The Golden Dawn nightmare: The Orthodox Church and Greece’s war against neo-Nazism
Demetrios Bathrellos – 8/10/13
Antonis was a fellow student of mine at high school back in 1984. He believed in the superiority of the Greek race and belonged to a strange political organization called Golden Dawn. He and his like-minded friends were not violent, at least not at school, and some were even excellent students. But they used to do crazy things. For example, they occasionally greeted each other by raising their hand while shouting “Heil Hitler.” One of them once told me that his life changed when he read Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
Of course, I realise that adolescence may be for many a difficult period. Still, this seemed to be going a little too far. Greece, after all, had suffered enormously from the Nazis during the course of World War II. Many soldiers were killed while defending their country against Italy and then Germany. Many civilians were executed, often in small scale “holocausts.” Our Jewish communities were decimated. Thousands of people in big cities, including children, died from starvation. The country was devastated.
To hymn Hitler and Nazism in Greece could only be regarded as gallows humour. A popular Greek comedy in the 1950s bore the title “The Germans Return,” with the subtitle “a satirical nightmare.” The movie was about somebody’s dream that Hitler had somehow survived and was invading Greece for a second time. Golden Dawn could not but be a political comedy – because, otherwise, it would be a nightmare. But that is precisely what it turned out to be.
Nearly twenty years later, Antonis – who by that stage had become second in command under Golden Dawn’s Fuhrer, Nikos Michaloliakos – was arrested for having nearly killed Dimitris Kousouris, an anti-fascist university student. He was convicted to serve 21 years in jail. Golden Dawn tacitly disowned him. But no one seemed to care. Around 2006, Golden Dawn used to attract something like 0.2% of the vote in the national elections. The emergence of Neo-Nazism in “the country that gave birth to democracy” seemed to most of us as a logical impossibility. Surely there was no cause for worry.
But a few years later, the nightmare came true. In the latest national elections in June 2012, Golden Dawn took 6.9% of the vote and saw 18 MPs elected to the Greek Parliament of 300 seats. Worse was yet to come. The polls kept showing that support for Golden Dawn was steadily rising. Until a few weeks ago, it was estimated that, if national elections were held, Golden Dawn would come third and could take between 15% and 20% of the vote, when the first party was expected to get less than 30%. As we began to realize what this might mean, many of us held our breath in horror: Neo-Nazi admirers of Hitler might run the Greek State. What happened in Germany back in the 1930s could happen again in Greece!
Golden Dawn has been operating for a few years now as a paramilitary, racist, criminal organization, orchestrating terrorizing raids and attacks on immigrants, but also on Greeks who …………………….