The Golden Dawn, Greece’s far right political party, won a shocking 7 percent of the vote in elections last June and now holds 18 seats in the country’s parliament. It’s an understatement to say that its members have been buoyed by its successes. The leaders of the extremist party has offices throughout Greece and have begun opening offices around the world, in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Germany.
The flag of the Golden Dawn (Chrysi Avgi) is emblazoned with a swastika-like insignia; its members are “prone to give Nazi salutes” and have been accused of violence against immigrants. At its founding in the 1980s, the Golden Dawn linked itself with British Neo-Nazis, according to the Guardian. Its founder, Nikos Michaloliakos, was a supporter of the military leaders who ruled Greece as dictators until 1974. Dimitris Psarras, who has written a book about the Golden Dawn, says that members meet with Neo-Nazis from Germany, Italy and Romania regularly. The Golden Dawn has recently called for immigrants accused of violent crimes to be given the death penalty.
Iliad Kasidiaris, a spokesman for the Golden Dawn, (who assaulted two female politicians on a Greek talk show last year and then “disappeared” for some time, with the police unable to find him for some time), has said the party will set up cells “wherever there are Greeks.”
So far, the response of many of Greek ancestry in the U.S, Canada and Australia has been of simple disgust, not only for the violence but for the group’s anti-immigrant stance. “We don’t see any gold in the Golden Dawn,” says Father Alex Karloutsos, a prominent Greek community figure in Southhampton, New York. Many in the Greek diaspora are more than aware of having been immigrants themselves who were discriminated against and persecuted by the likes of the Ku Klux Klan. “No dogs or Greeks allowed,” said signs in Florida restaurants in the 1920s.
But Anastasios Tamis, a historian of ethnic Greeks in Australia, is far more wary, even noting that some of his students support the Golden Dawn. A younger generation of Greeks born and raised in Australia know little about the country and have felt disappointed at its seemingly endless economic woes. Tamis says that the Golden Dawn is targeting young Greek Australians whose parents are unskilled immigrants.
At the same time as the Golden Dawn has been gaining support, neo-Nazi organizations in the U.S., including the Aryan Brotherhood, have been been linked to the killings of Mike McLelland, the district attorney of Kaufman county, near Dallas, and his wife Cynthia this past weekend and of chief prosecutor Mark Hasse in January.
Earlier this week, Jay Hileman, a U.S. attorney prosecuting the 34 alleged members of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, told defense lawyers that he was quitting the case. Since 2009, Georgia has dubbed April the month to celebrate “Confederate Heritage and History Month.” A press release says that “in reality, the South was the most peaceful, rural, and Christian part of America before war and Reconstruction destroyed the pastoral way of life here.”
Psarras emphasizes that, back in 2009, the Golden Dawn was a “political pariah” that had only 0.29 percent of the vote. Just four years later, it now has “global ambitions.” Even as the extremist party trumpets its growing support, wherever we are, we need to maintain an unwavering stance to combat hate and ignorance. Greeks recently did: after soccer player Giorgos Katidis celebrated winning a match by ripping off his shirt and giving the crowd a Nazi salute, he was banned for life from playing for Greece’s national team. Greeks also recently commemorated the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Thessaloniki’s Jewish community to Auschwitz.
The sooner the Golden Dawn’s rise is a footnote in the history books, the better.
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