for a Change
Jefferson Morley
On JFK, Tulsi Gabbard Keeps Very Respectable Company
Vijay Prashad
Standing Up for Left Literature: In India, It Can Cost You Your Life
Gary Leupp
Bloomberg Versus Bernie: The Upcoming Battle?
Ron Jacobs
The Young Lords: Luchadores Para La Gente
Richard Klin
Loss Leaders
Gaither Stewart
Roma: How Romans Differ From Europeans
Kerron Ó Luain
The Soviet Century
Mike Garrity
We Can Fireproof Homes But Not Forests
Fred Baumgarten
Gaslighting Bernie and His Supporters
Joseph Essertier
Our First Amendment or Our Empire, But Not Both
Peter Linebaugh
A Story for the Anthropocene
Danny Sjursen
Where Have You Gone Smedley Butler?
Jill Richardson
A Broken Promise to Teachers and Nonprofit Workers
Binoy Kampmark
“Leave Our Bloke Alone”: A Little Mission for Julian Assange
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail