Neo-Nazi nationalists on the rise across Europe, and one country knows this only too well

Nazis and nationalists: what's the difference?
Tom Coburg

Europe is probably facing its most serious crisis since the 1930s and the outbreak of World War Two. Through populist nationalism, the far right are in resurgence, gaining credibility across the continent. But to see their true nature, we only need look to Greece.

The Trump effect

After hiding in the shadows in recent years, the Greek neo-Nazis of ‘Golden Dawn’ have returned to the streets with a vengeance. On 31 January 2017, thousands of members and supporters held torch-lit processions in Athens. Their demand? A ban on refugees and immigrants similar to that of US President Donald Trump.

Golden Dawn spokesman Elias Panagiotaros has said:

Trump is the planet’s keeper. He’s the president of the world’s superpower, and whether you like him or not, his policies are now validating beliefs and concerns across the globe.

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What’s worse is that Golden Dawn is no fringe party. It’s the third largest political force in Greece, with 18 MPs. And its members make no attempt to hide their admiration for Nazism, as secretly taken photos and a 2013 Channel 4 investigation show.

Murder charge

On 18 September 2013, a gang of 30 people wearing Golden Dawn T-shirts chased and stabbed to death anti-Nazi musician Pavlos Fyssas. Giorgos Roupakias, who is a member of Golden Dawn [Greek], later confessed [Greek] to the killing.

In the wake of the murder, the Greek government banned Golden Dawn. And authorities arrested and charged a number of its MPs. Nikos Michaloliakos, Golden Dawn’s leader who had spent time in jail in 1979 for carrying guns and explosives in connection with the bombing of two cinemas, was also charged.

Michaloliakos went on to admit: “With regards to political responsibility for the murder of Fyssas in Keratsini, we accept it.”

Nazis come in all shapes and sizes
Nikos Michaloliakos

Trial

69 individuals, including the entire Golden Dawn Parliamentary Group from the 2012 elections, are facing trial as part of an ongoing investigation into their activities.

Charges include participation in a criminal organisation, murder, conspiracy to murder, possession of weapons, racist violence, and possibly the killing of migrants and political opponents.

Altogether, Golden Dawn faces 60 charges.

Arms cache found

In June 2012, a police raid resulted in the discovery of a cache of arms [Greek]. It included €266,000, $3,000, 19 guns, a grenade, detonators, and police clothing.

Authorities also arrested 23 people, including a ‘special guard’ and others with connections to the police. References to Golden Dawn made by two of the accused were secretly recorded.

There are also allegations that Golden Dawn infiltrated the Greek police.

Long history of offences

Golden Dawn has a long history of confronting immigrants. Alekos Plomaritis, a Golden Dawn candidate for office, said:

They [immigrants] are primitive, miasmas and subhuman. We don’t care about their existence. We are ready to open the ovens.

Police have arrested Golden Dawn supporters/members for carrying guns and weapons. Golden Dawn is also linked to the murder of immigrants in Athens, and to attacks on immigrants and left-wing activists across Greece.

Since the trial, Golden Dawn has kept a low profile, aiming for ‘respectability’. But its Nazi-style activities in the years leading up to the trial tell a very different story.

Incidents (2012)

  • 12 June 2012: Golden Dawn members violently attack Egyptian fisherman Abou Zeid Mubarak.
  • 7 June 2012: On a morning television show, Ilias Kasidiaris, a high-profile member of Golden Dawn, assaults female politicians Rena Dourou and Liana Kanell.
  • 7 July 2012: A group of Golden Dawn members attacks Pakistani immigrants outside their house in Nikaia.
  • 23 August 2012: Members of Golden Dawn confront police over the transfer of immigrants awaiting deportation to an army base. Two immigrants are stabbed.
  • 25 August 2012: In the courtyard of the Greek parliament, Golden Dawn MP Dimitri Koukoutsi attacks the president of the Pakistani Community Association, Javed Aslam, and Vasiliki Katrivanou, an MP from Syriza.
  • 7 September 2012: Two Golden Dawn MPs and 50 group members attack immigrant street vendors at a festival.
  • 12 October 2012: Four members of Golden Dawn attack a 21-year-old Egyptian. He is severely beaten with chains and bitten by a dog. The attacks leave him blind.
  • 1 November 2012: Around 150 people, including an unidentified number of high-ranking members of Golden Dawn, attack immigrants and damage their shops.
  • 15 November 2012: Members of Golden Dawn threaten to burn down the house of an immigrant family who are behind in their rent payments. But the police only arrive after the group has left. The group returns the following night to repeat their threats.

Incidents (2013 to commencement of trial)

  • 2013: At least 100 attacks attributed to Golden Dawn.
  • 2013 [German]: Investigations reveal how Golden Dawn regularly sends “militias” to attack immigrants.
  • 3 January 2013: Three men on motorbikes attack an Egyptian worker. Their jackets bear the sign of Golden Dawn.
  • 7 February 2013: Members of Golden Dawn gather outside a clinic and threaten staff and patients.
  • 14 February 2013: A group of Golden Dawn members attack three Pakistani workers.
  • 21 July 2013: Six members of Golden Dawn pose as police officers and enter a house of immigrants to check their papers. And when the immigrants ask for help from a police car, the Golden Dawn members begin beating them.
  • 24 August 2014: Golden Dawn members attack a gay couple in Athens, seriously injuring one of them.

Nazis won’t simply go away

Donald Trump’s extremist policies (and the xenophobia linked to Brexit) embolden Golden Dawn and other far-right parties in Europe. And the difference between neo-Nazis and populist nationalists is often hard to spot.

All Europeans need to challenge this resurgence of the far right. We ignore it at our peril.

Get Involved!

– Follow Golden Dawn Watch (Greek) on Twitter.

– Read updates on Golden Dawn trial (Greek and English).

Featured image via Twitter

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