European far-right ethno-nationalist groups have cast immigrants as a scapegoat for economic hardship faced by young Europeans. Rather than promote overt white supremacy, these groups denigrate minorities—particularly Muslim immigrants—as detrimental to European culture.
European Ethno-Nationalist and White Supremacy Groups
More than 70 years after the defeat of Nazi Germany, ethno-nationalist and white supremacist movements in Europe continue to thrive. They include far-right political parties, neo-Nazi movements, and apolitical protest groups. Some groups openly espouse violent white supremacy, while others have propagated their radical stances under the guise of populism. Such populist groups claim that they are striving to protect average hardworking Europeans by preserving their livelihoods and heritages from economic and cultural threats posed by immigrants and ethnic minorities. Though not all of these groups directly link their ideologies to Nazism, their propaganda portrays immigrants and ethnic minorities in a similar manner to how Nazi propaganda portrayed Jews, blaming them for national economic troubles and depicting them as a serious threat to the broader national identity.
In a June 2018 speech, German Chancellor Angela Merkel recognized that the majority of refugees are victims, and that "escape and expulsion are part of our German and European history."* "Rede von Bundeskanzlerin Merkel zum Gedenktag für die Opfer von Flucht und Vertreibung am 20. Juni 2018 in Berlin," Die Bundeskanzlerin, June 20, 2018, https://www.bundeskanzlerin.de/Content/DE/Rede/2018/06/2018-06-20-rede-gedenkstunde-20-juni.html.x Nonetheless, several far-right political parties in Europe have infused anti-immigrant and particularly anti-Muslim xenophobia into their party platforms through the concept of ethno-nationalism––the idea that a nation should be composed of a single ethnicity. These parties postulate that hardworking European natives are suffering economic and cultural losses due to immigrants and ethnic minorities who want to replace national, religious, and cultural identities with foreign values. Ethno-nationalists also view multiculturalism as a code word for the destruction of the native national identity. For example, Hungary's neo-fascist Jobbik political party rejects "the dead-end Western European multiculturalism" and has pledged to "defend our cultural identity developed over our history."* "Manifesto on The Guidelines For a Future Jobbik-Led Government," Jobbik, accessed June 25, 2018, https://www.jobbik.com/manifesto_on_the_guidelines_for_a_future_jobbik_led_government. x Groups like Germany's Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) political party lament the influx of Muslim immigrants, which they claim weakens the German culture and quality of life. AfD has gone so far as to claim that Islam is a danger to Germany.* "Manifesto for Germany," Alternative für Deutschland, accessed June 27, 2018, 48, https://www.afd.de/wp-content/uploads/sites/111/2017/04/2017-04-12_afd-grundsatzprogramm-englisch_web.pdf. x
These far-right political parties have therefore been able to unite ethno-nationalism with populism by propagating the notion that ethno-nationalism serves the average hardworking individual and the broader national identity. Their propaganda campaigns have allowed them to generate substantial popular support and make gains in domestic elections. The AfD came in third in Germany's September 2017 parliamentary elections.* Kate Connolly, "German election: Merkel wins fourth term but far-right AfD surges to third," Guardian (London), September 24, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/24/angela-merkel-fourth-term-far-right-afd-third-german-election. x In March 2018's Italian parliamentary elections, the far-right, anti-immigrant Lega Nord ("Northern League") party succeeded in becoming the third largest party in Italy's parliament. League leader Matteo Salvini served as Italy’s interior minister from June 2018 until August 2019. In that role, he refused a migrant aid ship permission to dock in Italy and called for a national census to address "the Roma question."* "Italian interior minister wants census of Roma communities," Reuters, June 18, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-italy-roma/italian-interior-minister-wants-census-of-roma-communities-idUSKBN1JE2H0; Gavin Jones and Giselda Vagnoni, "How Italy’s ‘Captain’ Salvini steered his ship onto the rocks," Reuters, September 3, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-italy-politics-salvini-insight/how-italys-captain-salvini-steered-his-ship-onto-the-rocks-idUSKCN1VP0HC. x Both parties also view the European Union as a harmful foreign influence that has undermined the sovereignty of their respective nations.* "Manifesto for Germany," Alternative für Deutschland, accessed June 27, 2018, 7, https://www.afd.de/wp-content/uploads/sites/111/2017/04/2017-04-12_afd-grundsatzprogramm-englisch_web.pdf; Simon Osborne, "'It's a GERMAN currency!' Lega Nord vows to pull Italy from euro 'MISTAKE,'" Express (London), February 8, 2018, https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/916123/italian-elections-2018-lega-nord-northern-league-leader-matteo-salvini-eurozone. x Salvini has even derided the euro as a "German currency" and a "crime against humanity."* Simon Osborne, "'It's a GERMAN currency!' Lega Nord vows to pull Italy from euro 'MISTAKE,'" Express (London), February 8, 2018, https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/916123/italian-elections-2018-lega-nord-northern-league-leader-matteo-salvini-eurozone; Elizabeth Schumacher, "Matteo Salvini: Italy's far-right success story," Deutsche Welle, March 5, 2018, http://www.dw.com/en/matteo-salvini-italys-far-right-success-story/a-42830366. x Salvini continues to serve in Italy’s parliament.* Gavin Jones and Giselda Vagnoni, "How Italy’s ‘Captain’ Salvini steered his ship onto the rocks," Reuters, September 3, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-italy-politics-salvini-insight/how-italys-captain-salvini-steered-his-ship-onto-the-rocks-idUSKCN1VP0HC. x
Some ethno-nationalist political movements have openly embraced the language and symbolism of the Nazi movement. In Hungary, Gabor Vona, the former chair of the far-right Jobbik, has blamed international Jewry for attempting to buy Hungary and interfere in its elections. Jobbik has also used the Nazi "Arrow Cross" to symbolize pride in Hungary's Nazi past.* "Ungarn schützen, das ist unser Ziel: Bededikt Frings für die DS im Gespräch mit Gábor Vona, dem Chef der Ungarischen Garde," in Deutsche Stimme (May 2008): 9.x In 2014, a Hungarian court ruled that Jobbik may be referred to as "neo-Nazi" in Hungary.* "Gerichtsurteil in Ungarn: Jobbik darf als Neonazipartei bezeichnet werden," Spiegel Online, January 28, 2014, http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/urteil-in-ungarn-jobbik-darf-als-neonazi-partei-bezeichnet-werden-a-945998.html. x Despite similarities in propaganda, however, not all of Europe's far-right political movements have openly embraced links to the Nazi or neo-Nazi movements. Members of the French anti-immigrant Les Identitaires movement reject violence and consider themselves to be patriots defending European identity from cultural corruption imposed by Islamic mores. * Associated Press, "French far-right group has message in menu," Boston.com, December 10, 2011, http://archive.boston.com/news/world/europe/articles/2011/12/10/french_far_right_group_has_message_in_menu/. x Les Identitaires' youth wing, Generation Identity (GI), has a presence across Europe and uses social media and popular demonstrations to propagate similar anti-Islamic notions and gain traction with young people. * Sumi Somaskanda, "Identitarian movement - Germany's 'new right' hipsters," Deutsche Welle, June 23, 2017, http://www.dw.com/en/identitarian-movement-germanys-new-right-hipsters/a-39383124. x In July 2020, Twitter suspended several GI-linked accounts during a purge of more than 50 white supremacist accounts.* Anna Schechter, “Twitter suspends more than 50 white nationalist accounts,” NBC News, July 10, 2020, https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/social-media/twitter-suspends-more-50-white-nationalist-accounts-n1233469.x France banned GI in March 2021.*Kim Willsher, “France bans far-right 'paramilitary' group Génération Identitaire,” Guardian (London), March 3, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/03/france-bans-far-right-paramilitary-group-generation-identitaire.x
Les Identitaires and GI adhere to the identitarian ideology and its Great Replacement theory, which GI describes as "the process by which the indigenous European population is replaced by non-European migrants."*"Frequently Asked Question," Generation Identity United Kingdom and Ireland, accessed March 8, 2018, https://www.generation-identity.org.uk/faqs/. x Employing similar rhetoric, Brenton Tarrant, the white supremacist who allegedly killed 50 people at two New Zealand mosques on March 15, 2019, entitled his manifesto "The Great Replacement" and wrote about the "crisis of mass immigration and … assault on the European people that, if not combated, will ultimately result in the complete racial and cultural replacement of the European people."*Brenton Tarrant, "The Great Replacement," Internet Archive, accessed April 1, 2019. x The New Zealand attack was a manifestation of the identitarian ideology and its view of a broader white European ethnic identity prevalent in the Western world that transcends national borders. While groups like GI claim to reject violence, they promote an ideology that has led directly toward it.
Some of Europe's historically non-political, violent far-right groups have not only embraced similar populist language to the ethno-nationalist political movements, but also continue to espouse openly racist concepts and employ violence to achieve their visions of an ethnically homogenous state. Combat 18, a violent neo-Nazi skinhead group founded in the United Kingdom in 1992, currently has a presence in at least 18 countries. * Terrorism and Violent Extremism Awareness Guide. Quebec: RCMP Communications Office, 2016, http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/wam/media/1731/original/1cb81f63911f002d67b340c08591bd31.pdf; "Division Polonia," Division Polonia Blood C18 Honor, accessed April 10, 2018, http://bhdivisionpolonia.altervista.org/index.html; "C18 Hungary," C18 Hungary, accessed April 10, 2018, http://c18hungary.blogspot.com/; "Aryan Strikeforce/Combat 18 Ukraine," VK.com, accessed April 10, 2018, https://vk.com/as318ukraine; Bianca Hall "Neo-Nazi group Combat 18 plasters anti-Islam stickers over children's playground in Heidelberg West," Age (Victoria), August 26, 2015, https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/neonazi-group-combat-18-plasters-antiislam-stickers-over-childrens-playground-in-heidelberg-west-20150826-gj7tv8.html. x Similar to ISIS in its aim to create a Muslim-only caliphate, the group encourages supporters to carry out lone-wolf terrorist attacks as part of its greater aim to create white-only countries through violence. * "National Socialist Political Soldiers Handbook," Combat 18, accessed April 2, 2018, https://archive.org/details/NationalSocialistPoliticalSoldiersHandbook. x National Action is another group of young far-right extremists that, in 2016, became the first far-right group to be labeled as a terrorist organization in the United Kingdom after it praised the murder of a parliamentarian. * Jessica Elgot, "Neo-Nazi group National Action banned by UK home secretary," Guardian (London), December 12, 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/12/neo-nazi-group-national-action-banned-by-uk-home-secretary. x The group, whose members believe that "Britain should be for British people," * Lucy Sherriff, "Meet New Neo-Nazi Group National Action Which Just Wants To 'Piss People Off,'" Huffington Post, June 3, 2014, https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/03/06/new-neo-nazi-group-national-action_n_4910260.html?guccounter=1. x reportedly operates training camps where recruits learn hand-to-hand combat in preparation for "white jihad." * "Banned neo-Nazi group National Action 'kept meeting,'" BBC News, June 14, 2018, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-44489796; Charlie Bayliss, "National Action 'members attended terror-style training camps to learn judo, kickboxing and street fighting martial arts for upcoming race war,'" Daily Mail (London), June 13, 2018, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5840925/National-Action-members-attended-terror-style-training-camps-learn-MMA.html; Lucy Sherriff, "Meet New Neo-Nazi Group National Action Which Just Wants To 'Piss People Off,'" Huffington Post, June 3, 2014, https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/03/06/new-neo-nazi-group-national-action_n_4910260.html?guccounter=1. x Not only do these violent white supremacist groups employ similar strategies to some of the most prominent Islamic terror groups, but they are also motivated to pursue the radical end goal of an ethnically or culturally homogenous state due to similar concerns that their identity and way of life are under threat.
In addition to homegrown ethno-nationalist movements, Europe has also seen a rise of far-right networks affiliated with U.S. neo-Nazi groups. For example, U.S.-based Atomwaffen Division (AWD), now known as National Socialist Order, * “National Socialist Order Announcement!,” American Futurist, July 25, 2020. x has established a network in Germany. * A .C. Thompson, Ali Winston, and Jake Hanrahan, “California Murder Suspect Said to Have Trained With Extremist Hate Group,” ProPublica, January 26, 2018, https://www.propublica.org/article/california-murder-suspect-atomwaffen-division-extremist-hate-group; A.C. Thompson, Ali Winston, and Jake Hanrahan, “Inside Atomwaffen As It Celebrates a Member for Allegedly Killing a Gay Jewish College Student,” ProPublica, last updated August 3, 2018, https://www.propublica.org/article/atomwaffen-division-inside-white-hate-group; Mack Lamoureux and Ben Makuch, “An American Neo-Nazi Group Has Dark Plans for Canada,” Vice News, July 10, 2018, https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/ev847a/an-american-neo-nazi-group-has-dark-plans-for-canada; Jake Hanrahan, Twitter post, June 2, 2018, 7:44 p.m., https://twitter.com/Jake_Hanrahan/status/1003059715293794304. x Additionally, the Feuerkrieg Division was created as a European, neo-Nazi offshoot of AWD. *“FEUERKRIEG DIVISION (FKD) PROSCRIBED AS TERRORIST GROUP,” Counter Terrorism Policing, July 17, 2020, https://www.counterterrorism.police.uk/fkd-proscribed/. x The U.S.-based Nationalist Social Club (NSC) is also active in Germany, Hungary, and Bulgaria. *Russell Harris, “Neo-Nazi ‘Slap-Tags’ Found On Rail-Trail In Pepperell,” Groton Herald, November 5, 2020, http://www.grotonherald.com/news/neo-nazi-%E2%80%98slap-tags%E2%80%99-found-rail-trail-pepperell; “Online ISIS Supporters Celebrate Vienna Attack,” European Centre for Counterterrorism, November 14, 2020, https://en.europarabct.com/?p=47921; Quentin Augusto, “New Far-Right Group ‘NSC 131 Active in Germany,” Belltower.news, September 18, 2020, https://www.belltower.news/police-raids-in-hesse-new-far-right-group-nsc-131-active-in-germany-104581/; “Online ISIS Supporters Celebrate Vienna Attack,” European Centre for Counterterrorism, November 14, 2020, https://en.europarabct.com/?p=47921. x Modern communication methods make it easy for these groups to expand their reach across international borders. Further, groups such as NSC have no formal hierarchy and allow chapters latitude to interpret their own guidelines around the core principle of white supremacy. This independence has made it easier for these groups to expand their membership without a need for official oversight or investment of resources.
The Counter Extremism Project (CEP)'s European Ethno-Nationalist and White Supremacy Groups report outlines the history, propaganda, violent activities, and notable rhetoric of some of the continent's most active ethno-nationalist and white supremacist groups.Download Full Report
Far-right political parties like Germany's Alternative für Deutschland and Italy's Lega Nord have been able to generate substantial popular support by promising to defend their respective countries against the cultural attacks of immigrants and foreign influences, and have consequently made gains in domestic parliamentary elections.
Groups like Les Identitaires and its youth wing, Generation Identity, have renounced violence in favor of utilizing social media and public demonstrations to portray themselves as legitimate, mainstream movements protecting European culture. These groups have directly targeted Europe's youth through social media and public demonstrations.
Groups including Combat 18 and the Nordic Resistance Movement, which openly embrace neo-Nazi ideology and violent tactics, are still able to recruit for violent activities, despite the rise of non-violent, populist groups.
Some U.S. neo-Nazi groups have created a European presence. Atomwaffen Division and other U.S.-based groups have inspired European offshoots such as the Feuerkrieg Division. The Nationalist Social Club has established a following in countries such as Germany and Bulgaria.
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