'Never Again': research on minority persecution informs and inspires civil rights activism

Submitting Institution

Lancaster University

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Political Science
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies
Philosophy and Religious Studies: Religion and Religious Studies

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Summary of the impact

Lancaster research on the persecution of minorities in European societies, from the 1930s to the present, helps guide human rights activism to challenge the rise of far right ideologies. Civil rights NGOs, government authorities, media, and educational institutions use the research to study the dangers of extremism and discriminatory propaganda. Impact is achieved through i) trans- European civil rights NGOs, which draw on the research and seek expert advice, particularly with regard to the fight against Islamophobia; ii) advice to an EU and Turkish National Assembly project on Muslim migration; iii) the media, through which it contributes to the deeper public understanding of - and awareness against - discrimination and extremism; iv) public engagement, informing local community awareness and action.

Underpinning research

The research summarised here is that of Aristotle Kallis, who arrived at Lancaster in 2004 and is Professor of Modern and Contemporary History, a member of Research Grouping D, and of the Dynamics of Memory Research Network.

Kallis's research in the fields of fascism and propaganda (reference 1, below), persecution and mass violence in interwar Europe (references 2-3), and more recent anti-immigrant discourses (references 5-6) and anti-Muslim policies in Europe (reference 5) has led to several inter-related insights. Reference 3 explains the notion of `licence', charting how the language of hatred breaks taboos and leads to - or facilitates - the licensing of physical violence, directed against `others': Jews, Muslims, Roma, and immigrants. Reference 2 demonstrates how this transition occurred in the 1930s in the case of the Jews of Greece. Reference 1 examines similar themes in relation to state propaganda, promoting the exclusion of social, ethnic, and religious groupings. References 4, 5 and 6 explore similar themes with particular relevance to immigrants (references 4, 6), and Muslims (5) in contemporary European societies. References 1-3 draw on archival records from Germany, Greece, USA, and Italy, while references 1-6 draw on a wide array of printed sources from across Europe, including political records, legal documents, and media evidence.

Reference 3 studies the political success and social appeal of interwar fascism, analysing its vision of exclusive hyper-nationalism, which sought a radical and violent break from the past, and thereby had a radicalising effect on contemporary political and social actors. The victory of National Socialism, and its ability to change discourses and actions towards perceived enemies (ethnic, social, and religious) transformed mainstream attitudes within Germany and had a radicalising effect within other states. Reference 1 shows how propaganda served to reactivate and embed negative images of `others', appealing to deep-seated prejudices and anxieties, especially in situations of perceived competition and crisis. Taboos broken in Nazi Germany empowered others elsewhere to speak and act in similar transgressive ways. Still, fascist ideology in the 1930s-40s gained ground not only through its own persuasion but because radical persecution and violence became accepted by political and societal mainstreams (as references 1-3 show in relation to Germany, Greece, Italy, Rumania, Slovakia, Belgium, Poland, France, and Hungary). The research highlights how the mission to purge humanity of demonised `others' continues to motivate fanatical extremists post-war and has potential appeal for broad constituencies.

The research further investigates discourses against immigrants in post-war and contemporary Europe, once more drawing attention to the failure of mainstream political and social constituencies to combat the spread of radical ideas and policies against targeted `others', or, conversely, to strengthen defences and check extremism. Reference 4 compares negative constructions of minorities in public discourses in Germany before and after WWII and following re-unification. The anti-immigrant discourses of post-war Germany depart from the violent and racial pre-war ideologies, but similarities are detected in their `othering' functions and their diffusion within mainstream society. References 5-6 show how extremist ideas, originally associated with the far right, have been partly but increasingly accommodated within mainstream public discourses, posing a greater threat than the electoral successes of the far-right parties which had originally espoused such ideologies. Again, the breaking of social taboos by the far right is seen to legitimate extreme arguments among broader constituencies and to empower them to follow suit. In these circumstances, extremist discourses can easily be normalised and gain ground. The key factor in potentially arresting such a negative momentum, this corpus of research suggests, is the timely, resolute choice of mainstream society proactively to defend the values of pluralism and tolerance, and the protection of human rights.

References to the research

1) 2005, Kallis, Nazi Propaganda and the Second World War, 1939-45, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2005 in HB, 2007 in PB, ISBN: 9781403992512 (HB), 9780230546813 (PB), 1-312 pp, peer refereed, submitted to RAE2008. Select review: `Among the new generation of scholars ... Kallis is arguably the most prominent and this book certainly substantiates this claim', Marius Turda, Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions, 2007

2) 2006, `The Jewish Community of Salonica under Siege: the Antisemitic Violence of the Summer of 1931', Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 20/1 (2006), pp. 34-56; peer refereed, Leverhulme funded, submitted to RAE2008


3) 2008, Genocide and Fascism: the Eliminationist Drive in Fascist Europe, New York: Routledge, 2008 HB, 2010 PB, ISBN: 041533960X (HB), 0415890276 (PB), i-426 pp, peer refereed, Leverhulme funded. Select review: `... this is a major achievement. Kallis' study has the potential to prepare the ground for a new understanding of fascism and to make an impact on the ongoing debate ...', Armin Nolzen, German Studies, 2010

4) 2012a `Landscapes of "Othering" in Postwar and Contemporary Germany: the Limits of the "Culture of Contrition" and the Poverty of the Mainstream', Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism, 12/2 (2012), pp. 387-407, peer refereed


5) 2012b, `Breaking the Taboos and "Mainstreaming" the Extreme: the Debates on Restricting Islamic Symbols in Europe', in Ruth Wodak, Brigitte Mral and Majid Khosravinik (eds), Right-wing Populist Rhetoric across Europe, London: Bloomsbury, 2012, pp. 55-70, peer refereed

6) 2013, `Far-right "Contagion" or a Failing "Mainstream"? How Dangerous Ideas Cross Borders and Blur Boundaries', Democracy and Security 9/13 (2013), pp. 221-46, peer refereed


GRANTS (supporting 1 and 2)
Leverhulme Research Fellowship (2004), £25,000,
Lancaster University (Faculty of Arts in 2004, £2,950) to facilitate primary research on the persecution of Jews in interwar Europe

Details of the impact

The research insights are employed to combat far-right ideologies and to raise awareness and understanding of human-rights concerns, internationally and nationally. Impacts are achieved through:

i. The work of human rights NGOs. Two NGOs, European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion (EMISCO) and Conseil pour la Justice, l'Egalité et la Paix (COJEP International), coordinating activities in 15 European countries, use Kallis's research findings in their campaigns against anti- immigrant discourses and discriminatory policies. Kallis's research has shaped and informed campaign materials since 2011, guiding the NGOs' policy. The materials highlight negative discourses of `othering', describe historical precedents, and build on the lessons of the past. Following the insights of the research above, the aim is to strengthen mainstream constituencies to fight extremism. The Co-ordinator of EMISCO explains: `[We] came across Professor Aristotle Kallis's formidable work with fascism, totalitarianism, modern propaganda, violence, genocide and terrorism. We approached him in 2011 and requested him to be [the] organization's idea and vision partner.' (source 1)

Following his research contribution and consultancy, Kallis was invited by both NGOs to address 14 international campaign events to date, including most notably the meetings of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD/Human Dimension Implementation Session, Warsaw, 09/2011); the Council of Europe's World Forum on Democracy (10/2012); the UN Human Rights Council (Geneva, 09/2011); the European Congress of Citizenship meeting for EU minority protection (European Parliament, Strasbourg, 11/2011), and special events hosted by the European Network against Racism (EMAR). In each meeting, the international organisations were informed by Kallis's relevant research findings, demonstrating the dangers to society when discriminatory ideas become part of mainstream discourse, and suggesting ways forward.

In recognition, EMISCO appointed Kallis in 2012 to its Board, where he was requested to draft the `concept' texts, which set the scope of meetings and feature in the official publicity of all the NGO's events (sources 2, 3). The research is beginning to have additional impact as ideas percolate to grass roots level. EMISCO's flagship initiative `In Search of the New Europe', shaped by Kallis's ideas concerning the identification of discourses of `othering', has already been adopted by Muslim organisations in Germany, France, Switzerland, and Belgium in their everyday fight against Islamophobia. The Co-ordinator of EMISCO explains: `Professor Kallis pinpointed the reasons and helped us to chalk the strategies for promoting social cohesion and preventing racism and discriminatory practices .... It would be difficult to mention in words, how Professor Kallis has enriched EMISCO's public profile and shaped the direction for its future work ... and build working relationships with NGOs so that grassroots activism can be enforced by academic analysis' (source 1).

ii. EU and Turkish National Assembly project on Muslim migration. The Turkish National Assembly invited Kallis to advise its EU-funded project on `Migration Management: Parliamentary Exchange and Dialogue'. Kallis was flown to a special meeting in Hatay, Turkey (06/2012) as an expert on public discourse on migration, and provided advice on how to manage public perceptions of Turkish and other Muslim migrants in Europe, help protect their communities against discrimination, and manage migration into Turkey, especially from Syria. The official publication of the Turkish National Assembly has published Kallis's article on the subject in its formal magazine on the subject (source 4).

iii. International media. Kallis's research has enhanced the public understanding of these issues through his contributions to major British and international radio and TV programmes, including prime-time interviews (Radio 4 Documentary, 02/2012; Radio 4 Analysis, 06/2012; Radio 4 Today, 05/2012,) with an estimated 12m listeners in all (based on producers' figures), excluding repeats and podcast downloads. Kallis commented on the rise of emerging far-right parties such as the Greek Golden Dawn, (Radio 5 Live, 09/05/2012, and Danish National Radio, Orientiring 04/08/2011). Popular blogs followed (frontage article on OpenDemocracy, 06/2012), and newspaper reports (Greek daily, Ta Nea, 11/2010). Kallis's commentaries on the rise of extremism in Greece in Associated Press (01/08/2011) and Bloomberg.com (23/5/2012) were further reproduced in mass websites and blogs, including the online editions of Huffington Post, The Guardian, and New York Times. The Turkish TV station Avrupa interviewed Kallis on Muslim immigration in Europe. The interview aired on 21 April 2013 was posted online.

In addition to these wide-reaching programmes, Kallis's work has had an impact on younger audiences, particularly through his involvement in the documentary series `Love, Hate and Propaganda', which he oversaw as one of the two main series advisors (employing 16 expert consultants overall). This Canadian Broadcast Corporation series was first shown on 03/2010, with an average of 603,166 viewers per episode, repeated thrice, and 250,000 website views, as well as downloads. (sources 5 and 6) The program emphasised the importance of the past in informing and educating younger viewers about the dangers of extreme ideas and public complacency. This series was labelled `WWII for a New Generation' and was widely praised in media reviews and educational blogs. It has been adopted by the Canadian teachers' federations as a valuable learning resource for secondary education curricula and has had an impact on school history programmes: reviews praised the series for asking `big questions' about the past that are relevant to a younger generation' and for effectively engaging pupils with historical propaganda materials (source 7).

iv. Public engagement and local community activism. Lancaster's tradition of service and community engagement naturally coincided with the message of the research, which highlights the role of proactive civic intervention to combat extremism. In a meeting in Northampton between `academics and practitioners', for example, which focused on how `anti-fascists, academics, and governments should tackle racism together', Kallis gave a keynote address `examining the international dynamics of far-right movements' and the part they play in normalising `racist taboos' (source 8). The importance of the historical perspective was noted in the online searchlightmagazine, which reported the event: `This pattern finds modern echoes when European politicians develop messages, and even laws, that target Muslim communities in a prejudicial way. Once again, breaking racist taboos by both mainstream and far-right politicians internationally only helps to make far-right agendas seem increasingly acceptable in Britain.' (source 8)

The significance of the work was felt in Lancaster's local community. Since 2008, at least a dozen events were held in community centres in Lancaster to reinforce human and civil rights and community and inter-faith tolerance, supported by the HREA, AHRC, and Lancaster funded `Dynamics of Memory' group, of which Kallis is a member. The 'Rise of Right-Wing extremism' event, drawing on the research insights, and organised by Kallis and the Dynamics of Memory network (Lancaster 03/2010) was attended by community officers from Lancashire Police, who have subsequently used the insights in their training and local outreach activities. The significance and reach of the research impact are evident in the words of Keith Jackson, member of the Community Engagement Team of Lancashire Constabulary in Preston: `the research you have undertaken and the lectures I have attended have been very beneficial to me in providing information which I have then been able to use in presentation to partner agencies and the communities I work in ... Since attending the lecture I have done over 70 presentations with anything up to 40 people attending and included elements of what I have learnt from these presentations'. `I did find the event extremely useful in providing me with information about the Rise of Right Wing Extremism in Europe, information that I was able to utilise in presentations and also disseminate to colleagues,' he added. `It has assisted me in ensuring we have a broad base of knowledge regarding different extreme groups which we need to be aware of working under the Prevent agenda of the Government Contest strategy' (26-7 June 2012). (source 9)

Alongside key events, there were visits to schools. `Many thanks for coming to see us' said the history teacher in the local grammar school. `It was a great talk delivered brilliantly and as you could tell from the enthusiastic response from the audience they really enjoyed it ... it's absolutely a good thing that young people have their eyes opened to their own potential if not for evil, then at least for complicity.' (source 10)

Sources to corroborate the impact

  1. Letter from EMISCO Co-ordinator
  2. Example: agenda of COJEP event, Warsaw October 2012
  3. Example: agenda for EMISCO colloquium, Brussels, December 2012
  4. Turkish National Assembly Magazine, July 2012, http://pecs.tbmm.gov.tr/yeniyildiz/02/index.html
  5. Radio-Canada Television, age breakdown figures
  6. Radio-Canada Television, viewing records
  7. Reviews for the CBC series `Love, Hate and Propaganda': Robert Sklar, Global Media Journal, BC Teacher magazine, 02/2011 http://www.gmj.uottawa.ca/1002/v3i2_sklar.pdf
  8. Report in searchlightmagazine http://www.searchlightmagazine.com/archive/anti-fascists-academics-and-government-should-tackle-racism-together
  9. e-mails from Lancashire Constabulary
  10. e-mail from History teacher, Lancaster Royal Grammar School