The Nazis Studied US Eugenics and Jim Crow Laws as a Model for Their Policies: Documentary
The Nazis Studied US Eugenics and Jim Crow Laws as a Model for Their Policies: Documentary

The Nazis Studied US Eugenics and Jim Crow Laws as a Model for Their Policies: Documentary

  • A new documentary by Ken Burns explores how the Nazis inspired American politics.
  • The PBS documentary, “America and the Holocaust,” was directed by Burns, Lynn Novick, and Sarah Botstein.
  • One historian noted that when criticized for their policies, the Nazis “pointed to Mississippi.”

The anti-Nazi politics that preceded the Holocaust were inspired, in large part, by segregation laws and American ideology.

That’s one of the most prominent arguments in “America and the Holocaust,” a new documentary directed by Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, and Sarah Botstein. It aired Sunday on PBS. This three-part, six-hour series includes testimony from Holocaust survivors and, with the help of historians, examines America’s initial public indifference to the humanitarian crisis of World War II. The European world and the government’s refusal to open its doors to asylum seekers.

It also examines how the Nazi Party of Germany viewed the American race laws when they were making their own actions.

While in prison for a 1924 coup attempt, Adolf Hitler learned about new US immigration laws that created quotas to limit the number of immigrants. The documentary highlights that while the immigration law of 1924 did not specifically mention Jews, it fueled anti-Semitism in the United States as leaders feared they would outnumber Anglo-Saxon Americans.

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By the early 1900s many in America were tired of new immigrants as cities like New York began to overcrowd and people competed for jobs.

Americans adopted eugenics – and so did the Nazis

Historian Peter Hayes said in the documentary that many in the United States at the time believed that urban issues, including the spread of disease, were the fault of immigration.

In 1910, for example, more than a million Jewish immigrants lived in New York City – about a quarter of the city’s population – and they expressed concern that these new immigrants would eventually replace Protestant America.

Some Americans, including such notables as Henry Ford, Helen Keller, and Alexander Graham Bell, began to champion eugenics – the pseudoscientific concept that argued that people genetically “inferior” must be cleaned to prevent offspring with unwanted characteristics.

The documentary quotes a statement from around 1914 attributed to former President Theodore Roosevelt: “I would very much like to prevent the wrong people from breeding altogether; and when the bad nature of these people is enough, this should be be done. Criminals must be done. They are struck down and the feeble-minded are forbidden to leave them behind.”

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Many states have also passed sterilization laws. Historians say that the eugenics preached in the United States provided the Nazis with a blueprint of sorts.

“The idea was that bad people stop reproducing, and good people need to produce more,” historian Nell Irvin Painter said in the documentary, noting the traditional American view.

“Negative eugenics says to sterilize the wrong people – take them out – and that’s the eugenics the Nazis would have adopted.”

Hitler, who wrote “Mein Kampf” while in prison, was apparently pleased with the development and was pleased that the United States saw itself as “the German state of North Germany and acted to preserve its purity by expelling certain races,” which reflects himself. believe, the document said.

The Nazis used Jim Crow laws to shape segregation in Germany

The Nazis’ anti-Jewish efforts culminated in the September 1935 Nuremberg Laws, which among other things largely stripped Jews of their German citizenship. The documentary directly compared those laws to the American Jim Crow laws, which created a strict separation between black and white Americans in the South.

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German laws, for example, sought to protect racial purity by prohibiting Jews and those of “German blood or relatives” from marrying or engaging in sexual intercourse – reflecting the flawed laws of the United States.

“Even as the Nazis were writing the Nuremberg laws that stripped Jews of their citizenship at the end of 1935, they were looking to America’s Jim Crow laws to understand segregation here,” historian Daniel Greene said in the documentary.

The documentary added that in some areas the Nazi policies at the time were more severe than some of the Jim Crow laws implemented in the United States.

Historian Hayes also added that when the Nazis were criticized for their policies they “pointed to Mississippi.”

“They were able to say: ‘You say we shouldn’t mistreat these people we think are poor, but you do,'” Hayes said. “”You have it in the United States.

The documentary, “America and the Holocaust,” airs on PBS.

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