A facilitated discussion of the MCHE common book will take place on
December 1, 2020
Announcing MCHE’s Fall 2020 common book, the community is encouraged to read Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law by James Q. Whitman.
In Hitler’s American Model, James Whitman presents a detailed investigation of the American impact on the 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 and significant 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, continued throughout the early 1930s, and the most ideological Nazi lawyers were eager advocates of American models. While Jim Crow segregation appealed to Nazi radicals, it was not the most consequential influence. Rather, American citizenship and anti-miscegenation laws proved directly relevant to the two principal Nuremberg Laws—the Reich Citizenship Law and the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor. Whitman looks at the ultimate irony that when Nazis rejected American practices, it was 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.
About the author:
James Q. Whitman is an American lawyer and Ford Foundation Professor of Comparative and Foreign Law at Yale University. He graduated from Yale University with a B.A. and a J.D., from Columbia University with a M.A., and from the University of Chicago with a Ph.D. He was a Guggenheim Fellow.