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Each week at In The Past Lane, the American history podcast, host and Historian-at-Large, Edward T. O’Donnell, brings you news, stories, interviews, and special features on all things U.S. history. His aim is to be both engaging and thought-provoking, inspired by the notion that history explains the world we live in and provides insights into how to achieve a more prosperous, peaceful, and just future. So come along with us as we journey In The Past Lane.  

Jul 29, 2018

This week at In The Past Lane, the history podcast, I speak with legal historian James Q. Whitman about his book, Hitler's American Model: The US and the Making of Nazi Race Law. Many people are aware that the American civil rights movement served as an inspiration to freedom movements around the world. But Whitman’s book examines the flip side of that phenomenon – that the very system of Jim Crow racial oppression that the civil rights movement sought to dismantle also inspired efforts around the world to create white supremacist societies, including Nazi Germany. As Whitman demonstrates, Nazi lawyers and public officials studied America’s Jim Crow laws such as those prohibiting interracial sex or marriage and borrowed from them to create the 1935 Nuremberg Laws that stripped German Jews of most of their civil and legal rights. It’s a dark but important chapter in American history, but one that’s very relevant given the recent upsurge in white nationalist and neo-Nazi activity in the US and Europe.  

In the course of our discussion, James Q. Whitman explains:

How and why Nazi lawyers and public officials studied America’s Jim Crow (eg., prohibitions on interracial marriage) to create the Nuremberg Laws that stripped German Jews of most of their civil rights.

How Nazis pointed to the existence of the Jim Crow system of racial oppression in the US as a justification for creating their own version in the 1930s.  

How Nazi leaders were inspired by America’s conquest of the West and subjugation of Native Americans as a model for German conquest of Europe.

How Nazi officials argued that some aspects of Jim Crow policy actually went too far.

How and why Hitler praised the US for its Jim Crow and immigration restriction laws.

How many Nazis claimed that the American Revolution was the first step in a global movement to establish white supremacy.

Why German historians have been reluctant to write about the American influences in the development of Nazi race laws.

Recommended reading

James Q. Whitman, Hitler's American Model: The US and the Making of Nazi Race Law 

Carroll P. Kakel, The American West and the Nazi East: A Comparative and Interpretive Perspective

Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

Stefan Kuhl, The Nazi Connection: Eugenics, American Racism, and German National Socialism

Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow 

More info about James Q. Whitman - website

Follow In The Past Lane on Twitter and Instagram 

Related ITPL podcast episodes:

074 Linda Gordon on the second coming of the KKK

040 Richard White on the rise of the Jim Crow order

Music for This Episode

Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (

Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)

Andy Cohen, “Trophy Endorphins” (Free Music Archive)

Blue Dot Sessions, “Sage the Hunter” (Free Music Archive)

Jon Luc Hefferman, “Winter Trek” (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)

Production Credits

Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer

Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson

Podcasting Consultant: Dave Jackson of the School of Podcasting

Photographer: John Buckingham

Graphic Designer: Maggie Cellucci

Website by: ERI Design

Legal services: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Social Media management: The Pony Express

Risk Assessment: Little Big Horn Associates

Growth strategies: 54 40 or Fight

© In The Past Lane, 2018

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