The Rise of Right-Wing
Extremist Youth Culture
in Postunification Germany
Max Planck Institute for Human Development
In the long decade that has passed since the unification of the two Germanies, a new extremism has emerged in German youth, specifically in eastern Germany. The main components of this right-wing extremism are xenophobia and nationalism; anti-Semitism; and ideological commitment to authoritarianism, inequality, and racism. Xenophobia is the lead variable, which, according to surveys, affects at least one third of the young population and considerably more locally, especially in the lower social strata (Bromba & Edelstein, 2001). In the recent IEACivics Study, German 15-year-olds held the most xenophobic attitudes among the 28 participating countries (Torney-Purta, Lehmann, Oswald, & Schutz, 2001). Anti-Semitism is on the rise, but perhaps rather less so than in other European countries, and perhaps less for the traditional reasons than as a consequence (at least partly) of the Israeli-Arab conflict and the Israeli military rollback in the Palestinian territories, which in many young people arouses outrage rather than sympathy.
Every study shows that in eastern Germany the incidence of extremism as measured by various indicators is about twofold more frequent than in the west. More than 50% of all racist, xenophobic, and neo-Nazi incidents, and especially of all such violent incidents, have happened in the eastern provinces, with less than 20% of the German population living there (see