Greece: 21st century Nazis

On the phone booth: "Ministry for citizens’ protection"
On the phone booth: "Ministry for citizens’ protection"
30 August 2012 – The Independent (London)

While the Paralympic Games begin today in London, in Athens, the ultra-right Golden Dawn party, is promoting hate-attacks against people with disabilities and homosexuals, having already targeted immigrants and ethnic minorities, says one UK commentator. In this atmosphere, which echoes the rise of Nazism in Germany, the Greek government and EU are turning a blind eye.

"After the immigrants, you're next." That's what was written on flyers that appeared this week in the gay clubbing district of Athens. As violence against immigrants and ethnic minorities escalates across Greece, supporters of the ultra-right Golden Dawn party have also begun to promote hate attacks on homosexuals and people with disabilities.

These fascists march with black shirts and flares through Athens, terrorising ethnic and sexual minorities, waving an insignia which looks like nothing but an unravelled swastika, and declaring disdain for the political process. And yet, across Europe, they continue to be treated as a mere symptom of Greece's economic crisis.

Once, right-wing thugs only came out to attack immigrants at night. Now they do so in daylight, unafraid of the consequences because there rarely are any. In recent weeks, the number and severity of the attacks have increased, and if migrants report attacks to police, they risk being arrested.

Not only are crimes against immigrants in Greece considered low priority, much of Golden Dawn's support base comes from police ranks. Exit polls in the May 2012 elections suggested that in some urban districts up to 50 per cent of Greek police voted for the racist group, which now holds 7 per cent of the seats in parliament.

Echoes of the past

Long after the Nazi party took power in Germany in 1933, after the Reichstag had been burned and anti-semitic violence became official state policy, European governments remained more worried about the possibility of a socialist Germany than a fascist one.

Almost until the Second World War, it remained more important to many world leaders that Germany pay down its debts. Drawing historical parallels with Nazism is a weary rhetorical technique that commentators on left and right have cheapened by tossing the simile into discussions of food labelling and over-enthusiastic traffic control. In this case, however, it's not rhetoric.

Actual fascists in actual black shirts are actually marching around Athens waving swastikas and burning torches, and maiming and murdering ethnic minorities, and world governments appear frighteningly relaxed about it as long as the Greek people continue to pay off the debts of the European elite.

When the lessons of history are taught by rote, they can be easy to miss when most needed. This time, Europe must remember that the price of fostering fascism is crueller and costlier by far than any national debt.

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