15 December, 2017

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Hitler’s American Model: The United States & The Making Of Nazi Race Law

By Charles Ponnuthurai Sarvan –

Prof. Charles Sarvan

Book Review – James Whitman, Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law, Princeton and Oxford, 2017

Hannah Arendt in The Origins of Totalitarianism states that one of the major contributions of the Western world has been “race-thinking”, as distinct from “class-thinking”. Race is a political, and not a biological, concept. ‘Race’, a concept without scientific foundation, does not lead to racism; rather it’s racism that creates race. Ta-Nehisi Coates writes in Between the World and Me that racism is not the innocent product of Mother Nature; race is not the father of racism but its child. And, Whitman observes (p. 117), unfortunately even mentally gifted individuals are not immune from the sickness of racism.

Whitman, a Professor of Law at Yale, is meticulously careful not to over-state the case in his study: influence does not mean exact imitation but, rather, selective borrowing and adaptation. The Nazis were not demons who suddenly erupted on stages: there were traditions within which they worked, continuities, examples and inspirations (p. 15). It must be borne in mind that contemporary Germany rests on the moral foundation of refusing to deny responsibility for what happened under the Nazis (ibid). Germany has repeatedly acknowledged guilt, expressed contrition, paid reparation. One recalls Willie Brandt, Chancellor of Germany, spontaneously kneeling (7 December 1970) at the monument to the victims of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. It was a silent but brave and eloquent gesture, most unusual for a head of state. Equally, it may seem strange to see America as an inspiration for the Nazis because the USA soon fought Germany, and has long set itself as a bastion of freedom and democracy (p. 140).

James Whitman, Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law, Princeton and Oxford, 2017

But in the 1930s, Nazi Germany and ‘Jim Crow’ America were similar in that both were “unapologetically racist regimes”. For example, “American blacks being de jure citizens, were de facto second class” (p. 39) while Nazi Germany had Reichsbürger who possessed full rights and mere Staatsangehörige. America was for the Nazis an excellent example of a country with racist legislation and practice. Prior to the Shoah, sporadic riots and attacks on Jews, condoned but not organised by the State, were equated with the lynch-mobs in America: one recalls the song  “Strange fruit grows on Southern trees”, made famous by the 1939 Billie Holliday recording (now available on the ‘Net’). Hitler admired the way Americans had killed and reduced millions of Native Americans to a few hundred, and kept the modest remnant under observation in cages: Hitler, quoted on p. 9. (In passing, I would draw attention to The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America by Andres Resendez, 2016.) To the Nazis, the very foundation of America was a fateful turning point in the worldwide rise of white domination:  the US Naturalization Act of 1790 opened naturalization to “any alien, being a free white person” (p. 34).  “America may have been the global leader in the creation of racist law, well known and much cited long before Hitler came to power” (p. 70). Germans paid “studious scholarly attention to American immigration Law”” (52), “hailing America as a forerunner of Nazism” (p. 54). On 23 September 1935, forty-five leading Nazi lawyers sailed to America on a first-hand study-tour (p. 132) because in the early twentieth century, America was “the leading racist jurisdiction” (p. 138, original emphasis). Characteristic of race-thinking the world over, a very small minority (here, the blacks) were seen as trying to “get the upper hand” (67).

But the nefandus (such shame or evil that it cannot be spoken of) both for Americans and Nazis was inter-racial sexual relationships outside and within marriage; more precisely, between individuals of different skin pigmentation. (Often what is meant by a “race” problem in the West means a “problem” of colour difference. Elsewhere, I have suggested that in such contexts, “colourism” is a more accurate word than “racism”.) Of course, American society turned a blind eye on children born of the rape of slave women: the incidence was too common.

  The Nazis faced a problem in that the Jews were not always identifiable, visually and immediately. This difficulty has also been experienced in inter-ethnic conflict where the group-identity of the individual(s) has to be established – usually by linguistic or religious tests – before barbarity is unleashed. The Americans came up with the notorious “one drop” (of non-white blood) criterion. American law demonstrated that it was perfectly possible to have racist legislation even if it was impossible to come up with a scientifically satisfactory definition of race (p. 106). They did not trouble themselves about “the correct conceptualization of race”: a racist society can be built even in the absence of “any meaningful scientific conception of race” (p. 108). Consequently, the USA “offered the model of anti-miscegenation legislation” (p. 79, original emphasis). Thirty American states declared racially mixed marriages civilly invalid, and many of these states threatened such couples with harsh punishment (ibid) “The only other even partially comparable example that the Nazi literature highlighted in the early 1930s was found in South Africa which penalized extramarital sex between races, but not marriage” (p. 79). The film ‘Loving’ is the story of the marriage of Richard Loving, a white, and Mildred Jeter, an African-American. When the law raids their home and Richard produces their marriage license, he is curtly told that it has no validity in Virginia, and both are taken to jail. What surprised me was the date: the very end of the 1950s. (In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of ‘Loving versus the State of Virginia’ invalidated state laws prohibiting interracial marriage.)

On 4 July 1776 Americans declared their independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”. Yet they denied the equality of the native peoples, and were a slave-owning society. They did not see them as people, human beings as they were. (Sri Lankans know well that in the mythical, foundational-text, The Mahavamsa, Buddhist monks offer the following consolation to the victorious but morally-troubled Sinhalese king: the thousands killed were not Buddhist; not being Buddhist, they were not human beings.) Francis Scott Key is the author (1814) of what has come to be the American national anthem containing the words, “the land of the free”. But Key publicly declared that Africans were an inferior people, the greatest evil to blight the country. Being morally and otherwise inferior, it was justified to mete ‘inferior’ treatment. What the Americans demanded for themselves, they did not grant others. History furnishes us with similar contradictions between protestation and practice; contradictions which arise from a denial of the full humanity of the ‘Other’. Barack Obama in a speech at the Jerusalem Convention Centre on 21 March 2013 urged vis-à-vis the Palestinians: “Put yourself in their shoes – look at the world through their eyes. Speaking as a politician, I can promise you this: political leaders will not take risks if the people do not demand that they do. You must create the change that you want to see.” (As I have written elsewhere, under an electoral system one cannot shift the entire blame onto politicians: that’s all too easy a “washing off” of hands. Finally, the people are responsible.

Professor Whitman, through his research and reminder, tries to dispel collective and selective forgetting; denial and minimizing.

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Latest comments

  • 0
    8

    Why point the finger at the White race. In Hindu societies where everybody looks more or less the same, the same things happen within the castes to this very date. National Geographic News on “India’s “Untouchables” Face Violence, Discrimination,” gives a good account of this. (In the Mahavamsa, however, killing was done for religious purposes – and that was over a thousand years ago).

    • 3
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      Ramona dear,
      “(In the Mahavamsa, however, killing was done for religious purposes –”
      Do you think that someone who is killed “for religious purposes” feels better than someone killed for other purposes?
      “In Hindu societies where everybody looks more or less the same, the same things happen within the castes to this very date. ” Do you really think that Kashmiri Brahmins and Bihari dalits look the same? They are as different as white Americans and black ones.
      Not that I approve of discrimination because of appearance.

      • 2
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        old codger————-“Do you think that someone who is killed “for religious purposes” feels better than someone killed for other purposes?” —————–This is a good question but you have aimed at the wrong person. A society which believes in Sunday sil monday kill has no qualm killing people in general and minorities in particular. ————For them “a good Tamil is a dead Tamil”. ——–

        • 2
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          NV,
          I know dear Ramona lives on Mars. Just needling her.

      • 0
        10

        old codger, ………………..Only about 0.1% of Brahmins look White. Only about 0.1% Dalits look Black. Most are in-between. In America however, 99% of Whites look white, and 99% Blacks look black. Big difference in comparison. Big difference in reasons for caste system. And anyway, the Whites did it (do it) only for a short times, whilst the rest of the Whites howl out for justice for their Black brethren. In fact, over 620,000 Whites were killed in the American civil war, for just that**************All killing is bad, but still Mahavamsa killings were not because of racial purposes. One could still convert. But on race, one can’t convert.

        • 0
          7

          And old codger……Kashmiri Brahmins look darker than the Jews, and Bihari Dalits look fairer the Africans.

          • 3
            0

            Ramona,
            I suppose you are a US resident and want to defend your adopted country. But you are not white, no matter how much cream you use.
            The difference is this:
            1 In India, caste discrimination has been illegal since 1948.
            2 In the US, there were laws until the 60’s that enforced discrimination.
            Oh BTW, have you heard of Ethiopian Jews? Quite dark, I am told.

            • 1
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              Very right Mr OLD codger,

              Ethiopians Jews had been sent to Israel few years ago at the time, issues of Erethia came up.: I was questioning myself how could JEWs be africans…..

              You are real well read person. Ramona Aunty would not know that in her limited knowledge. Thanks.

              • 4
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                P.S,
                Thank you for the compliment.
                As to Jews, many people don’t know that “Jew” , like “Muslim”, is a religious description, not ethnic. This plays into the hands of the Israel lobby, which promotes the idea that the European Jews currently in Israel have every right to be there.

            • 4
              0

              old codger,
              “”I suppose you are a US resident and want to defend your adopted country””
              Higannange Tuvale, the bottom half burger, bayaee (afraid of her own dark shadow) has run to the church after running down The Donald
              The americans are now very particular of DNA after 3 states proved that 30% self claimed whites had no European DNA- their way of doing things spills the beans at first sight!! A strand of hair (single hair) very easily gives the DNA.
              A baldi is an automatic buddhist monk! handde panne….

            • 5
              0

              old codger, When will these cannibals of Lanka listen and learn??
              This would solve all problems related to race, ethnic caste creed if they think like Cyril Mathew- out last Nov 2016.- its coming out cheap like the diabetic tool.
              Smallest DNA tester: Spartan Bioscience sets world record- OTTAWA- A 4x4x4 inch cube.
              “The Spartan Cube is a revolutionary molecular diagnostics platform. It enables rapid DNA testing with a device so portable, you can literally hold it in the palm of your hand,” says Dr. Lem.
              “Whether you want to quickly test a sick patient in a doctor’s office or run a genetic test for drug response—the Spartan Cube will provide results when and where you need them.”

              After releasing the Cube last spring, Spartan launched its first three commercial applications: unregulated tests that allow anyone to determine if they have strep or carry a genetic mutation that increases their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, and for building managers to test their heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems for toxic bacteria.

              Users collect a DNA sample by doing a cheek swab, which is inserted into the top of the Cube. Inside, using a Nobel Prize-winning chemical process called polymerase chain reaction, the machine breaks open the cells, releasing the DNA and copying it a billion times.

              Special chemicals in kits sold separate from the device, depending on the test, glom on to DNA in specific parts. The machine then uses fluorescence to determine if the targeted condition is present, sending results to a tablet computer.
              https://www.spartanbio.com/cube

            • 0
              5

              Oh for goodness sakes old codger!……I am a proud Asian American! (South Asian- they do not distinguish here)……In India caste might have become illegal, but ancient habits and DNA of the brain cells die hard. It went away at about 0.001%. In USA, racism lasted about 300 years, and White people ensured it was eradicated from their system (though some racism remains- about 0.1%). Yes, there are Ethiopian Jews. However, in comparing Kashmiri Brahmins to European Jews (95% of all Jews), European Jews are much fairer. Your comparisons do not make for good analysis. Indeed, you mustn’t slide into subtle ad hominem……ah well, it wasn’t that bad.

          • 0
            0

            I dont think that even americans of the day would go after whites. If that was the case, Obama would not have been produced as their leader right ?

            But our Ramonas and Pimpis like Champas are harboured to ill fated thoughts that would not leave them easily.

        • 3
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          Ramona Therese you are a mad woman. All these days you could not tell the difference between 19 billion and 19,000 but today you have become a statistician.

          • 0
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            Ohhh Tamil from the North…..you wrote something about religion to me didn’t you?…..I didn’t reply because I saw it only the other day……….. Btw, all my percentages have a 5% +/- adjustment margin.

    • 2
      0

      ramona therese fernando: “Why point the finger at the White race”? etc.
      You point out the bane of caste system among Hindus sighting National Geographic News. We are impressed. You imply that caste is absent among the enlightened Sinhalese. Just look at a marriage column in local newspapers. You are as stupid as HLD Mahindapala.

      • 0
        4

        K.Pillai ,

        It’s not the same kind of castism as amongst the Hindus……it’s clan, rather than caste. Each clan has its own pride and prefer to be married within.

        • 2
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          “” Each clan has its own pride and prefer to be married within.”” why not even scientists are trying for the smart child while you are hotch potch demanding, don’t mind killing and begging even at usa i suppose so.
          Bill Gates, Mark etc are `Virtue of selfishness` as much as you or MR1, MR2 buddhist monk! even in the states you have not read american philosophers how sic can you be?/
          Ha ha he afraid of ready DNA test for the asking- breed counts! If the man who prints money distributes it evenly then lazy low class would be the first not to work but go on holiday perpetually and practice polygamy like the arabs of today- arabs get 50% of profits just for signing in a foreign direct investment .
          The sheep has no choice when in the jaws of the wolf.- that is your probleme Samsara ! Samsara!! we saw how premadasa treated his engineers (they became TB patients- it’s his genes) and journos

        • 1
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          Dear Ramona,
          Why was it that the Berewa (drummers) Sinhala caste were not allowed to wear upper garments until the 1930,s ?

          • 0
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            They were entertainers, old codger………….and British got them to cover up.

  • 2
    0

    Countries such as Australia and the US were quite racist until the 60’s, when the tides of de-colonization forced them to tone down their attitudes at least publicly, and also due to the Soviet Union using Western racism (with good reason) as a propaganda tool. Countries with many white settlers (eg. S. Africa / Australia/ New Zealand/ Rhodesia ) had systems to keep the natives out of power . Australia succeeded in exterminating its natives while encouraging white immigration, but S. Africa /Rhodesia failed.
    As to racism in the US, it should be noted that it was not only blacks/ Asians who were affected. White Irish were as badly treated as the blacks, with some being in virtual slavery. There were anti- Catholic laws on the grounds that they were agents of a foreign power (the Vatican) . John Kennedy had a very hard time getting himself nominated and elected.He was forced to declare “I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for President who also happens to be a Catholic.”

    • 1
      0

      Old Codger,

      I have no clue about the racial levels of the US, but Australia yes. Just focus on the manner they reject the boat people regardless humanitarian laws that EU countries respect from that day on. Even if Germany has a black history no comparable to any other folks – but Dr Merkel s unanimous decision let enter over 1 million of Syrians and other refugees into Germany last year should be commendable.
      But Australians even if they have space enough to host millions in that CONTINENTAL huge country, their politics vehemently against entering any one into Aus, no matter any kind of victims would flow the world. That is very brutal hearted, I would say:
      Canada instead welcome few hundred thousands of Tamil refugees at the time, the war was at its height in our country. Compared to all able countries to host in such situations, Australians have been by large the most racial folks sofar. That is how I read it in reports.

      • 3
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        Burampisingho,
        It would be interesting to see the Australian reaction if a civil war breaks out in South Africa tomorrow, and thousands of whites head for Australia in boats.

        • 0
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          I happend to watch a documentary film in which the whites live in shanties in Zimbabe. Can you imagine ? I thought only Rumenian-or irish strangers are the only among the white live in shanties.

  • 3
    0

    At the 1936 Berlin Olympics Jesse Owens of segregated USA won gold in 100m, 200m long jump and 4x100m relay. Hitler refused to shake hands because Jesse was not of the Super-Aryan race.
    This year Trump refused to shake hands with Merkel because she was no Nazi!

  • 0
    2

    Charley,

    Mahawamsha is the Great cronicle of Sinhala-Buddhist Sri Lanka. Most of its records have been proven. Tamils in SL not having a gloriest past is not Sinhalese problem, you must blame your colonial masters for all your misery.

    • 0
      2

      Johnny,
      Do Sinhalese in Sri Lanka have a glorious present? I think not.

      • 0
        0

        you only know your wretched little well so you instigated death to non sinhala buddhist of your class at lanka and scooted to america where you are a cultural shock to – god forgives I don’t.

  • 3
    0

    “”Book Review – James Whitman, Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law, Princeton and Oxford, 2017″” & Prof. Charles Sarvan
    HAVE RUN SHORT OF A VOCABULARY IN THE AGE OF GLOBAL NETWORKING.
    The English always did the right things and gave it the wrong name because literature and language has its limits.- when your time is up retire gracefully-
    The Donald uses developers tools the present day technology therefore social networkers `the naxalites of the world` the population explosion have gone bonkers . he he!!

  • 2
    0

    When we see stinking rich leaders of the nation demanding for `millennium goal wealth` it makes me feel sick in the gut and that is the same with general japanese people. The germans are proud of the work they do and that alone makes them produce better cars and beer than the yankees or englishman.
    The faith pillars go there to learn the art of swindle and move out to start charities then they become millionaires like the politicians, policeman and priest.
    So when Gamini an old rich of the island told me i prefer to feed the stray dogs than humans I took a liking because that is our trend and our last wills. but when these `pillars of virtue` find the money is going there they would settle there like flies on a dead carcass.
    Mark and wife of Facebook decided to give a lump sum of $$1 billion to make super schools for kids in USA So in came the governors and within 1 year the money was over.. the schools are incomplete but the governors became the new rich- like winning a lottery So he and wife decided to start their own charity and put in 90% of earnings as their own charity fund. Just enjoy life, without being mislead by con men and women in sheep clothes.

  • 0
    0

    The world is changing – fast, in recent times. The UNO is one reason – the other media, IT and easier communication. Imagine George Wallace (“Segregation then, Segregation now and Segregation forever”) in the late 1960s but the 90% White USA votes in a Black as President in the 2000s and welcomes Obama to a 2-term Presidency. Hard White S. Africa and Australia have conceded. Here – caste-conscious Tamil NEP was dismantled by militant youth movements. In India Dalits found their day – in the North and the South. Reactionary rogue religious elements are slowing the process in Sri Lanka. But this will not last. Good will triumph over evil – maybe a little slower in some areas.

    Lest I be misunderstood, Prof. Sarvan’s sublime thoughts are acknowledged.

    Kettikaran

    • 0
      0

      “” But this will not last. Good will triumph over evil ” It all calls for money and you can be assured there can never be another naked fakir as the scholar brahmins believe. Today money the surreal thing is in the hands of a few and they have surrounded The Donald because Power with the Gun is all they know. That exactly is Lankawe pregnant with guns! There is no good will triumph but the New World Order- Soylent Green thanks to humanities department acrobats, thugs reacting `I want fame, wealth and power.!! the humbugs of society who can’t have it better than now.

  • 0
    0

    Dear Sir,

    I share the following (hopefully self-explanatory) extract from an exchange with a friend. I quote:

    Thank you for your strictures. The term ‘race’ means different things in different contexts. Often, as in Sri Lanka, the ‘race’ of an individual is not always visually apparent: grievous, if not fatal, mistakes have been made!

    But mindful of your criticism, in future I’ll attempt a more careful formulation such as:

    “Though race has no biological foundation, I acknowledge it does have a social and cultural, a political and emotional, existence. (There seems to be a tendency in some contexts to substitute the culturally-orientated word ethnicity for the non-scientific term race.) Of course there are ‘racial’ categories such as black, brown, white and yellow – alphabetical order – but they are very broad, fluid and ‘blurred-at-the-margins.”

    Race does not exist but racism unfortunately and sadly flourishes.

    • 0
      0

      Charles Ponnuthurai Sarvan,
      The human mind is charming in it’s unreasonableness, its inveterate prejudices, and its waywardness and unpredictability.If haven’t learnt this truth, we have learned nothing from the centenary study of human psychology and computational biology from the year 2000. Like Blair’s social engineering which drew down the curtain on `words and words which invariably end up from treatise to a wicked philosophy of humanity going broke we have scientific test to discriminate between that which is right and wrong and not the wayward knowledge of humanities. In every period , England was able to fight the right war, against the right enemy, with the right ally, on the right side, at the right time and call it by a wrong name because 11 steered the boat. That is coming to an end with innovation taking precedence like tweets over cloud technology media garbage in zillions of bites.(American constitution deviated from race to ethnic to absorb the Italians who too were lynched) Just saying you are racist is not going to frighten the power.
      Who seeks the lion’s cubs, must dare. The peril of the lion’s lair.
      Justice guides the wise in every case;
      Law alone controls the mean and base.
      thank you for your trouble.

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