Trump, White Supremacy, and Neo-Nazism: New Book, Hitler’s American Model, Takes on Heightened Relevance

by Raymond Lotta

August 18, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |


James Whitman, professor of law at Yale University, spoke last week at Revolution Books in Harlem, NYC about his new book Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law.1This is an important work of scholarship. And an extremely timely one in light of the racist and Nazi lynch mob mobilization in Charlottesville—and its ugly and menacing defense by the white-supremacist-in-chief, Trump.

Hitler’s American Model painstakingly shows how top Nazi legal scholars and policy makers looked to America as an inspiration and precedent for a functioning white-supremacist society. Hitler himself in Mein Kampf and other writings and pronouncements extolled America as a shining and working example of what Nazi theorists called a “race state” that preserved “racial purity.”

The Nazis Closely Studied America’s Racist Law and Practice

The story that Whitman tells: In setting out to create legal structures to degrade, demonize, and expel the Jews of Germany, the Nazis closely studied America’s Jim Crow segregation in the South—­America’s racist immigration laws (setting quotas and excluding some nationalities outright)—and the laws of 30 U.S. states (north and south) that banned intermarriage between whites and non-whites. Click here to watch the video of James Whitman’s talk.

In particular, Whitman examines the notorious Nuremberg Laws enacted by the Nazis in 1935. These measures formally stripped Jewish people of political rights, subjected them to a legal category of second-class citizenship, and made it a crime for Jews to marry non-Jews. Whitman researched and made use of the minutes of high-level Nazi meetings to demonstrate how the Nuremberg statutes were deeply influenced by American law and judicial practice against Blacks, Native Americans, Puerto Ricans, Filipinos and other Asians, and non-West European immigrants.

The Nazis did not find Jim Crow segregation to be the most useful form to apply in subjugating the Jews of Germany. But America’s system of legal and terroristic enforcement of white racial domination was seen as a precedent. The Nazis were especially taken with U.S. restrictions on immigrants in the name of preserving “racial purity” and “superiority” and the laws against “miscegenation”—the U.S. term for racial intermarriage—laws which existed in many states until as late as 1967 in Virginia.

But—and this is further indictment of American racism—some elements of the “American model” were “too extreme” even for the Nazis: for instance, the principle that a person with “one drop” of African blood was classified as Black.

A Challenge to the Official Narrative of “American Exceptionalism”

The official and lying narrative of “American exceptionalism” holds that the U.S. is a special force for good in the world. In his book, James Whitman shines a light on a profound truth:

In the early 20th century the United States was not just a country with racism. It was the leading racist jurisdiction—so much so that even Nazi Germany looked to America for inspiration ... [T]he United States, with its deeply rooted white supremacy and its vibrant and innovative legal culture, was the country at the forefront of the creation of racist law. This is how the Nazis saw matters, and they were not the only ones. (p 138)

Hitler’s American Model looks at American white supremacy and racism through the lens of German Nazism. Today, white supremacists and Nazis are mobilizing, marauding in Charlottesville and throughout the country. The Trump/Pence regime has courted, emboldened, and defended them. Such are the dangerous depths of the current moment. This is a time to resist and to mobilize to end the nightmare of this regime. It is also a time to grapple with the real history and nature of the system that spawned Trump... and that inspired the Nazis in the 1920s and 1930s.

1. James Q. Whitman, Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law, Princeton University Press, 2017. [back]


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