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Greek Economic Tragedy Brings Neo-Nazis and Racists in the Political Mainstream

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It is not easy being Greek these days. We are being ridiculed around the world as a lazy people, something that could not be further from the truth for the millions of Greeks working in the private sector. We are watching our friends and family members lose their jobs and facing financial hardship they never imagined possible. We are seeing everyone around us living in a state of fear and uncertainty. We are witnessing our beautiful country with its rich history, sinking deeper and deeper into an economic crisis not seen since the Second World War. And yet, the politicians who get to benefit the most out of our Greece's misfortune, are the admirers of those who brought about the devastation of Greece almost 70 years ago: the Nazis.

According to the latest polls, in the upcoming elections which will probably take place in the next few weeks, the neo-Nazi party "Chrysi Avgi" (Golden Dawn), will succeed for the first time to get elected to the Greek parliament by earning more than 3 percent of the vote. In the latest municipal elections, Golden Dawn faired unexpectedly well in Athens, running on an anti-immigrant, racist agenda. This is a party that for years has been painting swastikas all over the country and has been responsible for violent attacks on immigrants and leftists, as well as defacing Jewish cemeteries and Holocaust memorials. Another extreme right wing and openly anti-Semitic party, LAOS, has been in the parliament since 2004. Its leader, George Karatzaferis, has in the past denied the Holocaust

by referring to the "tales about Dachau" and made outrageous claims from the parliament's podium, such as four thousand Jews/Israelis did not go to work at the World Trade Center on 9/11. LAOS is also expected to elect several members of the Parliament in the upcoming elections.

However, the most disturbing development is the transformation of Greece's traditional center-right party, New Democracy, into an extreme right wing party. Antonis Samaras, the party's leader and widely expected to become the next prime minister, recently poached two of the most hard core anti-Semites from LAOS in an effort to make inroads into the far right voters. The two parliamentarians and ministers in the current coalition government, Makis Voridis and Adonis Georgiadis, have a long history of anti-Semitism and affiliation with neo-Nazi groups. Although they both tendered their resignation when LAOS pulled out of the coalition government last month, PM Papadimos chose to keep them in the cabinet, raising eyebrows.

Makis Voridis, formed his first fascist group as a student in the elite Athens College high school, alma mater to PM Papadimos, former PM Papandreou, Samaras and myself. The group, "Free Students" painted swastikas on walls and classroom desks and used the Nazi salute among them. Voridis controlled the group for years after he graduated high school and Kostas Voridis, his brother, was expelled when caught painting swastikas on the walls. The group was also threatening families of Jewish students who dared to oppose it. As a student at the Athens Law School, Voridis formed another fascist group, "Student Alternative," that acted in a thuggish manner by routinely attacking leftist students. In 1986 the Greek University Student Association, EFEE, sued Voridis for leading violent attacks against a number of other students. In 1985, Voridis became the youth leader of EPEN -- a party formed from prison by the Greek dictator Papadopoulos, who led the military dictatorship from 1967-1974 -- replacing the neo-Nazi Nikos Michaloliakos, who formed and still leads Golden Dawn. The members of the two parties were connecting tubes. In 1995 Voridis formed the anti immigrant party " Hellenic Front" which in the 2000 national elections ran in cooperation with "First Line," a party of a self-professed neo-Nazi and author, Kostas Plevris. Plevris is the author of Jews, the Whole Truth, in which he calls on the Greeks to execute the Jews of the country in 24 hours. Plevris was sued by the Greek-Jewish community for this book, he was convicted at first instance but then acquitted on appeal, in a surprising decision. It is also worth noting that Plevris is the father of Thanassis Plevris, another LAOS member of the Parliament, currently said to be in discussions with Samaras with a view of joining New Democracy prior to the elections.

More recently, in 2004, Voridis said in an interview that the authenticity of The Diary of Anne Frank and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, should be the subject of study by historians. Since getting elected to Parliament, Voridis has become a darling of the media due to his extensive family connections (after all, he is a member of the elite), his debating skills and his charisma in front of the camera. Adonis Georgiadis, although often ridiculed by comedians, has over the years used his TV show, at a channel owned by Karatzaferis, to make antisemitic references and promote Plevris' book Jews, the Whole Truth. Georgiadis has gone even further, by being called to testify as a prosecution witness against the Greek-Jewish community in the liable case Plevris brought against it.

Long-standing liberal members of Samaras' party have been shocked by the inclusion of these two fascists in their party, but have avoided expressing their opposition publicly for fear of being expelled from the party. In the name of short term electoral gains, Samaras has opted to bring dangerous neo-Nazi ideologues into the political mainstream, launder them from their past and help them hide their present.

It is certainly not the first time in history we see the resurgence of such elements in the midst of severe economic crisis. When a country is pushed to desperation and people lose hope, hate mongers gain ground. However, we need to raise our voices to prevent the Greek Parliament from being infested by extremists. Recent governments have led to the country's economic collapse. Now the people of Greece have to stand up, raise their voices and prevent future governments from destroying the country's moral fiber and tradition of democracy.