Editorial note: Allison Ruman received her Bachelor of Arts in German, Political Science, and Classics & Ancient Mediterranean Studies from Penn State University in 2020 and will be studying European History, Politics, and Society (Master of Arts) at Columbia University this fall. Her primary focus is on interwar Germany, and she is especially interested in studying religious divisions and their role in the rise of far-right extremism. She is currently completing her remote internship at the GHI.
The biggest project of my undergraduate career was, without a doubt, my honors thesis, “Temperate Brutality”: The AfD and Right-Wing Extremism in Postwar Germany, a subject that fundamentally requires knowledge of the Nazi regime and the conditions leading to it. One crucial element of my research was the use of primary sources, the invaluable “raw data” that remain from ages past and provide a firsthand account, which form the basis of our entire understanding of history. This was especially important for my first chapter, in which I compared language and rhetoric patterns between the National Socialists and the Alternative for Germany (AfD going forward), a nationalist and far-right populist party established in 2013. It is one thing to claim that a right-wing populist party resembles the National Socialists, it is quite another to prove it. Since it is not 1928 and the AfD is not concerned with the Treaty of Versailles or communists in the Soviet Union, any similarities would be on a much broader, more nuanced level rather than glaringly obvious.