The notion that Hitler learned anything—anything at all—from the Democratic Party here in the U.S. seems, on the face of it, surprising if not incredible. In reality, Hitler learned a great deal from the Democrats and from American progressives. He got some of his core policy strategies from them. Moreover, progressives of the time recognized their influence on Hitler and were proud of that fact.
Why, then, haven’t we previously heard a word about this? Why isn’t it mentioned in any of the history textbooks? How come no one in the media ever talks about this? Movies and documentaries about Hitler are notably silent on the topic. The reason, of course, is that we are victims of the big lie.
The big lie, as Hitler himself once noted, is a lie so big that it is difficult to get one’s head around it. People are accustomed to small lies, which is why they can detect them. This, however, is a lie so big that it doesn’t merely conceal the close connection between Hitler and the left; it also pretends that Hitler was a “right winger” and that his true American descendants are Trump and the Republican Party.
Big lies don’t just require gullible people; they also require powerful cultural institutions like academia, Hollywood, and the media to help sustain them. Progressive Democrats dominate these institutions, which is why they have been able to get away with a big lie like this one. They have not merely covered their tracks; they have virtually foisted the fascist label on the political right.
The real fascists, however, knew that they were on the political left. Mussolini—the original fascist leader, who came to power a decade before Hitler—was a Marxist who saw fascism as the most effective way to implement socialism. Hitler was so committed to socialism that he changed the name of the German Workers Party to the National Socialist German Workers Party. As historian Anthony James Gregor points out, all the original founders of fascism—in Italy, in Germany, in England and in France—were socialists and leftists.
So what did Hitler learn from the Democratic Party and from his fellow leftists in America? First, he credited his plan of lebensraum or “living space”—specifically, his plan to forcibly seize the land in Russia, Poland and Eastern Europe, and enslave the native inhabitants—to the Jacksonian Democrats. In a 1928 speech, Hitler noted that Americans in the Jacksonian Era had “gunned down the millions of Redskins to a few hundred thousand, and now keep the modest remnant under observation in a cage.”
Far from objecting to this precedent, Hitler intended to emulate it. As historian Norman Rich put it, “The United States policy of westward expansion in the course of which the white men ruthlessly thrust aside the ‘inferior’ indigenous populations served as the model for Hitler’s entire conception of lebensraum.”
Historian Timothy Snyder makes the same point in Bloodlands, “As Hitler imagined the future, Germany would deal with the Slavs much as the North Americans had dealt with the Indians.” Using a formula developed by the Democrats, Hitler sought to drive the Poles, Russians and Slavs from their land; dispatch Germans to take it over; and enslave the conquered peoples that refused to leave.
Notice that Rich and Snyder, who are both progressives, never mentioned the term “Democrat.” They are content to say that Hitler got his ideas from the white man, or from the North Americans. Yet it was the Democratic Party under its founder, Andrew Jackson, and then under Jackson’s Democratic successors, that massacred the Indians and drove them west and presided over the ignominious Trail of Tears. This is the actual precedent that Hitler appealed to in formulating his plans of conquest, dispossession and enslavement.
The second lesson Hitler learned from the Democrats was how to create a racist state. The Nazis believed they were creating the world’s first racist regime, but they soon discovered that the Democrats of the American South had—at least on the regional level—beaten them to it. Consequently, Hitler and the Nazis derived valuable lessons about how to implement discriminatory laws. “It was with the passage of the Nuremberg Laws in 1935,” historian George Fredrickson writes, “that Germany became a full-fledged racist regime. American laws were the main precedents for such legislation.”
While Fredrickson—another progressive scholar—blames “American” laws for inspiring the Nuremberg legislation, what he means specifically is the Democratic Party’s Jim Crow laws. Let’s remember that every segregation law in the South was passed by a Democratic legislature, signed by a Democratic governor, and enforced by Democratic officials. The Nuremberg team carefully studied these laws that were mainly aimed at blacks and used them to formulate their own racist legislation mainly aimed at Jews.
Hitler specifically invoked the anti-miscegenation laws mostly passed by Democratic states as an example for Nazi Germany. “The Germanic inhabitant of the American continent,” Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf, “who has remained racially pure and unmixed rose to be master of the continent. He will remain the master as long as he does not fall a victim to the defilement of the blood.”
At Nuremberg, the Nazis sought to preserve Nordic racial purity by outlawing racial intermarriage with Jews in much the same manner that Democratic anti-miscegenation laws outlawed racial intermarriage with blacks. Yet the Nazis balked at defining Jews as anyone possessing “one drop” of Jewish blood in line with the Democratic “one drop rule.” Incredibly the Nazis rejected the one-drop precedent of their American counterparts as too harsh. They defined a Jew as one who has predominant Jewish ancestry—usually characterized by three Jewish grandparents.
Hitler also appealed to the racially exclusionary provisions of U.S. immigration laws, specifically the 1924 Immigration Act that had been pushed by American progressives as a model of enlightened eugenic legislation. “There is today one state,” Hitler noted, “in which at least weak beginning toward a better conception are noticeable. Of course it is not our German Republic but the American union. By refusing immigration on principle to elements in poor health, by simply excluding certain races from naturalization, it professes in slow beginnings a view which is peculiar to the Volkish state concept.”
Third, Hitler learned from progressive sterilization laws that had been enacted in America through the influence of activists like Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. “I have studied with great interest the laws of several American states concerning prevention of reproduction by people whose progeny would in all probability be of no value or be injurious to the racial stock.”
Hitler’s views—which closely parallel Sanger’s—provided the basis for the Nazi sterilization laws of 1933 which began by targeting “imbeciles” and the mentally retarded, and later expanded to cover Jews, gypsies, and other social undesirables. While American progressives emphasized forced sterilization—Sanger’s preferred remedy—Hitler also implemented euthanasia carried out by carbon monoxide in gas chambers. These gas chambers were first devised to eliminate the “unfit” and later became part of Hitler’s “final solution” for the Jews.
Leading American eugenicists were familiar with Hitler’s sterilization and euthanasia programs, and applauded them. Progressive eugenicist Paul Popenoe, himself an advocate of euthanasia by poison gas, praised Hitler for being on the front lines of modern eugenics. Harry Laughlin and Charles Davenport’s Eugenic News termed the Nazi sterilization program “a milestone which marks the control by the most advanced nations of the world of a major aspect of controlling human reproduction.”
A further example of progressive enthusiasm for Hitler involves Charles Goethe, founder of the Eugenics Society of Northern California, who upon returning from a 1934 fact-finding trip to Germany to examine Nazi sterilization programs, wrote a congratulatory letter to his fellow progressive Eugene Gosney, head of the San Diego-based Human Betterment Foundation.
“You will be interested to know,” Goethe’s letter said, “that your work has played a powerful part in shaping the opinions of the group of intellectuals who are behind Hitler in this epoch-making program. Everywhere I sensed that their opinions have been tremendously stimulated by American thought, and particularly by the work of the Human Betterment Foundation. I want you, my dear friend, to carry this thought with you for the rest of your life.”
I am not suggesting that Hitler derived his racism, his appetite for conquest, or his willingness to sterilize and euthanize his fellow citizens from American Democrats. He did, however, learn how to frame his policies of racial discrimination and Nordic supremacy, his lebensraum strategy of mass displacement and subjugation, and his genocidal mechanisms for exterminating the “unfit,” from his fellow leftists and progressives in the United States.
This is the disgraceful legacy of the Democratic left. Scholars and media pundits who know this history are deeply frightened by it. They realize that if young people discover it, if it comes to become widely known, then the whole progressive Democratic project will be discredited. No longer will progressives be able to pose as the part of the good, the true and the beautiful; on the contrary, they will be exposed as a partly complicit in racism, mass murder and genocide.
Dinesh D’Souza’s new book The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left is published by Regnery.