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‘Nazis out’: Societal responses to the extreme right in Germany and Europe since 1960

How can our societies tackle and challenge extreme right-wing political parties and the views and incidents stemming from these ideologies? This question encapsulates a fundamental difficulty facing European democracies in the twenty-first century. The intense public and academic debate sparked by the issue pays very little regard to the fact that Europe’s societies have a long history of confronting these matters; the problem has reared its head regularly since the 1960s, in the shape of electoral successes for extreme right-wing parties, violence against immigrants and scandals around racist incidents, each calling for action by political parties, justice systems, educational institutions, civil society organisations, academics and numerous other actors. This research project centres the debates, controversies and considerations that have arisen from this set of issues over the years. In a departure from studies originating in the discipline of political science and focusing on responses and strategies that have proved particularly effective in the past, it seeks to identify the reasons why societies have chosen to deploy these measures in their struggles with the extreme right.

A focal area of the research encompasses educational efforts to resist and eliminate extreme right-wing ideologies, specifically the conceptions and practices employed in these endeavours and their changes over time, alongside the societal expectations they inspired and shifts in the significance ascribed to them in their competition with approaches based in political or legal measures. The project examines the history of societal responses to the extreme right from a European perspective; within this broad field, it will place a specific focal emphasis on the particularly close attention paid by observers abroad to extreme right-wing activities in Germany in the context of that country’s National Socialist past. The emergence of post-war Germany’s extreme right and individual and societal responses to this development have become a touchstone of transnational and specifically European comparison in this area. This emphasis enables the project to provide close and exemplary insight into the political and societal development of European democracies in the twentieth century’s second half and create a space of reflection on current debates around what our discursive disputes with the extreme right are seeking to contend and defend.