Neo-Nazism in Greece: A Golden Dawn?

(Originally published on The Diplomacist)

In April of 1941, taking advantage of the Hellenic Army’s position defending the mountainous Albanian border from Mussolini’s advance, a blitzkrieg campaign expanded the sphere of Nazi occupation into Greece. By June, a flag bearing the Swastika could be seen flying from the Parthenon, and Panzer IV tanks could be heard droning past the Temple of Hephaestus. When the Nazis were pushed out in 1944, over 300,000 Greeks in Athens alone had died of starvation as a result of the fascists’ policy of economic strangulation, with tens of thousands more were murdered by Germans and their Italian and Bulgarian collaborators. Eighty-one percent of Greece’s Jewish population had also been sent to their deaths at Auschwitz and Treblinka. Today, the scourge of fascism again threatens to decay the already tenuous social fabric of Greece. Founded in 1993, the Golden Dawn Party has found fertile ground for its neo-fascist, anti-immigrant message since the genesis of the economic crisis. Theparty’s performance in the 2012 elections is grim testament to the its increasing magnetism, as voters granted them seven percent of the seats in Greek Parliament, making them the third most powerful political bloc behind the conservative New Democracy Party and the leftist opposition SYRIZA. Although they deny direct affiliations to Nazism, preferring to refer to themselves as ardent Nationalists, they appropriate both the symbolism—their flag resembles a swastika in both coloration and design—and ritual—the group’s leader, Nikolaos Mihaloliakos isreceived with Nazi salutes when he arrives at party meetings.

Golden Dawn’s actions and the actions inspired by Golden Dawn’s hateful rhetoric speak for themselves. Golden Dawn members of Parliament have been known to violently destroy the stalls of immigrant street vendors who fail to provide permits to sell their goods at street markets. Fueled by the Golden Dawn’s virulently xenophobic platform, attacks on Greece’s large immigrant population are on the rise—and not only at night, as was the case in the past. Today these attacks occur in broad daylight, as when Golden Dawn motorcyclists fatally stabbed an Iraqi teenager this August just streets away from Syntagma Square, home of Greek Parliament. The party’s anti-homosexual and anti-disabilities rhetoric have promoted attacks against these marginalized demographics as well, in the name of “clean[ing] up Greece of the stench” (a typical Golden Dawn slogan).

As Greece struggles to hold on to its Eurozone membership at the price of brutal austerity measures that include severe cuts on social spending, the formerly robust middle class has experienced a significant decrease in quality of life. On one hand, this daily struggle has pushed many young Greeks into the arms of radical leftist and anarchist movements who demand transparency and an end to political and economic corruption—the true “stench” hanging over Greece. On the other hand, frustrated youths are increasingly mobilizing in the ranks of the Golden Dawn and affiliated neo-fascist groups, who channel this exasperation into violent “reprisals” mostly against immigrant populations, effectively utilize social media to attract new followers. Recent reports also suggest that the Golden Dawn has established its own schools, called "national awakening sessions," to indoctrinate elementary school students into their hateful worldview.

Much as in World War II, domestic crisis has polarized the Greek population to an extreme. Older generations fear the increasingly militant youth population, rural dwellers see metropolitan centers as pits of chaos and decay, and, as we see here, the far right and far left come to violent clashes with increasing frequency and intensity. Even in the case of economic stabilization, future generations of liberal-thinking Greeks will have to contend with the institutionalization of fascism, which pervades many levels of Greek governance, frommembers of Parliament, to the judiciary, to the police force. These reactionary elements must not be allowed a moment of peace by any Greek who values liberty and justice for all mankind.

From Wikipedia

From Wikipedia