Who is Golden Dawn and what is their problem?
A country once occupied by Nazis may soon be occupied by them once again.
In 1941, the Nazis invaded Greece, aided by Italy and Bulgaria. The next four years were filled with hardship. Hundreds of thousands died from starvation and tens of thousands were murdered in Nazi reprisals. Hyperinflation destroyed the economy and when the war ended, a civil war erupted.
More recent times have seen moderation in Greek politics, but since 2008 the financial devastation in the country as seen the Nazis both resurgent and violent.
Greece is a traditional gateway into Europe. About 90 percent of the immigrants to Europe from Africa and the Middle East pass through Greece. Many continue on to other states, but some stay on for various reasons. Many become stuck, unable to leave because they have little means of support.
These immigrants take the dirtiest jobs, often making their diving on a few euros a day. Until 2008, this wasn't considered a problem. Greece was traditionally welcoming of immigrants, many who helped rebuild the country after the devastation it suffered following its occupation and civil war.
However, the Greek government has not been known for fiscal discipline and lavish spending policies bankrupted the country. To keep money flowing, the government borrowed against the good credit of other Eurozone member nations. This kept creditors at bay until 2008.
Once the Greek economy collapsed, the government was forced to accept strict austerity measures as part of a structured bailout. This austerity has the government selling assets and cutting spending and jobs on an unprecedented scale.
The result is a largely unemployed workforce, a 40 percent increase in the suicide rate, and growing public discontent with government and immigration.
Immigrants, once welcome, are now seen as competition.
To answer the call, the Greek Nazi Party, known as "Golden Dawn" is surging in popularity. Hundreds, if not thousands of youth have flocked to its banner donning the black tee shirts that have become a trademark of the organization. In this year's elections, Golden Dawn has won 18 of 300 seats in parliament. It's a start.
The party was established by a former mathematician and felon, Nikolaos Michaloliakos. After leaving prison in the mid 80's, Michaloliakos started a publication that glorified Nazi ideology and applied it to Greek affairs. For nearly two decades, he was dismissed by the people as a disaffected ideologue.
His chance came with the financial crisis. Golden Dawn began by providing social services to those in need. Legal and medical aid, medicine, and private security were among the services it provided. For Greek natives, Golden Dawn represented help in a time of crisis.
But along with the help for native Greeks, came aggression toward immigrants. Beatings became increasingly frequent and are now regular occurrences. Ethnic minorities are intimidated into abandoning businesses and homes as Golden Dawn thugs threaten and brutalize them.
On a routine basis, Golden Dawn patrols marketplaces and stores, ensuring that shopkeepers hire only Greeks.
All this is part of their plan to "clean up" Athens where they are based, and other metropolitan areas.
Targets are easy to come by. New arrivals in the country have no place to go since the government provides no formal assistance. That means many immigrants find themselves on the streets, sleeping in parks when they first arrive.
Golden Dawn thugs target these people with great regularity, making clear they are not welcome in Athens.
Meanwhile, the government is practicing its own brand of xenophobia, detaining more than 20,000 suspected illegal immigrants in the past three months alone.
The Nazi problem is not just one of a few extremists perpetrating gang-style violence on foreigners. There's a much larger issue of small political parties eroding support for the leading factions of the Greek government. As the country becomes increasingly polarized and factionalized, the makings of civil conflict are brewing.
So as Greece continues down its path of forced austerity and unsuspecting immigrant continue to arrive in the country, groups like Golden Dawn will continue to gain in popularity and power until they have enough strength to wield genuine political authority. When that day comes, the Greek people will find themselves occupied not by invading Nazis from Germany, but ironically, by themselves.
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
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