Dark Dawn as neo-Nazis win seats in Athens

By Toby Axelrod, May 10, 2012
Nikolaos Michaloliakos’s policies include putting landmines along Greece’s borders to deter immigrants

Nikolaos Michaloliakos’s policies include putting landmines along Greece’s borders to deter immigrants

The shocking election success of Greece's extreme right-wing party on Sunday has the local Jewish community deeply worried.

The Golden Dawn party, with its anti-immigrant, anti-austerity platform and a symbol resembling the swastika, took about seven per cent of the vote, guaranteeing it 20 out of 300 seats in the Greek parliament.

Pundits see their success as a vote of protest against severe austerity measures taken by mainstream parties to stave off a deeper economic crisis.

But how any Greeks - angry as they are - could vote for Golden Dawn is beyond David Saltiel, president of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece.

"This is a neo-Nazi party - they are crazy, completely out of their minds," said Mr Saltiel. "I don't believe that Greeks are neo-Nazis," he added, "but what is amazing is that even in cities where [during the Second World War] the Germans killed a lot of Greeks, you had between four and six per cent voting for the neo-Nazis on Sunday."

"Of course this is troubling, and it is not unique to Greece," said Rabbi Andrew Baker, director of International Affairs for the American Jewish Committee and the personal representative of the OSCE chair on Combating Antisemitism.

"Strong discontent over the economic crisis in Europe has led to support for some of these right-wing extreme xenophobic parties, some of which have antisemitism as a piece of their agenda. And certainly that is the case with the Golden Dawn party," said Rabbi Baker.

Golden Dawn "plays on old antisemitic stereotypes of Jews controlling or manipulating economies, and in its campaign linked the economic crisis with Jewish interests," Rabbi Baker said. "There are good reasons to be concerned."

However, Mr Saltiel said he had heard from politicians involved in forming the new coalition government that "they did not want to speak to the neo-Nazi party. So the parliament is isolating them."

If current efforts by Greece's mainstream parties to form a coalition government fail, new elections will be held, probably next month.

According to an Associated Press report, following last Sunday's vote, Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos said he would "fight to free Greece from the global loan sharks, for a Greece of dignity and independence, and for a Greece that is not a social jungle with all these millions of illegal immigrants that were brought here".

Last updated: 4:23pm, May 10 2012