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The Hannah Arendt Institute for Totalitarianism Studies e. V. at the TU Dresden (HAIT) explores the history of Nazism, Communism and the transformation after 1989, as well as manifestations of political extremism in history and the present. This work breaks down into five areas of research:

  1. Research on the National Socialist dictatorship
  2. Research in the history of Communist dictatorships, especially the SED (Socialist Unity Party) dictatorship
  3. Transformation research from an internationally comparative perspective
  4. Theoretical and intellectual-historical foundations of dictatorship research
  5. Research on political extremism  

All this research focusses on the political, social and cultural developments during the National Socialist and SED dictatorships. Examined are their political and ideological preconditions, their organisational structures and the concrete impacts of the two systems of rule. Particular attention is devoted to the analysis of opposition and resistance. Comparative perspectives on other fascist and state socialist systems extend the Institute's research programme, which also includes the critical analysis of political extremism in history and the present. The Institute's historical studies extend beyond 1989. The aftermath of the dictatorships necessitates a differentiated view in the context of comparative transformation research through the present. This transformation research is not limited to the system transformation in 1989, but also includes European transformational processes throughout the 20th century. This area of research thus ties in with the key issue in totalitarianism research of how dictatorial rule is enabled and overcome in modern societies.

The HAIT is also dedicated to the study of current challenges and threats to democracy from autocratic and fundamentalist regimes as well as from extremist, racist and anti-Semitic attitudes and movements. The HAIT accordingly perceives itself as an interface between regional, national and transnational spaces of political experience in an age of redefining designs for a free and democratic society.

Another central component of research activity at the HAIT is the dissemination of results to a general public. This includes working with memorial sites and governmental and non-governmental institutions of political education, advising on matters of regional and national contemporary history and collaborating with teacher-training institutions and schools.