Mapping Fascism Across Europe

Posted on: 9 March 2022 by Roland Clark in 2021 posts

A group of members of the SF in Gipuzkoa rendering the Roman salute

Image credit: Pascual Marín, A group of members of the SF in Gipuzkoa rendering the Roman salute (1937). Kutxa Fototeka, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Fascists were everywhere in Europe during the 1930s. Every European country had at least one fascist movement, most several. And these movements spread out from the biggest cities into the smallest, most isolated villages, from Ireland all the way to the Soviet Union. Despite having studied fascism for over a decade, I never realised exactly how widespread it was until I started putting together an app for the European Fascist Movements project. The app, conveniently called European Fascist Movements, pinpoints precise locations where fascists were active in interwar Europe. It includes riots, pogroms, speeches, prisons, and rallies, and each point on the map includes an image and a short description of the event. It is impossible to cover every time and place fascists did something, but these 76 entries help to give a sense of the sorts of things fascist movements did and the geographical reach of the places they did them.

The app is part of a bigger project in which we brought together twenty experts on fascism to translate primary sources on fascist movements across the continent. These sources will be published in a book by Routledge later this year, and in the meantime we ran a very successful exhibition on fascist movements at the Wiener Holocaust Library in London. You can see part of the exhibition on their Youtube channel.

Our hope is that the app will get people thinking about how fascists organise again. It is one thing to talk about Mussolini and Hitler and the terrors of fascist dictatorships, but equally pernicious are the ways that fascists organised at a grassroots level. Before the dictatorships, fascists organised through social movements. They recruited through friendship networks and on the streets, and made themselves known by shouting from soapboxes or by handing out newspapers on street corners. They were never slow to get into fights, and they frequently clashed with police, communists, Jews, and anti-fascists. Fascists who were arrested or injured made a big song and dance about how they were innocent victims whose free speech was being attacked, even though it was their hate speech and marches that started the fights in the first place. There was nothing special about where fascists organised, and being able to see where fascists were active helps remind us that political extremism can come from anywhere – including our own neighbourhoods.

The app is available from both Apple and Android, so download it and see for yourself where fascism came from.