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VOL. XII, Issue 6

Recent Trends in German Right-Wing Violence and Terrorism: What are the Contextual Factors behind ‘Hive Terrorism’?

Germany experienced in recent years a resurgence of several forms of organized and unorganized extreme rightwing violence, including lone-actor attacks, pogrom-like mass violence or clandestine cells plotting and executing attacks. A new and puzzling development, according to the German authorities, is the increasing involvement of individuals with no previous ties to the extreme right-wing environment, i.e. ‘ordinary citizens’, in terror plots or severe acts of violence (e.g. arson and explosive attacks). To address this puzzle, this article follows the development of extreme right-wing violence and terrorism in Germany between the detection of the ‘National Socialist Underground’ (NSU) terrorist cell in 2011 via the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ of 2015 and 2016 to the data currently available in 2018. The goal is not to explore causal pathways to right-wing violence in Germany but to explain the nature of the phenomenon, using the most recent theoretical literature. It is argued that a combination of significant refugee influx, the struggle of the legal system to label severe acts of extreme right-wing violence clearly as terrorism and a subcultural change (i.e. the decreased importance of extreme right-wing political parties in favour of subcultural forms of mobilization) might in theory have resulted in lowering the threshold for contact between ‘ordinary’ citizens and highly radicalized extremists. In addition, this combination of factors might also have encouraged ‘ordinary’ citizens to engage in severe acts of extreme right-wing-motivated violence by facilitating the transmission of grievances, opportunities, and polarization.

About ICCT

The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) is a think-and-do tank based in The Hague, Netherlands. We provide research, policy advice, training and other solutions to support better counter-terrorism policies and practices worldwide. We also contribute to the scientific and publi.…