Shalom Life | September 13, 2014

Greece Introduces New Law Banning Holocaust Denial

Legislation is in response to rise of Golden Dawn neo-Nazi party; Jewish groups commend parliament for taking action

By: Daniel Koren

Published: September 12th, 2014 in News » World

Greece Introduces New Law Banning Holocaust Denial

Photo Caption: Supporters of Golden Dawn at a torchlit rally

Photo Credit: Nikolas Giakoumidis/AP


On the heels of rising neo-Nazism in Greece, led by ultra-right neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, the nation's parliament has officially passed a new bill, which will impose harsh penalties for any purveyor of Holocaust denial, or hate speech of any kind.

While Jewish groups have commended the Greek parliament for instilling this law, many wonder if this could have been passed years ago, before two members of Golden Dawn, Eleftherios Synadinos and Georgios Epitideios, were officially elected into the European parliament.

“This is a very serious issue: it may be the first time a Greek neo-Nazi will participate in the European parliament which is a serious problem, not just for Greece, but for Europe,” said Victor Eliezer, the secretary general of KIS, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece in May.

In an interview with JTA, Robert Singer, CEO of the World Jewish Congress, spoke of the new legislature, confirming that while “This comes very late," it's still "not too late.”

Similar to Germany during the rise of the Nazi party in the 1930's, the Greek government-debt-crisis, otherwise known as the Greek depression, labelled the country as poor, leaving its citizens, angry, ashamed, and defeated. It was in 2012 when Golden Dawn rose to prominence in the wake of this massive economic crisis, finding itself as the country's third largest political party.

Currently, the party has 18 members of parliament.

The party is known to use Nazi imagery, don black shirts, preach anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic rhetoric, and organize Nazi-style torchlit rallies.

Many hoped the party's political surge would diminish after Nikos Michaloliakos, the party's former head, was arrested for fronting a criminal organization, after the killing of left-wing, anti-racist rapper Pavolos Fyssas a.k.a. Killah P by a member of Golden Dawn, 45-year-old Giorgos Roupakias.

Golden Dawn has also been accused of the killings of four Pakistani immigrants.

However, somehow, the party managed to continue gaining support from Greek nationals. After its members were elected to the EU Parliament, Michaloliakos stated from prison, "We are the third political power in Greece. We are the upcoming Greece.”

According to a survey published by the ADL in May, Greece is the most most anti-Semitic country in Europe, finding that 69% of Greeks harbor some sort of anti-Semitic mentality.

The new law introduced by the country increases jail time for anyone initiating racist or discriminatory violence to three years, accompanied by a fine of up to 26,000 euros ($34,000). It will fine 100,000 euros ($130,000) for groups convicted of “inciting acts of discrimination, hatred or violence.” The same penalties will also be served to anyone who denies the Holocaust, or other genocides.

The new legislation marks the first time Greece will punish deniers of the Holocaust.

“We really hope the law will limit racist and anti-Semitic statements and will deter Holocaust deniers, who have multiplied in the last two years, including inside parliament,” stated Eliezer.

The government will also be able to use the new law to block political groups such as Golden Dawn, who are known to incite racism and hatred against others, from gaining further momentum.

“We have anti-racism laws already, but the reason they were not applied was that immigrants, for example, were afraid to report the crimes because they did not hold proper travel documents, lived here illegally and feared deportation,” explained Justice Minister Haralambos Athanasiou.

Currently, the trials of Michaloliakos and other members of Golden Dawn are set to take place in December.

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