From letters to bombs. Transnational ties of West German right-wing extremists, 1972–1978

Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression

22 Jun 2021

Extremists cooperate internationally to ‘influence and succeed’ or ‘survive and thrive’ [Moghadam, A. (2017). Nexus of Global Jihad: Understanding cooperation among terrorist actors. Columbia University Press (p. 21)]. Yet, the question of how such cooperation materializes and develops has been understudied, especially for right-wing extremism in the post-war era. Therefore, this paper studies a phase of heightened transnational activity of West German right-wing extremists between 1972 and 1978. It zooms in on the Nationalsozialistische Kampfgruppe Großdeutschland and the Gruppe Otte, which were spatially and temporally connected by the American neo-Nazi Gary Lauck, who led the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei – Auslandsorganisation. To study and qualify the impact of transnational engagement on the West German extreme right, the paper introduces a new analytical framework that integrates the historical transnational approach with insights from terrorism studies. Pairing known case studies to previously unused primary source material, the paper argues that the transnational connections between the three groups transformed from indirect to direct cooperation, while evolving across ideological, logistical, and operational domains, and resulted in political violence. It concludes that the extremist cooperation marked the professionalization and multi-lateralization of the West German extreme right in the 1970s.

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