Radicalized Youth: Examining the Role of Reeducation in Youth Deradicalization

Sam Erkiletian, University College London

Extremist groups are radicalizing children because they are vulnerable to indoctrination and are less likely to question authority. In a post-conflict environment, indoctrinated youth seeking to reintegrate must overcome both the traumas of child soldiering in addition to the damaging psychological and social affects of radicalization. It is clear that radicalized youth require additional support to address their extremist views and behavior. Deradicalization theories offer potential solutions to rehabilitating extremist youth, but have yet to be directly applied or tested in this context. This study argues that reeducation is the most effective strategy to deploy in the deradicalization of youth, and that post World War II occupied Germany is an ideal case study for testing this theory. Following the collapse of the Nazi dictatorship in May 1945, Germany was partitioned into four zones, each governed by a different Allied state— America, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union respectively. Using primary source materials found in the British National Archives, a mixed methods approach utilizing archival, survey, and voting data is employed to compare the different reeducation policies of each zone and measure their effectiveness. This study finds that reeducation initiatives, specifically in recreational youth organizations and in educational institutions which have been purged of extremist influences, are successful at deradicalizing youth.

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 Presented in Session 143. Childhood in the Aftermath of Conflict: Migration and the (Re)Formation of Children