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Supporter of the British Union of Fascists, c. 1930s. Wiener Holocaust Library Collections.

Professor of History, Tim Grady, and History students are proud to have helped to make a new exhibition possible - ‘This Fascist Life: Radical Right Movements in Interwar Europe’ - which focuses on lesser-known aspects of the history of fascism.

Housed in the Wiener Holocaust Library in London, one of the world’s leading institutions for the study of the Holocaust, the exhibition is free to visit from October 6, 2021, to February 4, 2022, during the Library’s opening hours.

The exhibition stems from a wider research project - ‘European Fascist Movements’ - that Professor Grady has been collaborating on with Dr Roland Clark from the University of Liverpool. The project brings together an international team of specialists to produce a collection of key resources for teaching and research.

During the past 18 months, Prof Grady and Dr Clark have worked together to plan the public exhibition which has also benefitted from funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Wiener Holocaust Library and the German History Society.

University of Chester History students studying the ‘special subject’ module on Weimar Germany have worked with some of the exhibition’s sources. Their discussion of these unique documents helped to open new insights that influenced the way the final exhibition was designed.

Prof Grady said: “A lot of the work of historians chooses to explore what happened from the moment that fascists came to power. Therefore, we have seminal studies of Nazi Germany and the Third Reich or of Mussolini’s Italy. Yet, before establishing their fascist regimes, these movements had a long pre-history. In the case of the National Socialists, for example, the movement spent more years trying to get into power, than it did as an actual regime.

“One of the questions that the exhibition seeks to explore, therefore, is what fascists got up to in these pre-regime times. How did members pass their time and what drove them to join these small radical groups in the first place? Spending one’s days on group marches or fighting communists certainly didn’t appeal to everyone.

“We find ourselves living in a time of populist politics, where in many states the norms of political discourse have been eroded. It is, therefore, essential to reflect on the dangers of interwar fascism and the motivations behind it.”

He explained that another key theme of the exhibition was fascism’s transnational history. Alongside outlining the rise of fascists in Germany, Italy and other more familiar countries, the exhibition explores smaller movements that spanned the continent from Belgium and the Netherlands in the West through to Latvia and Romania in the East.

Closer to home, Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists also take their place as another example of a fascist movement that emerged during the interwar years, but never managed to secure any real power.

Prof Grady added: “There were certainly national differences in the characteristics and working of each fascist movement. Nonetheless, looking at these movements across European borders is again crucial, as it allows the exhibition to pull out commonalities of ideology and practice.”

The exhibition will be launched with an event at the Wiener Holocaust Library on October 6. It then features a series of online and in-person talks, and a one-day conference at the Library, on the contemporary radical right.

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Image credits

  • Students at the University of Vienna saluting in a torchlight parade together with the Rector, Hans Übersberger, in 1931. ÖNB Bildarchiv. H 780 B.
  • Supporter of the British Union of Fascists, c.1930s. Wiener Holocaust Library Collections.


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