5 Of Hitler's Worst Ideas You Didn't Know Came From America
One of the USA's greatest historical achievements was sending Captain America to punch Adolf Hitler square in the jaw. But what you may not know is that, prior to the U.S. tossing its military might in against the Axis powers, Hitler had a well-known obsession with all things American, from Coca-Cola to Mickey Mouse.
And although we tend to think of Nazi Germany as the very antithesis of truth, justice, and the American way, it turns out that some of the shittiest ideas lurking within the darkest corners of Hitler's shitty evil brain were directly inspired by things he learned from relentlessly studying American culture. Basically, if Hitler is the Joker, America is the Batman who dropped him in a vat of ooze.
We're not saying America was just as bad as the Nazis, or that Americans secretly caused the Holocaust. What we are saying is ...
The Nazi Propaganda Machine Was Borrowed From Various American Sources
During the very earliest days of his rise to power, one of Hitler's closest pals was Ernst "Putzi" Hanfstaengl. And we don't mean "close" like "Hitler used to borrow Putzi's lawnmower" close. We mean "close" like "Putzi once made fun of Hitler's mustache" close, or "Putzi helped him edit Mein Kampf" close. Hell, they were "Putzi didn't complain when Hitler wanted to bang his wife" close. That's a better relationship than most of us have with anyone.
"Take mein wife ... please!"
Putzi was a Harvard grad who spent his college years pounding out fight songs on an upright piano at football pep rallies. Indeed, it was this ability to rile up a crowd via music that first ingratiated him with the future Fuehrer in 1923, when Putzi banged out some of his old football marches and sent Hitler prancing about his rundown Munich apartment in an awkward goosestep-dance . Once he calmed down, Hitler demanded that Putzi duplicate the style in penning the Third Reich's official march tunes.
Compare the intros of these two songs. The first is the Harvard fight song; the second is a Nazi youth march written by Putzi:
Suddenly, the Harvard-Yale rivalry doesn't seem so significant.
Not only that, but a document declassified by the CIA in 2001 revealed that the Indy-chilling "Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil!" chant was a direct bastardization of cheerleaders chanting "Harvard! Harvard! Harvard! Rah! Rah! Rah!" Unfortunately for Putzi, however, Hitler's need to convince the masses that genocide was the wave of the future soon outgrew peppy cheers and marching songs. Hitler needed an upgrade, and he found it in the form of Paul Joseph Goebbels, the Nazis' Don Draper.
Goebbels is best known as the guy who gets shot entirely too many times at the end of Inglourious Basterds, but he was also the Nazis' master of propaganda, which was legendarily effective. Where did he get the ideas that put the swastika on the map, and encouraged millions of people to be complicit and/or actively participate in mass murder? American advertising..
Slap some jackboots on Santa and swap out the Coca-Cola logo for a swastika, and you get the idea.
Goebbels learned everything he knew from Edward Bernays, an American public relations consultant known as "the father of public relations" (ironically, Bernays was also Jewish). Goebbels directly cited Bernays' book Crystallizing Public Opinion as his textbook for convincing the German people that the Jews were the source of all their misery and misfortune. Surely, American advertisers were so ashamed by what they'd wrought that they abandoned their Madison Avenue suites and burned their fancy neckties in disgrace, right?
Haha, not at all! In the early days of the Third Reich, American advertisers totally bragged about the effectiveness of the American-inspired German propaganda, because of course they did.
Hitler's Anti-Semitic Views Were Inspired By Henry Ford
We've previously discussed how Henry Ford thought Nazis were the bee's knees in the cat's pajamas, but what we didn't point out was just how much Ford's own fucked-up worldview may have influenced the tenets of Nazism in the first place.
See, Henry Ford owned the Dearborn Independent, an anti-Semitic and conspiracy theory-laden newspaper distributed throughout his vast network (by which we mean he forced his car dealerships to hand out his frothingly racist "newspaper" to anyone they could). Nowhere is Ford's outlook on Jews clearer than in the essay "The Jewish Question -- Fact or Fancy?," which posited that, "The Jew has been too long accustomed to think of himself as exclusively the claimant on the humanitarianism of society." Ford also once famously claimed that "The Jews are the scavengers of the world. Wherever there's anything wrong with a country, you'll find the Jews on the job there."
"... and don't even get me started on the havoc they've wreaked on my fantasy baseball league."
In the early 1920s, Ford collected four entire volumes of his batshittiest rantings and published them under the vague title The International Jew. Presumably mistaking this for a spy thriller, Hitler picked up a German translation of the book well before he ever began his own masterwork, Mein Kampf. As expected, Hitler fucking loved The International Jew, so much so that he straight-up plagiarized it. James Pool, author of Who Financed Hitler: The Secret Funding of Hitler's Rise to Power, 1919-1933, pointed out that, "There is a great similarity between The International Jew and Hitler's Mein Kampf, and some passages are so identical that it has been said Hitler copies directly from Ford's publication."
Of particular interest to Hitler were Ford's ideas that the Jews were morally and mentally "defective," along with his observation that Germany was the number two nation (the USA being number one) at risk of succumbing to Jewish domination. Hitler even kept a life-sized portrait of Henry Ford next to his desk like a fucking John Elway FatHead decal a full two years before his rise to chancellor. When a Detroit News reporter asked him why it was there, Hitler explained, "I regard Henry Ford as my inspiration."
Nazi Concentration Camps Were Modeled After The U.S. Indian Reservation System
So let's say you're the leader of a great new nation, but to your dismay you find your hard-built country teeming with pesky undesirables whose singular goal is to uproot your carefully constructed society by mooching off welfare and stealing all the jobs you created for your own loyal citizenry. What do you do about it? Well, if you're old timey America, you forcibly uproot thousands of Native Americans from their own homes and send them to "reservations," which is a euphemism for "population control camps," or, more specifically, "concentration camps." Conditions at these camps were somewhat less than ideal, and that's just for those Native Americans who didn't die during the several-hundred mile trek to get to their new homes. Many more perished on the reservations due to a delightful combination of unsanitary living conditions and starvation. In some cases they weren't allowed to leave (like prisoners) and were forced to work for hours (like labor camps) for no pay (like slaves).
"'This land is your land, this land is my land'. Hahaha, but seriously, this land is my land."
Adolf "I know an evil idea when I see one" Hitler not only knew about these forced relocations and reservations, but actively studied the plans of Indian reservations such as Bosque Redondo, and designed his concentration camps based on what he'd learned. As John Toland wrote in his book Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography, "Hitler's concept of concentration camps as well as the practicality of genocide owed much, so he claimed, to his studies of English and United States history." In fact, Hitler so admired America's approach to killing all the Indians that he "often praised to his inner circle the efficiency of America's extermination -- by starvation and uneven combat -- of the red savages who could not be tamed by captivity."
Pictured: untamed savages.
Of course, Hitler put his own unique spin on things by murdering those he took captive, while the American system sat by and let exhaustion and starvation do all the heavy lifting.
Hitler Designed His Gas Chambers After America's Practice Of Disinfecting Immigrants
The early 20th century was a shitty period for American immigration policies. And one of the very shittiest policies came about in 1917, when the U.S. decided that the only way we'd allow our filthy Mexican neighbors across the border is by forcing them to strip naked, then shaving their heads and dousing them with poisonous pesticide.
Uh, no one show this article to Donald Trump.
This was ostensibly to prevent an outbreak of typhus, even though only two cases of typhus had been reported, in a single El Paso slum. So it was more of a "typhus prevention, and also we hate Mexicans" kind of deal.
What does any of this have to do with Hitler? Well, for one thing, he was absolutely smitten with the United States' immigration policies. In 1924, he wrote that, "The American union itself ... has established scientific criteria for immigration ... making an immigrant's ability to set foot on American soil dependent on specific racial requirements on the one hand as well as a certain level of physical health of the individual himself."
More disturbing, however, is that the Nazis took special notice of one particular chemical America used in this supposed war against lice. Yeah, that's right -- brace yourself, because this is going to be bad.
Hint: These cans did not contain beanie weenies.
In 1938, Nazi chemist Dr. Gerhard Peters published a scientific article praising one Texas "disinfection" plant, in which he popped a throbbing murder-boner over their use of a little substance called Zyklon B. The Americans only used it to delouse freight or clothes, because spraying it on a human resulted in near-instant death (a fact that they hopefully did not discover through trial and error, although let's be honest, they probably did).
Gerhard Peters the Nazi doctor, on the other hand, scooped it up and slapped a German patent on it. By the end of World War II, the Nazis had used Zyklon B (which was created by America to delouse the clothing of dirty immigrants) to murder millions of human beings in their concentration camp gas chambers. Goddammit, America.
Hitler's Entire "Master Race" Philosophy Was Inspired By The American Eugenics Movement
Around the turn of the 20th century, Charles Darwin's cousin Sir Francis Galton had a grand idea: create a superior race of human by arbitrarily deciding who is allowed to breed and who isn't. He called this disturbing brainchild "eugenics," and it caught on like wildfire in America, where a bunch of educated white dudes collectively decided they had a moral obligation to embrace the practice out of responsibility to future generations. This "obligation" left them with no choice but to start sterilizing people left and right, provided said people were criminals, feebleminded, disabled, deformed, in a mental hospital, blind, deaf, or poor. Or, as eugenicists called them, "bacteria," "vermin," "mongrels," and "subhuman."
Ugh, to think this could have been prevented.
In 1927, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes determined that, "It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind ... Three generations of imbeciles are enough." And damn good thing, too, because by that time most states had already passed laws permitting compulsory sterilization anyway. What followed was the government-mandated sterilization of more than 60,000 Americans, some of whom are still living today.
Meanwhile, an impressionable young Adolf Hitler read about all this and gave it two enthusiastic thumbs up, even going so far as to write a gushing fan letter to Madison Grant, the face of American eugenics, in which he described Grant's book on race-based eugenics as his bible, "[studying] 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 went on to deliberately model German eugenics legislation on American policy, while boldly stepping up his game by adding homosexuals, the idle, the weak, and (big surprise here) Jews to the already staggering list of candidates to be treated as if they were stray motherfucking cats.
Also, giants. Don't forget the giants.
Hitler ultimately sterilized more than 400,000 people against their will and euthanized 300,000 more in the name of eugenics, a move that is widely viewed as his warm-up for the Holocaust. Again, we're not saying America created Hitler. But it's easy to look back and portray WWII as Uncle Sam versus the man who is the polar opposite of everything America stands for. That's taking a revisionist approach, though; in many cases Hitler was just taking some American ideas to their awful, logical conclusion.
It's, uh, kind if important that we not forget that.
Melissa Dylan is a writer and MBA whose hobbies include sneezing and enthusiastic overuse of the space bar. Check out her blog, The Bossy Introvert, or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, other Twitter, or other blog. In spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Melissa has an active social life.
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