NEO-NAZISM, a general term for the related fascist, nationalist, white supremacist, antisemitic beliefs and political tendencies of the numerous groups that emerged after World War II seeking to restore the Nazi order or to establish a new order based on doctrines similar to those underlying Nazi Germany. Some of these groups closely adhered to the ideas propounded in Hitler's Mein Kampf; others espoused related beliefs deriving from older Catholic, nationalist, or other local traditions. Some openly embraced the structure and aspirations of the Third Reich by displaying swastika flags and glorifying Nazi achievements, while others sought to mask their ideology and agenda. Neo-Nazi activity has surged and declined in unpredictable waves in Germany, France, England, Russia, the Scandinavian countries, the United States, Canada, South Africa, and elsewhere. In April 1993, after a series of incidents, the Italian government passed an emergency measure aimed at punishing racial, ethnic, and religious discrimination. The Mancino Law (Law No. 205) permits prosecution of individuals who incite violence using a broad range of methods, including displaying symbols of hate, such as swastikas. Hundreds of youths have since been convicted under the law. In February 2005, European Union ministers agreed to continue a long-term debate over the regulation of racism and xenophobia. Among the proposals under consideration is making it punishable by law to deny the Holocaust or other crimes against humanity.
Why do people become neo-Nazis? In the 1980s, social scientists began to move beyond notions of deviance and psychopathology to theories of social mobilization that see people who join any social movement – even neo-Nazis – as motivated by shared grievances shaped by social circumstances, recruited by face-to-face interaction, and focused on goals that seem practical and reachable.
Major factors in the global neo-Nazi upsurge included unstable economic, political, and social conditions, with their many causes–including, in the 1970s, simultaneous inflation and recession caused in great part by dependence on Arab oil; the disruptions of globalization and the collapse of the Soviet empire; waves of nonwhite immigration into Europe (from places formerly ruled or dominated by Europeans) and the United States; the constant threat of war, especially in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf; and the continued sense among white men that they were losing power and prestige in areas ranging from world affairs to their living rooms to their relations with women. In the United States, racial issues, not resolved in the 1960s, took the form of conflict over school desegregation, affirmative action, social welfare provision, and government social spending in general. Moreover, the failure of the Vietnam War, based on untenable Cold War premises, produced an atmosphere of political and cultural resentment on the right that became increasingly strong over time.
Leaders of neo-Nazi groups skillfully exploited the anxieties caused by these and other factors. The worldview of neo-Nazis is shaped by the way leaders frame issues and use narrative stories. While most neo-Nazi frames and narratives are based on myths, demonization, and scapegoating, this does not make them less effective in building a functional identity for individuals, even if they come from dysfunctional families. This process allowed neo-Nazis to adapt to changing historic conditions and expand their targets beyond Jews and black people.
Neo-Nazis were among the earliest users of online computerized networks in the 1980s, and surged onto the Internet with hundreds of websites allowing for the mass distribution of hate material, including claims that America was controlled by "ZOG," the Zionist Occupation Government, in Washington, D.C. As the gay rights movement grew, so did neo-Nazi attacks on gay men and lesbians. In response to the feminist movement, neo-Nazis crafted new roles and avenues for participation by women, while preserving a dominant role for men. Women were still placed on a pedestal with one arm around their children protecting hearth and home, but now they were expected to use the other arm to cradle an automatic weapon. Three other significant ideological innovations among neo-Nazi groups are "Third Position" neo-Nazism, Skinhead neo-Nazism, and neo-Nazi theologies built around hybrids of religion such as Protestantism and Paganism.
One group of neo-Nazis which denounces both capitalism and communism occupies what it calls the Third Position. This merges the early Nazi Party left wing's National Socialism with "revolutionary" white supremacy and opposes both globalization and multiculturalism. It calls for local economic
Nonracist Skinheads originated in the late 1960s as a multiracial working class youth subculture in Britain built around black music imported by immigrants from former Caribbean colonies. The neo-Nazi National Front helped convert the skinhead movement into a vehicle of white rage built around racism and violence. In the mid-1980s the movement jumped to continental Europe and the United States through the music of racist bands such as Skrewdriver; skinheads in the U.S.A. then split into racist and anti-racist factions.
A hybrid of Protestant Christianity with neo-Nazi racialism produced the Christian Identity movement in the United States, discussed below. A more widespread phenomenon was the rise of pagan neo-Nazis in the 1990s, built around racist forms of Norse religious traditions: Odinism, Ásatrú, and Wotanism. This drew on Nazi fascination with Aryanism and esoteric religions. These groups appealed primarily to youth.
Bridges to the Mainstream
Starting in the 1970s, a trend of conservative, right-wing populist, ethnonationalist, and neofascist challenges to sitting centrist or social democratic governments allowed right-wing groups a degree of legitimacy they did not possess in the immediate post-World War II era. In response neo-Nazi groups have developed a variety of ways to build bridges to more mainstream political and social movements. Some neo-Nazis repackage their beliefs as forms of "White Nationalism" or "White Separatism," hiding behind broader racist movements for "White Rights," with alliances spanning Europe and North America. At the same time, Europe, North America, the Middle East, and South Asia saw the development of numerous right-wing populist political parties and reactionary fundamentalist religious movements that served to bridge the extreme right to the mainstream.
In several countries neo-Nazis (sometimes in alliance with quasifascist or xenophobic right-wing populist allies) became more involved in electoral politics, stressing anti-immigrant and sometimes antisemitic themes. Rather than simply staging street demonstrations, they ran for office, with surprisingly good results in some instances. According to the political scientist Cas Mudde, between 1980 and 1999 over 50 European extreme-right political parties ran candidates in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
This interaction has created a dynamic in which antisemitic ideas and conspiracy theories once circulated almost exclusively by German Nazis and their neo-Nazi offspring entered popular culture, mainstream political debate, and even broadcast television series, especially in Islamic and Arab countries in the Middle East. These even included a revival of the false allegations from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. These conspiracy allegations moved into more mainstream circles through bridging mechanisms that often mask the original overtly anti-Jewish claims by using coded rhetoric about "secret elites" or "Zionist cabals." The international organization run by Lyndon LaRouche is a major source of such masked antisemitic theories globally. In the U.S. the LaRouchites spread these conspiracy theories in an alliance with aides to Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam. A series of LaRouchite pamphlets calls the neoconservative movement the "Children of Satan," which links Jewish neo-conservatives to the historic rhetoric of the blood libel. In a twisted irony, the pamphlets imply the neoconservatives are the real neo-Nazis.
Another way neo-Nazis launder antisemitic conspiracy theories is through *Holocaust denial, the attempt to "prove" that the Holocaust was a fiction and that the Nazis never used gas chambers to exterminate Jews. The international clearinghouse for this movement is the California-based Institute for Historical Review (IHR), founded in 1979, which held its first conference on "Historical Revisionism" that same year. IHR, publisher of the Journal of Historical Revisionism, was established by Willis Carto, founder of the Liberty Lobby and a figure long associated with organizing and propagandizing projects involving neo-Nazi, pro-Hitler, antisemitic and extreme-right alliances. Carto later lost control of IHR in a lawsuit, but started a new denial publication, the Barnes Review, edited by former IHR staff members. Holocaust denial also persists in France, where a scandal in the late 1970s was caused by the claims of Professor Robert Faurisson. In Britain, author David Irving sued American historian Deborah Lipstadt in the late 1990s for calling him a Holocaust denier. In 2000 Irving lost the case (see *Irving v. Lipstadt), which gained international headlines. Irving had previously appeared at an IHR conference, and Faurisson and other IHR advisors testified along with Irving on behalf of Canadian Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel.
Neo-Nazis often use Holocaust denial material along with anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, sometimes coming up with grotesque slogans. Neo-Nazis not only blamed the 1973–74 oil crisis on a Jewish conspiracy, but in the U.S. they distributed literature that proclaimed "burn Jews, not oil!" This approach was repeated during the 1990 Gulf War, which saw the extension of a rhetorical device in which Jews, Zionism, Israel, and Israeli government policies were conflated into a conspiracist stew serving up the Israeli spy agency Mossad as the secret power behind world affairs. Thus echoes from the Protocols moved from neo-Nazis into wider circles, including some pro-Palestinian organizers and left-wing antiwar activists. After the terror attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, some neo-Nazi groups praised the terrorists for striking a blow against this global conspiracy.
M. Barkun, Religion and the Racist Right (1997); C. Berlet and M.N. Lyons, Right-Wing Populism in America (2000); C. Berlet, in Home-Grown Hate (2004), 19–47; H.G. Betz, Radical Right-Wing Populism in Western Europe Immerfall (eds.), The New Politics of the Right; K.M. Blee, Inside Organized Racism (2002); A. Braun and S. Scheinberg (eds.), The Extreme Right (1997); D. Burghart (ed.), Soundtracks to the White Revolution (1999); S. Diamond, The Nazi Movement in the United States, 1924–1941 (1974); S. Epstein, "Extreme Right Electoral Upsurges in Western Europe," in Analysis of Current Trends In Antisemitism, No. 8 (1996); R.S. Ezekiel, The Racist Mind (1995); N. Goodrick-Clarke, Black Sun (2002); M.S. Hamm, American Skinheads (1994); J. Jamin, "The Extreme Right in Europe: Fascist or Mainstream?" in Public Eye, 19:1 (2005); J. Kaplan, Radical Religion in America (1997); J. Kaplan and L. Weinberg, The Emergence of a Euro-American Radical Right (1998); J. Kaplan and T. Bjørgo (eds.), Nation and Race (1998); W. Laqueur, Fascism (1996); D. Levitas, The Terrorist Next Door (2002); G.E. McCuen (ed.), The Racist Reader (1974); H. Meyer, "Worries of Anti-Semitism Spread in Russia" ("Rising Neo-Nazism in Russia"), Associated Press, January 13, 2006; R. Miles and A. Phizacklea (eds.), Racism and Political Action in Britain (1979); C. Mudde, The Ideology of the Extreme Right (2000); J.N. Porter, in The Sociology of American Jews (1980), 175–182; J.N. Porter, The Genocidal Mind (2006); W.H. Schmaltz, Hate (1999); See also online news archives: New York Times; Los Angeles Times; Chicago Sun-Times, BBC News, Reuters, Guardian (London), Sunday Telegraph (London), CNN. Online organizational archives: Anne Frank Stichting, Leiden University; Anti-Defamation League; Antisemitism and Xenophobia Today, Institute for Jewish Policy Research; Nizkor Project; Searchlight; Simon Wiesenthal Center; Southern Poverty Law Center; Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism, Tel Aviv University.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.