Review: Hitler's American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law

Book cover to Hitlers American Model by James Q Whitman
Hitler's American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law by James Q. Whitman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Whitman offers a powerful and well-argued discussion of how American legal and cultural racism inspired and provided models for Hitler and the Nazi regime to form the laws and practices that would ultimately lead to upholding the Holocaust. For some, this may be an eye-opening book, realizing that how the US treated African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and other groups through law and through cultural practices (e.g. lynching, work restrictions, unable to enter certain spaces, unable to marry across race, testify against whites in court, etc). Whitman works to make his argument clear by emphasizing where Nazi Germany was inspired by the US (e.g. in segregation laws) and where they looked to the US as a model (e.g. miscegenation laws) and he also skillfully lays out the evidence for how it can be shown that this is, in fact, true through extensive archival research. On its own, it's a powerful book to help Americans reflect on the fact that while Germany went the path of Holocaust and has since worked to reconcile its history, the US, which has yet to atone for its racial violence, dehumanization, and genocides. Thus, the tendrils of the racism that perpetuated legal and cultural practices in 20th century US are still with us today. And that's where I wish Whitman would have gone a bit further and done a bit more analysis on connecting this history with the present. He does so, ever so lightly, in the final pages of the book, but a more robust critique would have been more appreciative.

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