Posts Tagged ‘Greece’

WW2 Relevance

|   26 May 2012

Greece and a warning from history

Greece – a country in real danger

Two years ago, in the first blog I ever wrote for, I talked about my visit to Athens in April 2010 and my fears for the future of Greece.

I said that we should all remember that the rise to power of Hitler was only made possible by the collapse of German banks and economic crisis in the early 1930s. The Nazi party polled a derisory 2.6% of the vote in the 1928 elections in Germany, but within 5 years Hitler was Chancellor and the Nazis the biggest political party in the country.

So it’s frightening to see the rise of the right wing extremist party, ‘Golden Dawn’ at the last Greek elections held a couple of weeks ago. This party – slogan ‘let’s rid this country of the stench’ – massively increased its share of the vote to 7% and its leader, Nikis Michaloliakos, who has previously served a jail term for carrying explosives and weapons, was catapulted into a position of real political influence in this fractured country.

Just three days ago Greek Police trying to protect a group of immigrants in the port of Patras came under attack from supporters of ‘Golden Dawn’. The ‘Golden Dawn’ supporters chucked stones at the police and tear gas was used to disperse them.

‘Golden Dawn’ deny being neo-Nazis, yet their leader, Nikis Michaloliakos, has given a Nazi salute in the past, and is protected by a group of toughs. In a recent interview on the Mega TV channel, he remarked about the Holocaust that: ‘There were no ovens, no gas chambers, it’s a lie.’

I have always feared that millions of people learn nothing from history – indeed that millions of people know hardly any history – but I hope that sufficient Greeks remember enough about the past to vote the right way in the forthcoming elections on 17 June…

WW2 Controversies

|   29 October 2011

Germans, Greeks and Nazis

Athens today

This morning I was interviewed on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 about something I think is very important.

As has been recently reported in the British press, cartoons and street posters have appeared in Greece comparing the current German regime with the Nazis. Clearly, many in Greece are angry about the financial plight their country faces – as well as the austerity measures that have to be imposed to solve the problem. So angry, indeed, that some Greeks blame the Germans for wanting to impose financial probity upon them. And from there it’s but one small step to portraying the Germans of today as Nazis.

It’s outrageous. And the fact that there is not more immediate outrage about this – especially in Germany – shows how tolerant many Germans obviously are.

What is the thinking behind these cartoons? Well, the first point to make is that not enough people realise how much Greece suffered during WW2. Around half a million Greeks died – more than the British lost – out of a relatively small population of little more than seven million. The Nazis committed a whole series of atrocities against Greek civilians in an attempt – futile as it turned out – to destroy the Greek resistance movement.

Add to that terrible history the desire to seek scapegoats in a crisis and you have the mix out of which comes this unfair treatment of today’s Germany. The biggest – and bleakest – irony, of course, is that it was the Nazis themselves who embraced the idea of scapegoats long ago. Jews, communists, gypsies – the Nazis blamed any number of different groups for Germany’s woes. They never accepted that the Germans themselves had been largely responsible for the mess the country found itself in after the First World War.

A desire not to accept responsibility for one’s own mistakes – one of the most fundamental human desires of all. The Nazis demonstrated it in the first half of the Twentieth Century, a number of Greeks are demonstrating it in the first half of the Twenty first.