Black History: Special Delivery!!
Many people are unaware that Nazi Germany studied the racist laws of the U.S. The Nazis took special interest in the U.S.’s southern Jim Crow Laws that codified and enforced racial segregation and discrimination. The Nazis had the racist practices of the U.S. in mind when they passed the Nuremberg Laws in 1935. The Nuremberg Laws were two different laws: the Reich Citizenship Law and the Law of the Protection of German Blood and German Honor. These laws sanctioned the persecution of Jewish people during World War II and the Holocaust. The Nazis debated whether or not to enforce similar Jim Crow laws but eventually decided that the U.S. laws did not go far enough. They concluded that Jim Crow was an appropriate strategy for the U.S. because blacks were already experiencing poverty and racial oppression. However, in Germany, Jews were viewed as being wealthy and powerful. Because of this, the Germans felt it was necessary to take more drastic measures.
One aspect of Jim Crow laws that the Nazis did seek to adapt was the Jim Crow ban on interracial marriage (anti-miscegenation). U.S. anti-miscegenation laws were in place in 30 states. The Nazis particularly liked the severe criminal punishment that several states had in place for violating anti-miscegenation laws and hoped to implement similar laws in Germany. The Nazis sought to ban marriages between Jews and Aryans. However, doing so would present a challenge. How would they be able to tell who was Jewish and who was not? To answer this question, the Nazis followed the example of the U.S. “one-drop” rule. The one-drop rule meant that anyone with black ancestry was considered black and could not marry a white person. The laws also defined what criteria made a person Asian or Native American. The Nazis did this to prevent Asians and Native Americans from marrying white people. The Nuremberg Laws enacted specific measures to group citizens into racial categories, allowing the Nazis to criminalize marriage and sex between Jewish and Aryan people. However, the Nazis did not adopt the U.S. one drop rule. Instead, they legislated that a Jewish person was anyone who had 3 Jewish grandparents. Think about that for a moment. In comparison, the U.S. “one drop” rule was much harsher than the laws that the Nazis were willing to implement in Germany.
In the 1930s, the Nazis did receive some acceptance from the U.S. due to their views on racial purity. However, once the U.S. entered World War II, the U.S., in general, took an anti-Nazi stance. The similarities between Nazi Germany and U.S. Jim Crow Laws were readily seen by black military troops and black civilian workers employed to support war efforts. In 1942 the “Double V Campaign” was heavily publicized by the black newspaper, the Pittsburgh Courier. The phrase “Double V” was coined by James Thompson, a black defense worker from Witchita, Kansa. The Double V Campaign gained significant media attention causing President Franklin Roosevelt to write a letter to the Pittsburgh Courier to reduce their coverage on the issue. The Double V Campaign gained support from black citizens across the country and called out the U.S.’s hypocrisy in fighting the Nazis but doing little to improve conditions for blacks experiencing racial oppression in the U.S.
In addition to American racist laws, the Nazis also thought highly of America’s drive to control the western frontier. In 1928, Hitler celebrated the U.S. for having “gunned down millions of Redskins to a few hundred thousand” as they sought to establish dominance in the west. The Nazis truly felt that racism had made America a great world power. In his book, Mein Kampf, Hitler said that America was the “one state” that was making strides in developing the kind of society he wanted to create in Germany.