Greek Jews Step Up Fight Against Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn — and Win Results

Premier Speaks in Synagogue for First Time in 101 Years

Always Remember: Participants in a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Jews from Greece toss flowers on the railroad tracks in the city of Thessaloniki.
getty images
Always Remember: Participants in a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Jews from Greece toss flowers on the railroad tracks in the city of Thessaloniki.

By JTA

Published March 25, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Antonis Samaras stood in the pale morning light coming through the stained glass windows of the only Thessaloniki synagogue to survive World War II and vowed, “Never again.”

For Greek Jews marking the 70th anniversary of the destruction of this city’s historic Jewish community, the Greek prime minister’s words were long awaited. So was his presence – the first time a sitting Greek premier had set foot in a synagogue in 101 years.

“We have to be very careful to remember the message of ‘Never again,’ ” Samaras said at the March 17 commemoration. “The fight against neo-Nazis is more important than ever.”

Greek Jews had the past on their minds on the weekend of March 15 -17 as they gathered to remember the beginning of the Nazi deportation of Thessaloniki’s Jews to Auschwitz. But they were also mindful of the present, in particular the sudden rise of Golden Dawn, a neo-Nazi party that erupted on the political scene last year, coming from nowhere to grab 18 seats in the Greek Parliament.

Greece’s government, besieged by an economic crisis and unwilling to confront an emerging populist party, has said little about Golden Dawn’s violent activities against immigrants and anti-Semitic outbursts. But Samara’s presence in Thessaloniki, and his vow to be “completely intolerant to violence and racism,” appeared to mark a shift.

“For me this was something that I saw now for the first time,” said David Saltiel, president of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece. “It was the first time for a prime minister in a synagogue, and also for him to be so clear that he wanted this to symbolize his tough decision not to permit racism and anti-Semitism.”

Greece’s small Jewish community has watched in horror as Golden Dawn has grown in popularity over the past year, garnering more and more public support. Greek Jews had hoped there would be some pushback from the country’s leaders in the face of attacks on immigrants by black-shirted gangs and anti-Semitic statements by party leaders. But there has been little.

Samaras, heading a shaky coalition government, put all his efforts into dealing with Greece’s massive economic crisis; the unpopular austerity measures he forced through left him very little political capital for taking on the populist party. And the weary Greek public dismissed rising support for Golden Dawn as just a protest vote, turning a blind eye to its violence and ideology of hate.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.