Greece's extreme-right Golden Dawn party has caused outrage by playing the official anthem of Hitler's Nazi party during a charity food handout attended by thousands of people. Golden Dawn organized the event in central Athens, with scores of police officers on hand to maintain order. Authorities had initially banned Golden Dawn from hosting the event in the party's preferred location, Attiki Square. However, the party simply changed the location to its headquarters near Larissis Station.
More than 2,000 people crowded the streets outside the premises, as party members wearing their traditional black t-shirts distributed food and clothing, after checking recipients' identity cards to insure that non-Greeks were excluded. "The crime we committed was that we wanted to hand out food to Greeks only. If we'd handed it out to Pakistanis and blacks, there would have been no problem," party leader Nikos Michaloliakos told supporters.
A video of the event, including the sound of the song, was posted on the party’s website. The Horst Wessel Lied is banned in Germany, along with other Nazi symbols. Nazi Germany invaded and occupied Greece during World War II, committing atrocities against the population.
The Greek government strongly condemned the event, with Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias describing Golden Dawn as a "pathetic copy of Nazi totalitarianism." Panos Skourletis, a spokesman for Syriza, the main left-wing opposition, called Michaloliakos' comments and the playing of the Nazi anthem a "provocation to democracy".
Golden Dawn's policy of offering food for publicity was condemned by Athens Mayor Yiorgos Kaminis. "We have a church that distributes thousands of meals a day. Our municipality feeds 9,000 a day and provides additional goods and food etc to 3,000 needy families. All this is done discreetly, without any self-serving agendas and vile racist propaganda."
Minister: 'Golden Dawn could destabilize Greece'
Meanwhile, Greek Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis warned of the danger that Golden Dawn could “destabilize” Greece. He admitted that he was concerned about the party’s rise. “The Golden Dawn phenomenon is very dangerous,” he told 'Mega TV'. “There is a big danger of destabilization and division.” Georgiadis, who joined New Democracy last year from ultra-nationalist LAOS and has been accused of selling racist books in the past, said that as long as the coalition government “solves the country’s problems,” support for Golden Dawn would subside.
Video of the event posted on Golden Dawn's Youtube channel.