Whitman 2017

From Projecting Power



Despite other scholars' beliefs, Whitman argues that Nazi Germany did in fact use the United States legal race order as a foreign model and precedent for their Nuremberg Laws, they drew inspiration from Jim Crow laws, eugenics, and the Western colonization of Native Americans.


Typical Assumptions

  • The normative view among many historians during the time of publication was that there was little connection between the American conception of race and Nazi Germany.
    • Other scholars like Guttel and Hanke argued that because Nazi Germany was not segregationist like the Jim Crow South, there was little evidence to suggest that Nazi race law borrowed from American race law.
    • Scholars such as Reithmer argued that because American race law did not specifically target Jewish people in the way that Nazi race law did, American race law did not influence Nazi policies.

Whitman's rebuttal

  • Whitman argues that the authors he cites were looking in the wrong places when it came to establishing the connection between American race law and Nazi race law.
    • In response to Guttel and Hanke, he argues that many Nazis did consider bringing Jim Crow segregation to Germany. But even if it wasn't a one-to-one translation, Nazi Germany still looked towards American race law when it came to discrimination via citizenship and marriage law.
    • Whitman responds to Reithmer by pointing out that inspiration does not necessarily mean creating a copy-paste of American race law. It was entirely possible for Nazi Germany to draw from foreign models and modify them.

Interest in the US

  • The Nazis took an interest in the US as a foreign model because of the implementation of racist legislation and practices of social dominance. They studied the segregation of Jim Crow Laws
  • Like other states, Nazis thought America was recognized as “the premiere power in the world” with approval from even their enemies.
  • In many instances, Hitler and the Nazi press had praised Franklin Roosevelt with a buzz around the New Deal which established power to the government as a key factor in economic and social affairs.

Four instances of America as an example to the Nazi party

  • Second class Citizenship
    • The United States had developed a system of de jure (by law) and de facto (in practice) second-class citizenship for various racial and ethnic groups, such as African Americans, Filipinos, and Chinese. These practices intrigued the Nazis as they sought to create their own second-class citizenship status for Jews in Germany. American laws that institutionalized racial hierarchies and segregation provided a framework for the Nazis to draw upon.
  • Anti-Miscegenation Laws
    • American laws prohibiting marriage between white and black Americans served as a clear precedent for the Nazis, particularly in their development of the Nuremberg Laws' prohibitions against marriages and extramarital intercourse between Jews and non-Jewish Germans. Whitman points out that the Nazis extensively studied and debated these American models, even though they sometimes found American laws to be overly harsh.


  • Immigration
    • Whitman highlights that the United States, particularly through its Immigration Act of 1924, was at the forefront of race-based immigration law. This law established quotas based on national origins and was designed to favor immigrants from certain European countries while severely limiting or outright banning those from others, especially Asians. Hitler himself praised America's immigration policies in Mein Kampf for being race-based and viewed them as a model for protecting racial purity. Nazi lawyers similarly valued American practices for conditioning entry and citizenship on racial qualifications.
  • Colonization
    • Whitman points out that many Nazis regarded the colonization of indigenous people in America positively because of the way it furthered white supremacy

Summary "Hitler's American Model" by Whitman aims to demonstrate the relationship between America in the 1930’s with the Nazi Regime that came to be later on. He argues that although the Nazis did have a more radical plan against groups of people, the US was also mistreating groups of people in their own country and thus they both implemented a racial hierarchy within their society. Examples of Jim Crow Laws are set as a foundation of inspiration for their genocidal regime and in conclusion, it is important to see the connection between countries when it comes to the laws they implement.