Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

"The Nazi character of the Greek party Golden Dawn was not perceived as it should have been"

Written by Frédéric Dubessy on Tuesday, July 13th 2021 à 18:05 | Read 283 times

Selected to date in fifteen European festivals and already winning six awards, the shocking documentary "Golden Dawn a public affair" by the French-Greek journalist-director Angelique Kourounis explains how this far-right party almost came to power before declining.

This second opus after the film "Golden Dawn a personnal affair" (awarded worldwide) made with her accomplice, the journalist Thomas Iacobi (also present in this new adventure), tells us with powerful images how the extreme right-wing party entered the Parliament in force, was able to exert pressure on opponents and journalists with means ranging from insults to assassination and violence. Like those suffered by Thomas Iacobi, who was beaten up while covering a demonstration.

In a deafening silence from the political class, the police and the justice system, its members were able to spread their message of hatred with impunity. Until this movement, which proclaimed its rejection of democracy and practised the Nazi salute, was declared a criminal organisation by a court and most of its leaders were arrested. officially supports this documentary by its two correspondents in Greece, a true historical testimony. And it gives them the floor for answers without any tongue in cheek that spare no one, not even the media.

Angelique Kourounis delivers a muscular documentary that allows us to better understand the rise of Golden Dawn (photo: DR)
Angelique Kourounis delivers a muscular documentary that allows us to better understand the rise of Golden Dawn (photo: DR) Your first documentary on Golden Dawn showed the meteoric rise of this far-right party in Greece. How do you explain the success of its ideas?

Angélique Kourounis and Thomas Iacobi: Golden Dawn had been present in Greece for many years as a tiny group with less than 2% of the vote in elections. The economic crisis, which has reduced GDP by a quarter, put 30% of the population below the poverty line and excluded as many from the health system, has been its fertiliser. The migration crisis, which began at almost the same time, has fed it. But in our opinion, the two most important reasons that allowed Golden Dawn to remain the third political force in the country for seven years in parliament is the deep disgust of the Greeks for the two political parties New Democracy (conservatives) and PASOK, (socialists). They have governed the country, in alternation, for the last seventy years and led the country to the brink of collapse. These parties had nothing to offer but more austerity. So the Greeks voted for a party with high visibility and a promise to "slap the shit out of those sell-outs in parliament".
No one ever quite understood how humiliated the Greeks had been.

The other reason is that the Nazi character of this formation was not perceived as it should have been, nor pointed out by the media at the time, during the 2012 elections. Not even the European Union warned against voting for Golden Dawn. Only one thing mattered: that the radical Left should not come to power. That was the only voting instruction suggested.

"The Golden Dawn leaders are direct descendants of the collaborationists who came to power in 1946"

What was the ground for its expansion?

A.K./T.I.: Golden Dawn benefited from the fact that Greeks were rejecting their politicians. They were attacked during their election campaign. It was a sign that no political meeting was organised in the open air. But what made Golden Dawn grow and flourish was the criminal attitude of most of the press. There was no investigation of the members of this party to say where they came from and what their connection was with the daily pogroms. At the time, the Golden Dawn representatives were invited on TV shows and nobody asked them why they had swastikas tattooed on their arms.
This brings us to another important problem, which goes far beyond the responsibility for the rise of Golden Dawn: education has virtually ignored the Holocaust and the country's collaborationist past. In schools, teachers only talk about the resistance. It's true that the resistance was real and widespread, and that it began very early. But there were also collaborationists who, in 1946, found themselves in power. The Golden Dawn supporters are their direct descendants.
Golden Dawn enjoyed for a long time the total impunity that you denounce. Was this due to incompetence, carelessness or the inability to stop the phenomenon on the part of successive authorities and/or the justice system?
A.K./T.I.: It's a bit of all that at the same time. However, we must remember the absence of catharsis in Greece after the Second World War. At the end of the Civil War* (1946-1949), those who fought the Nazis had four choices: prison, execution, exile, or oppression. The collaborationists, on the other hand, found themselves in the administration, the police, the judicial system, in all the institutions of the country. As the Civil War is not taught in Greek schools, this explains the leniency, the complacency even of Greek institutions towards Golden Dawn.

After "Golden Dawn, a personal affair", Thomas Iacobi also participated in the production of the Nazi party in this second opus on the extreme right-wing party (photo: DR)
After "Golden Dawn, a personal affair", Thomas Iacobi also participated in the production of the Nazi party in this second opus on the extreme right-wing party (photo: DR)

"Golden Dawn condemned as a criminal organisation"

How has the situation evolved since your first documentary "Golden Dawn a personal affair"?

A.K./T.I.: It stops at the 2015 election campaign where we see the Führer, as he likes to call himself, Nikos Michaloliakos, founder and "leader" of Golden Dawn, being embraced by a crowd, and the beginning of the ongoing trial.
Since then, and this is the subject of our second film which lasted the duration of this historic trial, Golden Dawn has been tried and convicted as a criminal organisation. Its entire leadership team was given sentences ranging from twelve to almost fourteen years in prison. This trial symbolically represents Greece's first break with its collaborationist and dictatorial past.

In 2021, the Greeks have done what should have been done in 1945 or 1974. And if we filmed this trial for five and a half years under difficult conditions (editor's note: Thomas Iacobi was savagely assaulted by members of Golden Dawn), it is because we felt it was much more important than the Nuremberg trial, during which only Nazi dignitaries were sentenced by a military tribunal, composed of judges who were mostly from the allies who had militarily defeated Nazi Germany. Militarily, not politically. Here we have a civilian court, in peacetime, judging a legally elected party for seven years, in the cradle of democracy no less. This is totally different. This is unheard of. For to judge a legally elected party, in three clean elections, is to point at the dysfunction of democracy.

This regime ultimately proves to be a very fragile political system. In Greece, it is not possible to ban a party, nor to judge an ideology. So in this trial, Nazi ideology was taken by the prosecution as the motive for the murders. This is a masterly judicial move! It seemed inconceivable to us that there was no archive footage, no documentary about these historic moments in the country. That's why we filmed relentlessly, without knowing where it would lead us. At the beginning, we had no means, but the support was there. We were particularly moved by those who regularly put one, two or five euros a month into our fund. We also received support from the Rosa Luxemburg Institute, whose aim is precisely to highlight fascism and the creeping extreme right in our society.

"Magda Fyssas, mother of the murdered anti-fascist rapper, did not let them down at all"

A trial sealed the end of Golden Dawn by judging it as a criminal organisation (photo from the documentary "Golden Dawn - a public affair")
A trial sealed the end of Golden Dawn by judging it as a criminal organisation (photo from the documentary "Golden Dawn - a public affair")
How do you analyse the failure of this party in the legislative elections in 2019?

A.K./T.I.: There are two decisive elements. Firstly, the battle waged inside and outside the courtroom by the lawyers of the civil party - who, it must be emphasised, have worked practically on a pro bono basis during these five and a half years - has begun to bear fruit.
A much wider public than the traditional left-wing, extra-parliamentary parties or the various militant associations began to realise what Golden Dawn was, what its crimes were and what the danger to democracy could be. But above all, what turned the situation around was Magda Fyssas, the mother of the anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas who was stabbed to death by an Golden Dawn cadre, who confessed. She came to the trial every day. She didn't let them out of her sight. Unwittingly, with her dignity, her pain, her determination, she shamed those who voted for Golden Dawn out of spite. She has become the symbol of the anti-fascist struggle in Greece and beyond. She united all civil society and all opposition parties around one goal: to put Golden Dawn out of action and its leaders in jail. It was not a foregone conclusion...

For years the courtroom was empty. There was only her, friends of the family and journalists from a few very rare newspapers covering the case. It was only in 2019, during the last elections, that everything changed. Under pressure from the street and civil society, town halls began to refuse to give permits for the opening of Golden Dawn election kiosks during the election campaign.
Employees of the national television station went on strike whenever party officials had to speak for their campaign. Golden Dawn could no longer find places to hold its election meetings, preventing its propaganda from getting through. This movement did not have the visibility in this last election that it had enjoyed in the two previous ones. Moreover, shortly after the prosecution began, the parliament froze the subsidies and income to which Golden Dawn, as a legally elected party, was entitled. As a result, those who benefited from them left. This has weakened this criminal organisation even more.
To cut a long story short: it was only when the institutions, under pressure from the increasingly active civil society and part of the press, actively took matters into their own hands to block Golden Dawn's path that it began to disappear from the political landscape.

"Golden Dawn will not be replaced"

Did the result of the last parliamentary elections in July 2019 mark the beginning of the decline of Golden Dawn ?
A.K./T.I.: Certainly! The result of these elections confirmed the decline of Golden Dawn which started about the fourth year of the trial, in 2018-2019. It missed entering the parliament by only a few thousand votes, losing the last advantages it had as a legally elected party. This has certainly given pause to those who voted for it and hoped to benefit directly from it because of the patronage practiced. As the movement could no longer offer them anything, they returned to the conservative party, which won the election.
The number two of Golden Dawn, Christos Pappas, was arrested on 1 July 2021. He was the only executive of this party to escape prison. Is there a successor?
A.K./T.I.: Christos Pappas slipped through the fingers of the police, who were supposed to be watching him. This poses a real problem both in terms of the competence of the police to carry out this mission and their real willingness to do so. It should be remembered that in the electoral offices reserved for riot police, Golden Dawn obtained almost 50% of the votes. On the other hand, in order for the judicial investigation into the murder of Pavlos Fyssas to be completed, it was necessary, as early as 2013, to sack senior police officers who were obstructing it.

Golden Dawn, as we know it, with its assault sections, its pyramidal and military structure, will not be replaced. At least not for a long time. On the other hand, the succession of the extreme right and fascism could be assured in Greece and in Europe without any problem. This is why, in the second part of our documentary, we address the question of the form of resistance to be put up against Golden Dawn and all the Golden Dawns in the world. Should it be political, judicial, armed, civil?
Should it be educational? Is it a matter of religion?  We are looking, but we have not yet found the answer...


"The so-called conventional parties of the liberal right are implementing far-right policies"

So you don't fear an upsurge of the extreme right in Greece?

A.K./T.I.: Frankly, if there is a danger, it will not come from another far-right party, which is present in Parliament. But, rather, from the trivialisation of the ideas of the extreme right, which have now been totally assimilated in all areas by the so-called conventional parties, the liberal right, or the social democrats. They apply this far-right policy under the cloak of 'proper' parties, just as Golden Dawn applied its Nazi policy under the cloak of a national-popular party. Both are legally elected.

It is worth noting that in Greece, during the last reshuffle, the ministers who came directly from the far right, which was closer to the colonial dictatorship (1967-1974), have all been promoted. At least four of them now have key portfolios. The icing on the cake is that the minister of investment used to work as a book seller on TV and advocate the superiority of Greek race and culture. His speeches were peppered with antisemitic references. And they all agreed to apply a policy on the migration issue that is contrary to the Geneva Convention and the International Charter of Human Rights, which Greece has signed.

* Armed conflict from 1946 to 1949 between the army of the Kingdom of Greece (supported by the United Kingdom and the United States) and the Democratic Army of Greece (armed wing of the Communist Party of Greece supported by Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Albania), which was won by the forces of the royalist government.

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