In a situation one Greek newspaper describes as eerily similar to Weimar Germany in the 1930s, the Greek neo-Nazi party, Golden Dawn, is gaining strength within the depressed nation.
While it may seem like a rather hyperbolic description, the parallels between Germany in the 1920s and present-day Greece are strikingly similar: Greece is in a hopeless state of economic depression and are at the mercy of western European powers in the EU; the democratically elected Greek Parliament is seemingly useless; Greek citizens are unemployed; and most importantly, people are angry and seem to be taking out their frustration by terrorizing non-ethnic Greeks residing within the country.
At a rally in February, thousands of Greek nationalists gathered in support of Golden Dawn.
Ringed by a group of brawny toughs, party leader Nikos Michaloliakos, 55, bellowed: "No one can stop us -- not the bombs, not all your filth. We will triumph!" His listeners, many of them hidden beneath black hoods, replied with a thunderous "Zito! Zito!" The phrase literally means something like "Long live!" but the affect is more like "Heil!" -- and deliberately so. Many also raised their right arms, while the police remained in the background. The right-wing extremists then took their burning torches and marched through the downtown of this port city. Foreigners and any young people dressed in alternative-looking clothing made sure to clear out of the streets before they arrived.
While there is certainly no reason to think that a Third Reich-style coup will take place in the immediate future, Golden Dawn has the support of roughly 23.7% of the police force, which has allowed them to terrorize much of the foreign-born population of the country.
Attack victims relate stories of officers who were more interested in checking their residency permits than in tracking down the perpetrators -- or simply sent them away. Eyewitnesses also report incidences of open collaboration. One example occurred in October in front of the Hytirio Theater in Athens, after three members of parliament representing Golden Dawn led a gang of thugs in disrupting a play being performed there. When Christos Pappas, one of the parliamentarians, stepped in to release one of the arrested men from a police bus, officers stood by without intervening.
"The police are no longer an independent organization," says Dimitris Kyriazidis, a member of parliament for New Democracy (ND), the country's conservative ruling party.
In a show of strength at a Golden Dawn press conference, Michaloliakos ordered the members of the media to stand up and show respect. Everyone did as they were told.
Right now, Golden Dawn still remains a political minority within Greece. Make no mistake though, they are gaining strength, and fast.