Public Comment

Welcome Back Streicher!- The Alabama-Arizona Immigration Laws Recall 1935 Germany

By Jean Damu
Tuesday January 24, 2012 - 09:21:00 AM

Is Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, he who roams the nation promoting vicious anti-immigration laws and ordinances a latter day Julius Streicher? 

Oddly and bizarrely the old TV sitcom Welcome Back Kotter brings to mind similarities of Germany’s old Nuremburg laws, and the Kobach inspired new immigration laws in Alabama and Arizona. 

If television were reality (check that, television is reality) Kobach’s disturbing career would be scheduled as a remake of “Welcome back Kotter,” wherein Kotter returned to his high school alma mater as a teacher and took under his wing a motley assemblage of wayward students and mentored them toward near adulthood. 

In the reality version Kris Kobach has returned to his native Kansas after a stellar academic career at Harvard, Oxford and Yale Law. He has taken under his wing a motley assemblage of Nativist racists, often mistaken for Tea Party evangelicals, is mentoring them in formulating Nazi-reminiscent anti-immigration laws and therein resembles not at all the fuzzy, warm-hearted Kotter but rather the jack-booted, brown shirted Julius Streicher, “Jew baiter number one;” promulgator of the fascist Nuremburg Laws of 1935 and among the very few non-military Nazis executed for crimes against humanity by military tribunals at Nuremburg at the close of World War II. 

From 1923 until the fall of the Third Reich in 1945 Streicher was editor of the German tabloid Der Sturmer, (the Atttacker,) possibly the most racist tabloid ever to see the light of day during the 20th Century. The focus of Der Sturmers’ attacks were of course, the Jews. 

From his earliest adult days Streicher was a Hitler groupie. The same year he founded his racist rag Streicher acted as one of Hitler’s bodyguards during the failed Beer Hall putsch after which Hitler was imprisoned. 

Throughout the ensuing years Streicher’s role as editor of Der Sturmer, which often featured racist cartoons of baboonish portrayed Jewish men engaged in sex acts with Aryan looking women, his paper gave him the platform to advocate for greater Nazi bureaucratic efficiency in the legal crackdown on Jewish participation in everyday life. 

While the original Nuremburg Laws, announced at the Nazi Party rally in Nuremburg, served to criminalize sexual relations and contacts between Aryans and Jews, later additions to them, primarily by Joseph Goebbels addressed economic and everyday social relations. For instance, entering into a contract with a Jew became illegal. Renting to a Jew was illegal. Providing social services to Jews became illegal. Jews were relegated to their own schools Ultimately it became illegal for Jews to have money. The intent of all this naturally was to get Jews to leave Germany. 

True to his fascistic nature, for Streicher none of this was enough to get to the root of the so-called “Jew problem.” 

On September 16, 1936 the New York Times reported Streicher’s explicit remarks to newspapermen. The article sub-headlined “The Way to Solve the Problem Is to Exterminate Them,” reported, “The Nuremburg high-priest of Anti-Semitism (Streicher)…announced that in the last analysis, extermination is the only real solution to the Jewish problem. Mr. Streicher made it clear in his address that he was not discussing the question in regard to Germany alone…but of a world problem.” 

Streicher’s final solution policy was not adopted by the Nazi government until several years later, but intermediate steps adopted by Streicher and his followers included organizing brigades of trucks and wagons to gather up Jews and their belongings and dump them on the Czechoslovakia and Germany border in an attempt to cleanse Germany of Jews. 

Though the Nuremburg Laws were, we would like to think, far more extensive, invasive and racist than anything that could possibly be accepted anywhere in America in 2012, there is a disturbing overlap of key provisions of the laws; and the intent, to get the Jews in Germany and undocumented immigrants here, to “deport themselves”, is the same. 

Below are some key provisions of Alabama’s new immigration law. In parentheses we’ve added the word “Jew” to underline the commonality of Alabama and Nuremburg. 

  • One of the most controversial aspects of Alabama’s new immigration law is a requirement that public schools run checks on the immigration (citizenship) status of students in order to collect and track data (similar to the role IBM played in Germany collecting and tracking data on Jews.) However the law does not bar undocumented workers or their children (Jews) from attending schools.
  • prohibitions against most contracts entered into by most undocumented immigrants (Jews);
  • bars on undocumented immigrants (Jews) "business transactions" with the state;
  • criminalizing undocumented immigrants' (Jews) failure to carry registration documents (currently blocked by court challenge).
  • prohibitions against most contracts entered into by unauthorized immigrants (Jews);
  • One key, and controversial, aspect of Alabama's new immigration laws is a requirement that law enforcement officers make an attempt to determine the immigration status of individuals subject to arrest, detention or a traffic stop whenever "reasonable suspicion exists that a person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States.”
Backers of these laws claim the laws do not promote racial profiling but that makes no sense. The only reason an officer might suspect someone of being undocumented is that they looked Latino or Indian. There are hundreds of thousands of undocumented white people in the US but they rarely get stopped and carded because they are assumed to be US citizens. Racial profiling in reverse, if you will. 

But the real connection between the Nuremburg laws and the Alabama-Arizona laws are the sponsors themselves. We’ve already noted Streicher’s motivations in cleansing Germany of Jews. Alabama State Senator Scott Beason and Representative Micky Hammon were both quoted in a Syracuse University Law School blog as saying, “the goal of the new law is to force illegal immigrants out of the state of Alabama 

Also the US Department of Justice has filed a brief with the 11th circuit court of appeals saying the Alabama law not only is unconstitutional but is nothing more than an attempt to get undocumented workers “to deport themselves,” much as Streicher tried to do with his promotion of the Nuremburg Laws. 

Kobach’s role in all of this has been ample. In his role as chief legal consultant for the far-right FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform) Kobach engineered the formulation of the Alabama and Arizona immigration laws and has worked diligently to try to make those laws appeal proof. 

The Alabama-Arizona laws are the bookmark achievements of Kobach’s career to date but, he’s launched other attacks elsewhere with mixed results. 

On behalf of FAIR Kobach sued the state of Kansas for granting in-state tuition to undocumented students. That suit was dismissed for lack of evidence. He was more successful in California where his suit origninally prevailed but was later overturned by the California Supreme Court. 

Kobach also served as the lead attorney defending the city of Valley Park, Mo. in a federal case that challenged an ordinance sanctioning employers who hire the undocumented. After several appeals the ordinance was held to be legal. 

In Farmers Ranch, Texas,. Kobach led the city’s defense of its ordinances that prevented property owners from renting to undocumented workers. Those laws were also struck down. 

In appearance and intellect Kobach is no Striecher. He’s intellectual, talented and worldly. His studies at Oxford resulted in a treatise on the development of capitalism in South Africa. However, just as David Duke attempted to wrap the Ku Klux Klan within a buttoned downed, brief case carrying-pin stripped image a generation ago, Kobach is doing the same today for the far right with Nazi inspired immigration legislations. 

Supporters of Julius Streicher (yes, they still exist) argue he got a raw deal at the tribunals that had him hanged. Had he lived in the US, they say, he would have been protected by freedom of speech laws. They could be right and apparently a lot of people in Alabama and Arizona agree. 

Jean Damu is a member of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. He can be reached at