Germany was long thought to be immune to the political far right. But in 2017, the Alternative for Germany party became the first far-right party to win seats in parliament since the end of World War II, after having capitalized on opposition to the arrival of refugees in Europe in 2015 and 2016 to build support. Emily Schultheis spent two years as an ICWA fellow exploring the rise of the AfD and other far-right groups across Central Europe. She delivered her end-of-fellowship report in a webinar sponsored by the Institute of Current World Affairs, the Goethe Institute and American Purpose on December 2, 2021.

Emily spoke about different tensions within German society—from an enduring east-west divide to the decline of industrial communities in the populous Ruhr region to the fraught debates over memory culture and patriotism—that have helped lay the groundwork for a party like the AfD. 

After Emily’s report, ICWA Trustee and co-founder of American Purpose magazine Jeffrey Gedmin moderated a panel discussion with Emily and Hanno Mussler of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung




Emily Schultheis spent two years as an ICWA fellow traveling Central Europe from her base in Berlin. She is now studying for a masters degree in nationalism studies at Central European University in Vienna while writing for publications including The Associated Press and Politico.




Hanno Mussler is a 23-year veteran business reporter for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Based in the business and finance center Frankfurt, he also has written extensively about the transition from a central planned economy in Hungary and European integration. He is currently on sabbatical in Cambridge, Massachusetts.




ICWA Trustee Jeffrey Gedmin is co-founder and editor-in-chief of the American Purpose magazine. He has served as President/CEO of the London-based Legatum Institute, President of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty headquartered in Prague, and Director of the Aspen Institute in Berlin. Together with former US Ambassador to the Czech Republic Norm Eisen, Gedmin is co-chair of the Transatlantic Democracy Working Group.