Hitler, Nazism, Jim Crow, and the United States

Matthew Teutsch
11 min readMar 24, 2022

In the Spring 1942–1943 issue of South Today, Lillian Smith and Paula Snelling wrote two articles: “Buying a New World with Old Confederate Bills” and “Addressed to Intelligent White Southerners: There are things to do.” Each of these articles confront the connections between the Jim Crow South, and the United States as a whole, and Nazism in Germany and the European theatre. At one point in the former essay, Smith writes, “It is just possible that the white man is no longer the center of the universe. It is just possible that even German nazis, British imperialists, and white southerners will have to accept a fact that has been old news to the rest of the world living for a long, long time.” In the latter essay, Smith and Snelling write about educating children, saying, “We can all begin to train our children now to be, not little Nazis, but democratic world citizens.” Within these statements, Smith and Snelling link the horrors of the Third Reich with the horrors of the United States, and they are not the only ones.

We know that the Nazi regime looked to the Jim Crow South for a lot of the Reich’s laws against Jews and other individuals. In 1992, Johnpeter Horst Grill and Robert L. Jenkins wrote about the connections between the Nazis and the United States South. They noted, “Like many southerners, [the Nazis] saw African Americans as a major threat to white civilization. Hence, the American South, with its long established system of white supremacy, was a source of interest to the Nazis as they, too, sought to work out their own system of Aryan supremacy.” James Q. Whitman’s Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law dives deep into the influence of American race law on the construction of September 1933 Preußische Denkschrift, the Prussian Memorandum, the National Socialist Handbook and Legislation from 1934–1935, and the Law on the Protection of German Blood and German Honor, the Reich Flag Law, and the Reich Citizenship Law, which stripped the rights of Jews in the Reich, which all came out of Nuremberg in 1935. Each of these, as Whitman and others note, have roots within the white supremacist Jim Crow laws of the United States.

Hermann Rauschning’s The Voice of Destruction (1940) relates conversations Rauschning, who briefly joined the Nazi party early on then quickly renounced…

Matthew Teutsch

Here, you will find reflections on African American, American, and Southern Literature, American popular culture and politics, and pedagogy.