Golden Dawn, the far-right Greek political party that some lawmakers in Greece have branded a “neo-Nazi criminal gang,” has quickly emerged from the shadows there. But in other countries where it is starting to have a presence, Golden Dawn still has an air of mystery around it.
The group has been around in Greece for about three decades, and for most of that time has been known for its Hitler salutes and predilection for street violence. But more recently Golden Dawn has become a political force in Greece. It says its mission is to “preserve our Hellenic culture … we must resist and overcome the genocidal multi-culturalist, and anti-Hellenic agenda of the New World Order.” In the past year, it has started “chapters” in Los Angeles, Montreal, Australia and New York with the goal, it says, of raising money for needy people back in Greece, which is wracked with unemployment as high as 60 percent among people under 30 in some areas.
But the group’s international expansion has alarmed local some residents and caught the attention of several watchdog groups, including the Anti-Defamation League and Fascism Watch. It’s unclear how large the membership is in the overseas chapters; in New York, for example, it appears to be limited to several dozen people. Golden Dawn’s various overseas websites have different URLs, but their look and content is very similar, and it’s entirely possible that there’s one guy running all of them.
We looked for conversations that the group was having online using keywords from the website and found references to them on the American white-supremacist website Stormfront. On Stormfront, where the conversation picked up significantly after the Greek government cracked down on the group several months ago, members were encouraging each other to send aid to the P.O. box listed on Golden Dawn’s New York site.
One Stormfront member said he sent diapers: “Just signed up for a monthly donation of diapers. I encourage everyone to go to amazon.com and sign up for a monthly contribution, it’s easy and the range of useful items are endless, at any level of cost.” Stormfront has a subgroup of 81 Golden Dawn “supporters” with aliases like “Hellenic Hoplite.”
The group’s New York site lists a phone number and P.O. box that, somewhat ironically for a group that seems to be preaching racial and ethnic purity, is in Astoria, Queens, one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the country. (Astoria is also home to a large Greek immigrant population.) Residents there have reported seeing posters and cards on light poles and subways stops emblazoned with Golden Dawn’s swastika-like logo, though none were visible on a recent evening when we did a walk through. There also have been official statements of un-welcome from local politicians and neighborhood groups. Golden Dawn hasn’t been accused of any crimes in the U.S.
— David M.A. (@alazyreader) November 14, 2012
Until recently, the group was a fringe presence in Greece and a non-issue in the U.S. But amid economic turmoil and Greece’s crippling debt crisis, the group has quickly risen in the ranks of the Greek political hierarchy. It entered the 300-seat Greek parliament for the first time in the 2012 elections, with 18 deputies elected. In late September, after a prominent left-wing rapper in Greece was fatally stabbed, police raided the party’s office and arrested Golden Dawn’s leader and 13 other party members. Last week, Greek lawmakers voted to cut off public funding to the party.
The New York chapter rarely, if ever, grants interviews with reporters. We reached out to the person listed on the New York site as the contact point for donations. He refused to do an in-person interview, and declined to provide his name, day job or the location of chapter meetings in the Queens. But in a series of email exchanges, he offered some additional detail about the group’s efforts in the U.S.
Here are excerpts from the conversation:
Reporter: Good afternoon. I’m a reporter with the site Vocativ, trying to learn more about the local chapter of Golden Dawn. Can we speak either by phone today or in person or by phone tomorrow?
Golden Dawn: What sort of questions do you want to ask that are not already listed in the many sections we have on our local website?
Reporter: How many members you have here in NYC, how you’re promoting your presence and chapter in Astoria, your aims, how you feel about being criticized by local city officials.
Golden Dawn: That’s it?
Reporter: I don’t know. Depends on your responses, I suppose
Golden Dawn: Sounds like you are not exactly Barbara Walters, are you.
Reporter: If Barbara Walters is your reference point for deep journalistic exposes, I’m laughing at you.
Golden Dawn: We like your style. We saw your picture, we have to admit, you certainly are much more beautiful than Barbara Walters, we will give you that. If only you belonged to the same ethnicity as Barbara your career would be on a much faster track. We’re afraid we can’t help you move up in the world of journalism. We don’t think we would be very exciting to write about anyway because we simply collect food donations for suffering people in Greece and translate Golden Dawn articles into English.
Do you speak Italian? Our friends at Forza Nuova are much more exciting and fashionable guys to write about. If you send them a picture of you and ask for an Interview i’m sure they would give you an interview or at the very least a dinner date. Tell them we sent you. Ciao, Χρυσή Αυγή Νέας Υόρκης
Reporter: Thanks for your reply. A couple quick points of clarification: Barbara Walters is a broadcast reporter. I’m a print journalist and I don’t need help advancing my career. Second, I’m American, and I don’t speak Italian, though it is a beautiful language. My ethnicity is mostly Scottish, but who cares? So if you didn’t like my previous questions, I’ll pose these.
1. So you are a chapter of one? Just you? I’m getting the impression you don’t have a robust roster.
2. There a critics and observers who believe the growth of Golden Dawn in Greece is short-lived and a response to the dire economic situation. Once the country’s finances rebalance, a political group with racist, xenophobic doctrine will be brushed from power, and eventually the collective psyche of the nation. How do you respond?
3. You are very assertive and direct on your website, but maintain some level of anonymity. Why are you unwilling to put a face to your chapter? I’m assuming you’ve been approached by numerous other reporters and Astoria residents?
4. How many pounds of charitable goods do you send to Greece in a normal month? How are your efforts being funded?
Golden Dawn: Those questions are all already covered by our website, photos of dozens of members of our group here in New York, explanations of why Golden Dawn’s rise is not solely due to economy. How we are getting the donations is there as well.
I take it you have not even bothered to check the website, which shows that you have other motives than simple questions about our party. What is the benefit for us to give you an interview if that is the case?
Reporter: Well, websites never answer real questions. As stated, your “goals are to promote and support the Golden Dawn¹s nationalist ideals and vision for Greece among the Greek diaspora. To preserve our Hellenic culture, we must resist and overcome the genocidal multi-culturalist, and anti-Hellenic agenda of the New World Order.”
You are in the most diverse, multicultural borough in one of the most diverse, multi-ethnic, multi-religious cities in the world. So how does that work out?
Golden Dawn: The statements on our website are made by party members, based off authentic thoughts. We have no will to get involved with the politics of New York or the US. We are not trying to change New York from being multicultural. We are a Greek political party that is trying to keep Greece an ethnically homogeneous state with laws that protect the Greek population. There are many Jewish groups that support a very similar policy for Israel here in New York. Ronald Lauder, for example, supports the ultra nationalist Likud party in Israel and has residence in New York.
If you want to get more answers from us, first you will need to answer why you do not criticize the other ethnic groups in New York that have support for nationalistic policy in their native homelands.
Reporter: I absolutely would ask questions of any ethnic group promoting an ideology to keep a country or region homogeneous. Should the Sweden Democrats start putting posters around the Upper West Side (of Manhattan), I’d be curious to know why. Tell me, in your own words, the benefits of keeping Greece homogenous and what really can be done to support that cause from here?
Golden Dawn: There is no significant Swedish community in New York promoting such a thing, but there is a large Jewish one doing something like that. I’ll tell you what: if you do an article interviewing New York’s Jewish community that supports Likud in Israel, a country that has racial segregation, deported thousands of African immigrants recently, and even has a policy of giving blood DNA tests to confirm the racial purity of certain Russian Jews to Israel and publish it on Vocativ.com, I will be more than happy to give you a full interview and answer all your questions.
Then I would know that you are not a liar. But we both already know why you avoid that, don’t we?