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 Building Bridges 
 Weekly Program
 Ken Nash and Mimi Rosenberg  
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Hitler's American Model: the U.S. and the Making of Nazi Race Law
James, Q, Whitman, professor of Comparative and Foreign Law at Yale Law School, his books include Harsh Justice,The Origins of Reasonable Doubt, and The Verdict of Battle & now Hitlers
American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law

On July 26, 1935, about a thousand anti-Nazi demonstrators attacked the SS Bremen, a sleek, state-of-the-art German ocean liner that had docked in New York. The protesters succeeded in tearing the swastika flag off the ship and throwing it into the Hudson River. It was the climax to a long, hot New York summer of street fighting between pro-Nazis and anti-Nazis.
Five of the rioters in the Bremen incident were arrested, but when they appeared before Judge Louis Brodsky in September of 1935 something remarkable happened: Brodsky dismissed all charges, arguing that the swastika was a black flag of piracy that deserved to be destroyed,
the emblem of a revolt against civilization, an atavistic throwback to pre-medieval,if not barbaric, social and political conditions. The law behind Brodskys brave proclamation was questionable, and it wasnt long before FDRs Justice Dept. apologized to Germany for the judges decision. Hitler praised the Roosevelt administration for disavowing Brodskys ruling. But the Jewish Brodskys acquittal of the anti-Nazi vandals still became a cause celbre for Hitlers party. The Nuremberg Laws of September 1935, which imposed harsh restrictions on German Jews, were, so the Nazis claimed, a reply to Brodskys insult.

James Q. Whitman dedicates his new book Hitlers American Model to the ghost of Louis B. Brodsky. But Whitman disagrees with Brodskys claim that the Nazism of the mid-1930s was a throwback to the Middle Ages. Whitman shows that the Nuremberg Laws, instead of being a barbarous anomaly, were in part modeled on then-current American race law. The Nazi regime saw itself at the cutting edge of racial legislation, and America was their inspiration. Nazi lawyers regarded America, not without reason, as the innovative world leader in the creation of racist law, Whitman remarks. In the 1930s, the American South and Nazi Germany were the worlds most straightforwardly racist regimes, proud of the way they had deprived Blacks and Jews, respectively, of their civil rights. Scholars have long known that the American eugenics movement inspired the Nazis; now Whitman adds the influence of Americas immigration policy and its laws about race.

Today, Whitmans idea that Nazism looked to America for inspiration is liable to throw us into a moral panic. But theres another side to the story, and in the Trump era, especially, we can benefit from taking a
hard look at it. Our president was elected in part because he capitalized on an America-first nationalism that hunts ruthlessly for external and internal enemies.
produced by Mimi Rosenberg and Ken Nash
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