Golden Dawn

Introduction

Golden Dawn is a neo-Nazi party that rose from a marginal role in Greek politics to become the third-largest political force in Greece in 2014. Golden Dawn party members have been involved in hundreds of acts of violence against immigrants and leftists across Greece.* Golden Dawn openly advocates national socialism, racism, and antisemitism, and has adorned its publications and rallies with images of Adolf Hitler, the Third Reich, Rudolf Hess, the Waffen SS, and the swastika.* In 1987, Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos wrote in the party magazine, “We are the faithful soldiers of the National Socialist idea and nothing else.”* In October 2020, a Greek court labeled Golden Dawn a criminal organization and sent several of its leaders to prison.*

Golden Dawn campaigned on a strongly anti-immigration platform. The party blamed the “millions of illegal immigrants” and leftist political parties for what it deemed “the dissolution of the Greek society.”* Golden Dawn sought “a Greece that belongs to the Greeks.”* In a 2012 interview, two Golden Dawn parliamentarians demanded that only people with “Greek blood” should be allowed to participate in elections.*

In recent years, Golden Dawn has sought to soften its image in order to appeal to a wider spectrum of voters. When Golden Dawn organized public events, it now rejected the neo-Nazi label and generally preferred to present itself as a “nationalist” and “patriotic” organization.* Golden Dawn leaders have claimed that prior Golden Dawn references to the Nazi Party were “youthful indiscretions.”* During the 2014 European elections, many of Golden Dawn's candidates were middle-class professionals, including university professors, lawyers, surgeons, businesspeople, and a former NATO commander.* In January 2015, Golden Dawn won 17 seats in Greece's parliamentary elections to become the country's third largest party.* Golden Dawn failed to secure the minimum 3 percent threshold in Greece’s July 2019 parliamentary elections.*

Nonetheless, Golden Dawn members continued to court controversy over their far-right positions and violent actions. The Greek parliament temporarily banned Golden Dawn in June 2018 after Golden Dawn MP Konstantinos Barbarousis called for a military coup. Barbarousis was subsequently arrested on treason charges.* One ex-member of Golden Dawn has claimed that the party discussed plots to overthrow the Greek government using “tanks.”* In 2013, Golden Dawn MP George Germenis attempted to strike Athens Mayor George Kaminis, who was protesting Golden Dawn members distributing food packages to ethnic Greeks while intentionally excluding immigrants. Germenis received a suspended sentence in 2018.* In 2013, Greek police arrested Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos and other senior party members on charges of running an illegal organization.* In October 2020, Michaloliakos and the others were found guilty of being part of a criminal organization that ordered or encouraged violence. Michaloliakos was sentenced to 13 years in prison. Other leaders received sentences ranging from five to 13 years. Golden Dawn member Giorgos Roupakias received a life sentence plus 10 years for the 2013 murder of anti-fascist Greek rapper Pavlos Fyssas, a.k.a. Killah P.* In total, the court convicted 50 people—including 18 former Golden Dawn politicians—for membership in a criminal organization.* Deputy leader Christos Pappas remains the only Golden Dawn leader still at large.* While the verdict did not formally ban the organization, Golden Dawn’s failure to meet the 3 percent threshold in Greece’s 2019 parliamentary elections and the subsequent October 2020 shut down of the group’s local offices have effectively rendered Golden Dawn defunct.*

Leadership

Party leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos founded Golden Dawn in 1985.*

Base of Operations

Greece

Website

http://xryshaygh.com/gr/ (suspended), http://www.xryshaygh.com/en (suspended), https://xaameriki.wordpress.com/ (suspended)

Membership Size and Relevance

In January 2015, Golden Dawn won 17 seats in Greece's parliamentary elections, becoming the country's third largest party.* Golden Dawn failed to secure the minimum 3 percent threshold in Greece’s July 2019 parliamentary elections.*

Recruitment and Propaganda

Golden Dawn employed a range of strategies to recruit members, including grassroots mobilization. It attracted widespread appeal, boasting thousands of members and attendants at Golden Dawn rallies.* Golden Dawn also worked to appeal to Greek expatriates living in Australia, Canada, and the United States.* The group also recruited online. According to its website, Golden Dawn New York aims “to counter the lies and propaganda against Golden Dawn in the English speaking world by providing official translations of Golden Dawn articles.”* Golden Dawn's Greek website outlines a list of beliefs for its members, focusing on National Socialism.*

Within Greece, Golden Dawn was heavily focused on recruiting from Greek's youth population. Golden Dawn had a youth club, Galazia Stratia (Blue Army). The group used bribes, such as cell phones, to recruit younger members.* The group also used gyms, athletic clubs, and martial arts clubs as grounds for recruiting youths. It actively recruited at high schools, and even stands accused of launching an indoctrination course called “National Awakening,” aimed at children ages 6-10.* According to Greece's education ministry, the course, which taught subjects such as history and religion, aimed to instill a sense of Greek supremacy in youth. The competing Greek party Syriza accused Golden Dawn of “brainwashing little tots with Nazi propaganda.”*

As of June 29, 2020, Golden Dawn's YouTube page had 19,700 subscribers, an increase of more than 3,300 subscribers since July 3, 2018. The account also hosted more than 600 videos and had received more than 14 million views since October 2012.* The YouTube page had 20,000 subscribers as of April 13, 2021.span class="footnote_wrapper">* In contrast, Golden Dawn New York’s YouTube page hosted only seven videos and had only 614 subscribers as of June 29, 2020, decreasing from 663 on March 19, 2019.* The page’s subscribers decreased to 592 by April 13, 2021.* Golden Dawn's Twitter account had been suspended as of June 24, 2018.*

Violent Activities

During a 2015 trial of Golden Dawn members in Greece, prosecutors pointed to evidence of military training and attack battalions that, according to one ex-member of Golden Dawn, were preparing "to overthrow the Greek government."* Evidence from the prosecutors showed Golden Dawn members in military clothing wielding knives, swords, handguns, rifles, and even a bazooka.* According to the ex-member of Golden Dawn, “They kept telling us that we'll break into the parliament with tanks.”* The trial concluded in October 2015 with the conviction of all accused, who received sentences ranging from five years to life in prison.*

Rhetoric

  • Golden Dawn website, undated: “[Golden Dawn is] against the population distortion, because of the millions of illegal immigrants, and the dissolution of the Greek society that is promoted by the coalition parties and the so called Left. It proposes a National policy for exiting the crisis imposed on our country. It fights for a Greece that belongs to the Greeks.”*
  • Ilias Panagiotaros, April 2014: “[Hitler is a] great personality, like Stalin.”*
  • Ilias Panagiotaros, 2013: “Golden Dawn wants to become, and will become, like Hezbollah in Lebanon, which is in effect a second government that helps even the last of its poor citizens….”*
  • Nikolaos Michaloliakos, November 2012: “I have read a lot of books casting doubts on the number of six million Jews… There were no ovens, no gas chambers, it's a lie.”*
  • Nikolaos Michaloliakos, August 2012: “We feel disgusted in the parliament. If they want us to, we can abandon it at any given moment and take to the streets. There, they shall see what the Golden Dawn is really about, they will see what battle means, they will see what struggle means, they will see what bayonets sharpened every night mean.”*
  • Nikolaos Michaloliakos, 1987: “We are the faithful soldiers of the National Socialist idea and nothing else.”*

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