In 1987, Prof. Christiane Rajewsky founded the »Working Unit Neo-Nazism« at the University of Applied Sciences Duesseldorf, Germany. The unit has been accredited in 1994 under the denomination »Research Unit Right-Wing Extremism/Neo-Nazism« by the then Ministry of Science and Research of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia.
The Research Unit critically examines histories, programs, and performance of far right protagonists and the societal conditions of their success or failure. One focus of the respective research is on the NPD and on neo-Nazi networks in Germany, another on right-wing populism and anti-Muslim racism in Europe.
The Research Unit also investigates the societal causes of world views of inequality in order to foster activities that strengthen a democratic civil society. In addition to basic and applied research the Research Unit provides advice and counsels civil society activists, teachers, and social workers who are challenged by racist, antisemitic or homophobic world-views or by activities of organized far rightists in their daily work or in the community context.
Since its creation the Research Unit has conducted several research projects and educational ventures dealing with worldview and performance of the far right and right-wing populism, with everyday racism and mechanisms of exclusion, with the legacy of National Socialism, and with issues of intercultural dialogue.
The Research Unit has been directed by Prof. Christiane Rajewsky since its foundation until her sudden death in 1994. Thereafter, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Dreßen took over. Since early 2010 Prof. Dr. Fabian Virchow heads the Research Unit.
The Research Unit’s team consists of Adelheid Schmitz who holds a degree as a social worker and Alexander Häusler, who is a social scientist. Members of the XENOS-project »Born to be me – Für Vielfalt und Demokratie« are Isolde Aigner and Günay Köse both being social workers.
Current research by the Research Unit’s staff is on
- right-wing populismus (Alexander Häusler)
- women and far-right extremism; masculinism (Isolde Aigner; Adelheid Schmitz)
- educational work on far right extremism and racism (Adelheid Schmitz; Isolde Aigner)
- autonomous nationalists (Alexander Häusler)
- history, worldview and performance of the far right (Fabian Virchow)
- media and the far right (Fabian Virchow)
- containment of the far right by banning far right organisations (Fabian Virchow)
In 2011, the Research Unit launched a book series on the far right at the renowned »Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften« (http://www.vs-verlag.de/).