Right-Wing Extremism and Criminal Law: The Trial of the So-Called National Socialist Underground

Right-Wing Extremism and Criminal Law: The Trial of the So-Called National Socialist Underground

Right-wing extremism is an acute threat to democratic civil society and must be taken seriously. The need for both preventive and repressive socio-political responses that comply with the rule of law is urgent. Criminal law, too, has an important role to play in this context. Using the trial of the so-called National Socialist Underground (NSU) as an example, this role will be examined, particularly with regard to the scope and limits of criminal law and the law of criminal procedure in landmark trials.
Issues that will be studied include the theory of the single perpetrator versus the theory of three co-perpetrators; the function of accessory prosecution (Nebenklage) and the appropriate and necessary consideration of the victims and their survivors at trial; the reasons given for the judgment and the explication of the social causes of the NSU; the proportionality and effectiveness of the punishment imposed; the conduct of defense counsel; the amount of time allotted for the filing of an appeal as compared to the amount of time allowed for submission of the judgment; and the conclusions that have been – and remain to be – drawn from the trial. Acts of right-wing extremist violence committed since the NSU trial as well as responses to these acts will also be considered, including the attacks in Halle and Hanau and the assassination of Walter Lübcke, president of the regional authority of Kassel in the state of Hesse.
The project is accompanied by a two-part seminar jointly organized with Professor Michael Heghmanns at the University of Münster. The first part of the seminar took place in the winter semester of 2019/2020, the second part in the summer semester of 2021. (See Arnold, Jörg, Bericht über ein besonderes strafrechtliches Schwer­punkt­seminar an der Universität Münster: “Der NSU-Strafprozess,” Zeitschrift für das juristische Studium – www.zjs-online.com, 3/2020, pp. 298–300.)


Expected outcome: several publications
Research focus: IV. Other Projects
Project language: German
Photo: © Jörg Arnold


A series of papers that place the topic in a larger historical-theoretical context of continuity and discontinuity have already been published:



Arnold, J. (2020). Rechtsradikalismus und Strafrecht: einige Betrachtungen aus Anlass des Buches von Kai Ambos "Nationalsozialistisches Strafrecht. Kontinuität und Radikalisierung". In E. Hilgendorf, M. D. Lerman, & F. J. Córdoba (Eds.), Brücken bauen: Festschrift für Marcelo Sancinetti zum 70. Geburtstag (pp. 37–64) Schriften zum Strafrechtsvergleich. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot.
Arnold, J. (2021). Rezension zu: Alexander Hoeppel, NS-Justiz und Rechtsbeugung. Kritische Justiz. Nomos.


Additional papers that approach the subject from various other theoretical perspectives (e.g., neo-Kantianism) are planned.

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