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Uncle Sam and Hitler: did America inspire the Nazis' race laws?

Men in white: Ku Klux Klan marching down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC, 1926
Men in white: Ku Klux Klan marching down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC, 1926 Credit: Getty

I have to break a golden rule. Normally, I hate it when people compare today to the Thirties: the link is lazy and often wrong. Donald Trump is not Hitler; neither is Brexit, the EU, or this cold I can’t shift. But sometimes politicians inadvertently make the comparison hard to deny, as when congressman Steve King of Iowa tweeted his support for Dutch nationalist Geert Wilders ahead of the Netherlands election, adding that America and Europe cannot save their civilisation by importing foreign babies.

This remark, straight out of the Thirties, makes the publication of Hitler’s American Model stunningly well-timed. In his new book, the Yale professor James Q Whitman argues that the Nazis looked to the United States when writing their race laws.

Critics will say that Whitman makes too much of his German sources, or that his narrow focus obscures the wider context – that the roots of Nazi race...

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