Nazi Germany's Race Laws, the United States, and American Indians

58 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2020

See all articles by Robert J. Miller

Robert J. Miller

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Date Written: February 19, 2020


Most Americans and American lawyers would probably be shocked to learn that in the early 1930s Nazi Germany’s scholars, lawyers, and party officials were carefully studying United States race laws and Federal Indian law. As part of a comparative law system, Germans were accustomed to researching the laws and legal systems of other countries to find insights and models. In the 1930s, they were researching how to legally discriminate against Jews and they found their models in United States law.

This article expands on preexisting research into how Adolf Hitler, Nazi party officials, and Nazi scholars studied American law in the process of drafting the 1935 Nuremberg Laws. This article adds to this subject by closely examining how the Nazis also studied and relied on Federal Indian Law.

Hitler and many Germans were relatively well-informed about American Indian issues and history, and U.S. anti-miscegenation laws, involuntary sterilization laws, citizenship practices, and the Jim Crow laws in general. In fact, in Mein Kampf, Hitler mentioned U.S. laws and policies and noted that the United States was a racial model for Europe and that it was “the one state” in the world that was creating the kind of racist society the Nazi regime wanted to establish. Obviously, Nazi scholars followed his lead and they researched and wrote numerous articles and books on American race laws.

This article also addresses how Germans and Nazis analogized the "American Frontier West" and "Manifest Destiny," and the treatment of Indian nations and peoples, to the Nazi plans to invade the "German East" to serve the longstanding German policy of Lebensraum and colonization of the East.

In regards Federal Indian Law, Heinrich Krieger and other German/Nazi scholars undertook serious and prolonged studies of the subject. They considered "Indian Law" to be "a racial law" and to be a unique "extra-constitutional situation." They concluded that Indians had been discriminated against for centuries in North America based on race and blood. Consequently, Nazi Germany would be well justified doing the same to Jews and other minorities.

In September 1935, Adolf Hitler announced the culmination of the Third Reich’s research into American laws and Federal Indian Law in its efforts to racially discriminate against the Jews. The Nuremberg Laws stripped German Jews of their citizenship and their rights and started Germany on the road to the Holocaust. The Laws criminalized marriage and sexual relations between Jews and Germans. There was only one country in the world the Nazis could find that criminalized inter-racial marriage - the United States. In fact, forty-one of the American states had anti-miscegenation statutes. The Nazis also studied the numerous state Jim Crow laws and the United States immigration and naturalization laws and policies from 1790-1924. In addition, the United States conquest of American Indian nations, ethnic cleansing, and colonization of the Frontier West provided fodder and analogies for the Nazi invasion and colonization of the German East.

This article perhaps raises more questions than it answers about Federal Indian Law and its impact on Hitler and Nazi Germany. In the end though, how intriguing, yet at the same time how profoundly disturbing, that American law and Federal Indian Law played some role, or any role, in the Nazi formulation of Jewish policies and laws.

Keywords: Racism, Nazi Germany, Federal Indian law, United States race laws, Manifest Destiny, Adolf Hitler, Nuremberg Laws, Frontier West, Lebensraum

Suggested Citation

Miller, Robert J., Nazi Germany's Race Laws, the United States, and American Indians (February 19, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Robert J. Miller (Contact Author)

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law ( email )

Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States
4809654085 (Phone)

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