Hitler's American Models: What the United States Taught the Nazis

Dates:March 4 - April 1, 2020
Meets:W from 6:45 PM to 8:15 PM, 5 sessions
Hours:1.50
Instructor:Instructor Information
Fee: $142.00

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Course Description

Pete Kakel, Ph.D., Program Coordinator

As historians are beginning to show, Hitler and other Nazis often drew on American precedents for inspiration and ideas to guide their thinking and policy decisions. This lecture series will focus on recent research that addresses a number of disturbing questions: (1) How were Hitler's ideological obsessions and genocidal fantasies influenced by American historical precedent? (2) How did the precedent of American race laws and practices influence Nazi racial laws? (3) How did the American eugenics movement shape Nazi programs of sterilization, euthanasia, and genocide? (4) How did American treatment of minorities inform discriminatory measures in Nazi Germany? (5) How did American westward expansion and its brutal treatment of American Indians guide Nazi empire-building? (6) What does seeing America through Nazi eyes tell us about our own history? This lecture series provides a unique and unsettling window onto Nazi crimes, as well as the American past and present.

Mar. 4 Adolf Hitler: Ideological Obsessions and Genocidal Fantasies Adolf Hitler's political program was founded on two central policy goals: (1) 'getting rid of the Jews' and (2) the creation of sufficient 'living space' for the German people. These two ideological obsessions were suffused with 'fantasy thinking', much of it inspired by American models. In turn, this 'fantasy thinking' provided a 'warrant for genocide', giving a 'license' for those Nazi true believers in Hitler's inner circle to devise and implement genocidal policies, according to Hitler's wishes.
Pete Kakel, Ph.D., Program Coordinator.

Mar. 11 American Race Laws and Practices and the Nazi Racial State The notorious Nuremberg Laws - the centerpiece anti-Jewish legislation of the Nazi regime - were crafted in an atmosphere of considerable attention to the precedents American race and immigration laws had to offer. German praise for American practices, already found in Hitler's Mein Kampf, was continuous throughout the early 1930s, and the most radical Nazi lawyers were eager advocates of the use of American models.
James Q. Whitman, J.D. / Ph.D., is the Ford Foundation Professor of Comparative and Foreign Law at Yale Law School. He is the author of three books, including Hitler's American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law (2017).

Mar. 18 American Eugenics: From Long Island to Auschwitz In early 20th century America, esteemed professors, elite universities, wealthy industrialists, and government officials colluded in a racist, pseudoscientific movement called eugenics with an openly-declared intention to create a 'superior' Nordic race. Inspired by the American eugenics movement, Hitler's eugenics - backed by brutal decrees, eugenical courts, mass sterilization mills, concentration camps, and virulent biological anti-Semitism - enjoyed the open approval of leading American eugenicists and their institutions (until the United States entered World War II in December 1941).
Edwin Black is an award-winning, New York Times bestselling international investigative author. His books include: IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation (2001 and 2012), War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race (2003 and 2012) and Nazi Nexus: America's Corporate Connections to Hitler's Holocaust (2009).

Mar. 25 American Lynching and Racial Violence in the Nazi Imaginary American racial violence, lynching in particular, first appeared in Nazi propaganda and writings in the 1930s, as the Nazis worked through their own project of racial engineering. Ultimately, the Nazis were able to exploit attitudes towards African Americans in the in their efforts to maximize on the lessons lynching and anti-black racism had to offer.
Jonathan Wiesen, Ph.D., is Professor of History at the University of Alabama - Birmingham. His numerous publications include a journal article 'American Lynching in the Nazi Imagination: Race and Extra-Legal Violence in 1930s Germany,' German History (2018).

April 1 Adolf Hitler, the American West, and Germany's Manifest Destiny Hitler admired the British Empire, envied Mussolini's modern fascist colonialism, and was inspired by the Ottoman eradication of the Armenians. But, above all, it was the 'North American precedent' that was foundational for Hitler's obsessive spatial and racial fantasies - fantasies that would drive his future genocidal projects. Nineteenth-century American westward expansion - and its brutal treatment of American Indians - inspired Hitler and served as a 'model' for Nazi policies of territorial expansion, racial cleansing, and planned settler colonization of eastern Europe during World War II.
Pete Kakel, Ph.D., Program Coordinator.

Coordinator: Pete Kakel, Ph.D., is a research historian and lecturer. He is the author of three books - The American West and the Nazi East: A Comparative and Interpretive Perspective (2011 and 2013), The Holocaust as Colonial Genocide: Hitler's 'Indian Wars' in the 'Wild East' (2013), A Post-Exceptionalist Perspective on Early American History: American Wests, Global Wests, and Indian Wars (2019) - and a recent journal article - 'Patterns and Crimes of Empire: A Comparative Perspective on Fascist and Non-Fascist Extermination', The Journal of Holocaust Research (2019).