by Andreas Baltas (Panteion University, Athens)
The key question of tis essay concerns the way in which Greek-German relations are presented by the Greek right-wing press during the economic crisis in Greece in the last five years. The Golden Dawn newspaper is the official publication of the neo-Nazi party with the same name and expresses the political space of the extreme right. Many members of this neo-Nazi organization have been brought to justice and are now being tried, facing heavy charges of committing homicide, formation and membership in a criminal organisation etc.
Our research focuses on the analysis of how political discourse, especially that of the Golden Dawn newspaper, presents Germany and its policy with regard to Greece. This analysis brings out a basic contradiction: the most important Greek extreme right-wing periodical publication on the one hand expresses a political discourse based on the principles of German National Socialism, while on the other hand it perceives Germany as an age-old oppressor of Greece. The debts from the past (war reparations, occupation loan) and the memoranda considered as responsible for the recession in Greece constitute the peak of the rhetoric against German policy.
Golden Dawn was founded in December 1980 as a magazine of National Socialist ideology, having its roots in the extreme right of the 1970s. In the first issue of the magazine, clear references were made to the Third Reich, in praise of Hitler and the Waffen-SS. Christianity was denounced as a Jewish heresy, while paganism in the form of ancient Greek Dodecatheon was emphasized and promoted.1 According to the editorial in the first issue, Golden Dawn would not take part in the current political arena, since politics was considered a “very dirty affair”, but would instead offer ideological guidance in order to overthrow “the global status quo”. The same issue also included an introduction to the European National Socialist Movement.2
The first issue of the Golden Dawn newspaper was published on January 10, 1993. While the magazine had put forth purely National Socialist ideas from the very start, the newspaper became more varied and quite confusing over time and especially in the 1990s. Articles about the Greek War of Independence in 1821 and the Greek-Italian war of 1940 were published along with texts about Hitler, reflecting the effort of its founder Nikos Michaloliakos to address different audiences.3
The Political Discourse of “Golden Dawn”
During the period covered by our research, December 2013 to December 2014, in the midst of the deep economic and social crisis, with Golden Dawn politicians having been elected to the Greek parliament, its official party newspaper developed a political discourse on the following specific topics.
From its first issues, the Golden Dawn magazine responded to accusations of Nazism using the sophistry that Nazism was National Socialism as applied in Germany, and that therefore it was inappropriate to speak about Nazi Greeks. In a way they distinguished between “Nazism” as solely German and “National Socialism” that could be accepted elsewhere. However, it remains a fact that the term “National Socialism” (in Greek εθνικοσοσιαλισμός) was a translation of the German “Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei”.4
After the operations of the Golden Dawn party were temporarily suspended in 2006, a text published in their newspaper was announced that the members of the party would be called “nationalists” from then on. Of course, this did not mean any changes in ideas; it was simply “more politically correct”.5
Yet the articles published in the issues of Golden Dawn magazine express the National Socialist ideology of the Golden Dawn directly or indirectly, incorporating racism and anti-Semitism. The superiority of the White Race, racial purity and the continuity of Greeks, the principle of “community” on the basis of ethnic and organic unity, headed by the leader (Führer), as well as the ideas of racism and fascism constitute the ideology of the neo-Nazi organisation. An example of the articles revealing the principles of Racism is provided below:
On January 29, 2014 an article titled “The racial continuity of Greeks” referred to scientific studies (craniofacial, etc.) which supposedly had been conducted in the past and demonstrated, according to the author, the continuity of the Greek race over time, against the “morons” of internationalism and capitalism.6
Concepts such as fascism are displayed by the newspaper systematically. Every February, it used to publish reports by Dimitris Zafiropoulos, “number two” in the organisation, in lieu of a political obituary for the Greek neo-fascist Mikis Mantakas who was killed in 1975 by leftists in Rome. Golden Dawn has maintained very close relations with neo-fascists in Italy since the mid-1990s, and included a core of Greek students who studied in that country.7
World War Two – occupation loans – German repatriations
Propagating National Socialist ideas is one side of the coin. On the other one, the subject of the Second World War involves, naturally, more contradictions, as a neo-Nazi newspaper trying to shake off the stigma of Nazism expresses its late admiration for the Greek anti-German struggle, while at the same time claiming reparations by Germany and the repayment of the occupation loan to Greece. Every issue of the newspaper refers to the Memoranda signed by Greece and to “international usurers” among which Germany holds a prominent position. At the same time the newspaper refers to the scandals that provoked the ire of Greek public opinion, like the corruption Siemens affair, in an attempt to demonstrate the role of Germany in the Greek bankruptcy.
Below is a quote of the announcement in Golden Dawn, in March 2014, before the arrival of the German President in Greece: “Merkel’s subjects welcome and honour the German President while Greek people suffer because of the memorandum policies imposed by her country on Greece. Greece’s duty is to claim German reparations and the repayment of the occupation loan, and not communication fiestas that offend the sacrifices of the Greeks.”8
A month later, on April 20, 2014, after Chancellor Merkel’s visit in Athens, the following text was posted on the official website of Golden Dawn, referring generally to the German reparations and the occupation loan: “Golden Dawn aims to claim dynamically the repayment of the occupation loan from the German government, which was also largely responsible for the bubble of the Greek debt. The easily provided loans by the European Union that Greece received in the recent decades represented a lifeline to the German export industry and until today they have been repaid with deplorably usurious terms. Only a truly national leadership can defend the rights of Greece and claim the settlement of our debt to Germany with the occupation loan.”9
The newspaper, in an attempt to wash out its pro-Nazi past, presents historical pages of the battles of the Greeks against the German invaders in 1941. In the article titled “The second NO of the Greeks; The Impregnable Fortress: April 6, 1941”, the Greek armed resistance against the Germans in April 1941 is praised through the use of references and texts by the Germans themselves. In the final paragraph, the author addresses those who vilify the fans of Golden Dawn ‒ as Nazis, apparently ‒ saying that Greek soldiers did their duty and will do it again whenever needed.10
At the same time, the article presents the dark aspects of the operations carried out by the Allies during the war, such as the bombing of Piraeus and Dresden, apparently trying to counterbalance the excesses of Axis occupation forces. The article titled “The bombing of Piraeus. 01/11/1944 – Air raid of allies with thousands of dead Greeks” refers to the bombing of the city by the Allies in 1944, resulting in the death of many civilians.11 Also a reference to the bombing of Dresden by the Allied forces is made in the article “Dying in Dresden”.12
The Targeting of Greek Intellectuals and German Foundations
The articles in the Golden Dawn newspaper accuse Greek intellectuals of being secret agents of the German government. The main reason for this is that these people tried to prove the criminal nature and national socialist ideology of Golden Dawn. A characteristic example is the case of journalist Dimitris Psarras, who was vilified as Angela Merkel’s lackey, in an article published on October 12, 2014, simply because his book Golden Dawn on Trial was published by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation in Athens.13 Another example is that of Kostis Papaioannnou, teacher, who wrote the book Let’s talk clearly about the extreme right which was published by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Athens.14 Thus, the conspiratorial discourse of Golden Dawn targets its accusers and brands them as instruments of the German policy in Greece, aiming to belittle and terrify them.
The Golden Dawn newspaper, which is the flagship of the right-wing press in Greece, expresses a contradictory discourse concerning the relationship between Greece and Germany in the past and present, trapped in the neo-Nazi past of its leading members and because of the apparent effort of the organisation‘s leadership to be presented as the censor of history. It is especially paradoxical that those who praise Hitler present themselves as advocates of the rights of the Greek people and as claimants of Nazi Germany’s debts to Greece. We can assume that the political discourse as expressed by the Greek right-wing press on the subject of the relations between Greece and Germany in the past and in the present is erratic, full of logical contradictions, and it is used by the neo-Nazi construct of Golden Dawn in a propagandistic manner in order to consolidate its political presence. In any case, this discourse perpetuates the stereotypical perception of history in a way that the admirer of the culprit becomes and acts as the defender of the victim.
- Nikos Chasapopoulos, Golden Dawn. The history, the people and the truth, Livanis publications, Athens 2013, p. 15. ↩
- Ibid, pp. 17-18. ↩
- Ibid, p. 129. ↩
- Dimitris Psarras, Η Μαύρη Βίβλος της Χρυσής Αυγής (The Black Bible of Golden Dawn), Polis publications, Athens 2012, p. 38. ↩
- Dimitris Psarras, Golden Dawn on Trial, Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, Athens 2014, pp. 41-42. ↩
- Golden Dawn, “Racial continuity of the Greeks”, 29/1/2014, p. 5. ↩
- Chasapopoulos, op.cit., p. 111. ↩
- Golden Dawn, “Immediate payment of reparations and the occupation loan”, 12/3/2014, p. 4. ↩
- Golden Dawn, “Forget reparations”, 23/4/2014, p. 17. ↩
- Golden Dawn, “The second NO of the Greeks. The Impregnable Fortress: April 6, 1941”, 2/4/2014, p. 14. ↩
- Golden Dawn, “The bombing of Piraeus. 01/11/1944 – Air raid of allies with thousands of dead Greeks”, 8/1/2014, p. 15. ↩
- Golden Dawn, “Dying in Dresden” 12/2/2014, p. 14. ↩
- Golden Dawn, “With aunt Merkel’s money Psarras wrote the introduction to the prosecutions”, 12/11/2014, p. 11. ↩
- Golden Dawn, “When we went to school together you sat with Merkel”, 10/12/2014, p. 11. ↩