On Tuesday, members of the Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party held torches and chanted “Foreigners out of Greece!” as they marched through central Athens ahead of the country’s new elections.
Golden Dawn has become notoriously anti-Semitic, with its logo closely resembling a swastika and party leader, Nikos Mihaloliakos, explicitly denying the existence of gas chambers in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust.
In a noteworthy demonstration against the fascist platform of the party, elderly Holocaust survivors addressed a crowded hall on Tuesday at Athens University with their accounts of Nazi killings and deportations that near destroyed the wartime Jewish population in Greece, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
“The first thing I remember is waking up and seeing the flames from the crematorium,” said survivor Isaac Mizan, 85, who was deported to Auschwitz when he was 16 years old.
“I lost sleep when they got into parliament,” he said of Golden Dawn’s recent surge in political power.
German history professor Hagen Fleisher, who organized Tuesday’s meeting of Holocaust survivors, said their accounts were a direct response to the neo-Nazi leader’s Holocaust denials.
While there was formerly a vibrant Jewish presence in Greece, centered around the northern city of Thessaloniki, now only 6,000 remain in the country.
Some 60,000-70,000 Greek Jews, approximately 81 percent, were murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Only 1,950 Jews from Thessaloniki survived deportation to Auschwitz, of which many emigrated to Israel and the US.
“There is a silence, an indifference among the people in Greece,” said Alexandros Simha.
another survivor who attending Tuesday’s meeting. “But now they are starting to dig a little into their past.”
“We must not forget the Holocaust,” he continued. “The serpent’s egg (of anti-Semitism) is always there, ready to hatch.”
While the party received approximately 7 percent of the vote in the May 6 elections and 21 seats in parliament, new elections are being held on June 17, due to failure to produce a coalition government due to strong disagreement among parties over whether to honor Greece’s international bailout loan terms.