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A child holds a candle during a vigil near the Midnight shisha bar, one of the sites of the previous night's shootings, on February 20, 2020 in Hanau, Germany.

Programs across Europe confront extremism.

A Focus on Youth

January 2013, Number 04.01

“Like most countries, members of the European Union struggle with a growing number of citizens who turn to extremism, some engaging in violent extremism. The different heritage of various nations leads to different kinds of problems with all types of extremists, from left-wing, to Islamist to right-wing. The main target group for recruitment to violent extremism is young people between the ages of 13 and 30. Despite a variety of cultural backgrounds, young people are vulnerable to radicalization in similar ways.

Older theories that link lack of education to radicalization are not adequate. It is true that many violent extremists come from poor, uneducated communities with few prospects for social advancement. But there is a second kind of radical, of both the political and Islamist variety, who is highly educated and integrated into society. Both types play a role within extremist circles, with the educated being the leaders and plotters.

But even among their different intellectual backgrounds, most of the youngsters susceptible to radicalization have one thing in common: They struggle with their identity...”

Excerpt from Ralph D. Heinz and Oliver Bühring, “A Focus on Youth,” per Concordiam: Journal of European Security Defense Issues 4, No. 1, 2013: 28-33.

Ralph D. Heinz attended the Marshall Center in the fall of 2012, where he completed an internship on security and defense in Europe and Eurasia. After studying mathematics, economics and law in Regensburg, Munich and Bordeaux, he became a lawyer in Germany specializing in international public law and human rights. He has also worked as a legal advisor in humanitarian aid affairs for The Johanniter, a German nongovernmental organization and charity, and in energy and security law for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Lt. Oliver Bühring completed an internship in the fall of 2012 at the Marshall Center that focused on analyzing security and defense issues impacting Europe and Eurasia. He is a graduate student at the University of the Federal Armed Forces in Munich, where he is pursuing a master’s degree in political and social sciences with a major in international law and politics. His military specialization is intelligence and reconnaissance. Prior to his assignment at the university, he graduated from the Officer School of the German Army.

This article reflects the views of the author and are not necessarily the official policy of the United States, Germany, or any other governments.