Why the Nazis studied American race laws for inspiration
Whitman, James Qhttp://aeon.co/ideas/why-the-nazis-studied-american-race-laws-for-inspiration
Date Written: 13/12/2016
Year Published: 2016
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX20253
On 5 June 1934, about a year and half after Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of the Reich, the leading lawyers of Nazi Germany gathered at a meeting to plan what would become the Nuremberg Laws, the centrepiece anti-Jewish legislation of the Nazi race regime. The meeting was an important one, and a stenographer was present to take down a verbatim transcript. That transcript reveals a startling fact: the meeting involved lengthy discussions of the law of the United States of America.
This story might seem incredible. Why would the Nazis have felt the need to take lessons in racism from anybody? Why, most especially, would they have looked to the US? Whatever its failings, after all, the US is the home of a great liberal and democratic tradition. Moreover, the Jews of the US - however many obstacles they might have confronted in the early 20th century - never faced state-sponsored persecution. And, in the end, Americans made immense sacrifices in the struggle to defeat Hitler.
But the reality is that, in the early 20th century, the US, with its vigorous and creative legal culture, led the world in racist lawmaking. That was not only true of the Jim Crow South. It was true on the national level as well. The US had race-based immigration law, admired by racists all over the world; and the Nazis, like their Right-wing European successors today (and so many US voters) were obsessed with the dangers posed by immigration.