in Contemporary Greek Society
The lack of any extensive research on the issue of antisemitism in contemporary Greek society has led many to believe that there is no such problem in that country. This article documents the existence of antisemitism in various aspects of Greek society, and its development over the past fifteen years.
Notwithstanding occasional denials on the part of Greek government officials, and even leaders of the Greek Jewish community, antisemitism does exist in Greece, and this essay will focus on its development over the past fifteen years in various aspects of Greek society, including religious antisemitism, and that found in the educational, legal, and political environment.1 The activities of the extreme right, major antisemitic incidents, antisemitic publications, and previous attempts to expose antisemitism in Greece are also noted. In addition, since in Greece the meanings of “Israeli” and “Israelite” are commonly confused, “anti-Zionist” attacks are almost always antisemitic, and several such instances are documented throughout the text.
It would be impossible to examine the existence of religiously-inspired antisemitism in Greece without first acknowledging the profound and longstanding role that the Christian religion has played in that society. Greeks consider Byzantium to be an integral part of their national history, following the Ancient Greek period and immediately preceding the country's modern revival in the early nineteenth century. Christianity played a critical role in preserving Greek national identity during four centuries of Ottoman rule, the Greek War of Independence, and the creation of a sovereign Greek state.
The religious and ethnic homogeneity of the Greek population (today nearly 98 percent) is so strong that it became difficult for minorities to integrate into the broader society. To this day, for example, many people have difficulty understanding how one can be Greek and Jewish at the same time. Freedom of religion is constitutionally guaranteed, but Orthodox Christianity is the official state religion. There is legal separation of Church and State, and the latter cannot interfere in the internal affairs of the Church, for example, on matters of dogma, worship, clerical duties, sermons, ecclesiastic discipline, and ordination.2
The Orthodox Church has long maintained an official position that recognizes Judaism's contribution to Christianity and condemns antisemitism. Following a number of antisemitic incidents that took place in Germany in 1959, Archbishop Theoklitos of Athens issued a statement that strongly condemned antisemitism: “I declare to the entire world that antisemitic acts, wherever they may take place, are an antichristian act..., an anti-social act and prove the existence of barbarism, inferiority, and inhumanity.”3 At the Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine in Paris, the pictures of Archbishop Damaskinos and Athens Police Chief Angelos Evert can be seen in the Greek section of the Holocaust exhibit. Evert provided Jews with false identification papers, while Damaskinos is still revered by Jews for having intervened with the Greek government and the German occupation authorities on their behalf.4 In addition to his appeals, the Archbishop hid some Jews and baptized others in order to save them from deportation. The church often regards the contribution of Damaskinos and other members of the clergy who endangered their own lives while protecting Jews as proof that it practices what it preaches about Jews and antisemitism.
Without underrating these heroic acts of those who saved hundreds of Jews from their German would-be murderers, there are still some in the church who do exhibit anti-Jewish sentiments in spite of the fact that the church leadership has never condoned antisemitic comments by members of the clergy.
Antisemites formerly or currently associated with the church often hide behind opposition to Zionists and Chiliasts (also known as the Jehovah's Witnesses). The latter are mistrusted because they do not recognize any secular government or its symbols, and also engage in active proselytism, which is illegal in Greece and extremely unpopular in a country of devoted Orthodox Christians. “Zionism” is often described as a Jewish plot to take over the world, and the Chiliasts are said to be a Jewish-founded, Jewish-controlled instrument for the same purpose.
Antisemitic remarks are not always hidden behind other types of labels. For example, in 1980 Panteleimon Caranikolas, the Metropolitan of Corinth, published a blatantly antisemitic book entitled Jews and Christians, in which he writes about the “power of the Jews [who] suck the blood of the people.” He considers the Jews to be citizens of the “State of Jewish theocracy [Israel] and the World Zionist State” rather than their respective countries of origin, and suggests that the Jews should be “grateful to Christians” for the opportunity to live in predominantly Christian lands. In addition, he blames the Jews for any prejudice against themselves -- since he claims they have brought it on themselves because of their own conduct -- and cites as a source for many of his arguments the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. 5
Metropolitan Panteleimon's views are not unique in the Orthodox Church. As early as 1975, the Institute of Jewish Affairs reported several other incidents of high-ranking church officials endorsing antisemitic arguments.6 Other instances include a “warning” published in the local newspaper of the Holy Metropolis of Filippi and Neapolis, based in Kavala, with the title “The Jehovah's Witnesses Are Instruments of International Zionism.” Along the same lines, the Metropolis of Chalkis circulated posters informing the faithful that the Devil controls the Jehovah's Witnesses, for, among other things, “they call Christ a liar...curse the Virgin Mary and the Saints, are led by Jews and aim at destroying all religions and nations in order to establish a world Jewish government (Zionism).” The poster urges people to drive the enemies of Christ and Greece out of their villages, for they are “worse than fire, cholera, snakes or wolves.”7 Also deserving mention is Metropolitan Augustine Kantiotis of Florina, whose hair-raising sermons have often “exposed” a link between Jews, Zionism, and the Jehovah's Witnesses.8
Those who have published their antisemitic views may be identified, but there are many others who perpetuate anti-Jewish prejudice primarily within the boundaries of their own parish, contributing to a broad social ignorance and mistrust of the Jews.
Besides individuals, organizations like Kosmas Flamiatos-Greek Orthodox Union and St. Agathangelos Esfigmenites have published circulars which claim to have uncovered “anti-Greek,” “Zionist” or “Jewish” conspiracies in the past, and have urged the deportation of traitors such as the Jews, Masons, and Jehovah's Witnesses from Orthodox Greece. The group Orthodoxos Typos puts out several religious publications in which the authors often remain anonymous. Dynamis, which is only one of them, shows the group's orientation: in an article entitled “The Jehovah's Witnesses are Instruments of the Jews,” the Jews are openly characterized as “anti-Greek, antichrist Zionists dreaming of the achievement of World Jewish domination.”9 The Witnesses' leaders, it is claimed, are all Jews who have tried repeatedly to destroy Christianity and enslave Greece. In this article, the usual hypocritical distinction made between Jews and Zionists is omitted, and the antisemitic mania of the authors is left undisguised. The Greek Orthodox Church does not officially endorse the content of such publications and it is not clear whether it maintains any formal relations with publication societies such as Orthodoxos Typos, despite the proven support of such organizations within the ranks of the clergy.
Soon, all citizens of the European Economic Community are to be issued new, eight-digit identification cards (similar to U.S. social security cards); ultra-religious groups in Greece have expressed fears that the cards will include the “666”-- the sign of the antichrist (Rev. 13:18). Since 1992, graffiti and posters have warned against the “new IDs of the Jews and Masons” who supposedly control the EEC; a nun in Kozari wrote Jewish Identification Cards, in which Jews were described as “an abominable, murderous race” foreign to Greece and an instrument of Satan.10 Thousands of copies of this 143-page book have been circulated free of charge in the streets of Athens over the last couple of years.
The Orthodox Church maintains that the Holy Metropoles throughout Greece are administratively independent, and thus there is no central authority with power to control the sermons or actions of the respective metropolitans, nor the publication of religious literature.
Still, the Orthodox Church does bear responsibility for what Jules Isaac described as “l'enseignement du mepris” -- the teaching of contempt.11 Over the centuries, Christians have been led to believe that the Jewish Diaspora was proof of divine punishment for the crime of deicide; that Jewish “hatred” for Christianity was eternal. The treachery attributed to Judas led to a stereotyping of all Jews. The Metropolitan of Corinth, who wrote that Jews suck the blood of the people and are themselves responsible for anti-Jewish prejudice, called upon Jews “not to misunderstand” the anti-Jewish references which remain in the Good Friday liturgy -- even though similar references were removed from the Roman Catholic liturgy under Pope John XXIII.12
ANTISEMITISM IN EDUCATION
The Greek educational system has a rather conservative structure, and is under strict government control; the curriculum -- rich in both breadth and depth -- is uniform for all public and private schools, and is determined by the Ministry of Education. Textbooks (identical for both public and private schools) are published by the state-owned OEDV. A religion course is required in ten of the twelve grades. In the third grade, an elementary version of the Old Testament is taught, while in the remaining nine years, the New Testament and a variety of Christian theological themes are covered. Because of the emphasis on Christianity presented from an Orthodox viewpoint, non-Orthodox and non-Christian students are exempt from taking the religion course. This exemption, unfortunately, can sometimes have the effect of creating a “we” versus “they” attitude which can become the root of many evils.
In 1988, a Central Jewish Board (CJB) Information Bulletin dealt extensively with the issue of antisemitic texts found in state school textbooks. The CJB had appealed several times to the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, but although the ministers occupying the post over the years have shown some interest in the matter, the Pedagogical Institute (responsible for actually implementing any changes) has refused to deal with the issue. The CJB stated that the antisemitic texts published in government schoolbooks show that “not only is the poisoning of the souls of Greek children consciously pursued, but clear consititutional provisions protecting religious and other minorities are violated.” A lengthy list of examples, with the CJB's comments on each, was included in their report.13
Although it was asserted that original works included in textbooks should not be changed, the CJB pointed out that a text by Stratis Myrivilis which appeared in a Greek literature textbook had been edited: sixteen lines describing the behavior of Christian clergy had been omitted. It would seem that when Christian believers might take offense, editing is deemed suitable, while no such action is taken when the Jewish religion is insulted, wrote the CJB. One particular text received a substantial amount of attention in the CJB report. Appearing in an eleventh grade modern literature text is a poem by C. Karyotakis, “To the Statue of Liberty Lighting the World,” which includes the verses:
In 1990, when the Conservative New Democracy Party came to power, there was hope that a reevaluation of the state school textbooks might take place. Although there were changes in the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, and the President of the Pedagogical Institute was replaced, the 1992 edition of the modern Greek literature text continued to retain the questionable Karyotakis poem. In October 1993, PASOK returned to power, making textbook revision a still-distant prospect.
Implementing changes in textbooks, however, should not depend on the political party in power. What is really needed is an effort to create a more liberal, multi-dimensional educational system, that would contribute to broader understanding, respect, and acceptance of minorities, within the dominant Orthodox Christian culture of Greece.
LEGISLATION AND JUSTICE
In 1979, the first law against discrimination due to racial or national origin was passed. Law 927 specifically stated that
The two laws protecting minority rights have rarely been enforced, however. Greek courts have upheld the bizarre notion that any antisemitic references to “the Jews” were not specific enough. On one occasion, the Central Jewish Board filed a lawsuit against the antisemitic newspaper Stochos; the outcome of the trial was still uncertain when the two sides reached a compromise in which the suit was dropped in exchange for a printed apology, yet as noted by the CJB, the paper carried on with its policy of “uncovering Jewish plots.” Such propaganda in the press might well “provoke discrimination, hatred or violence” against the Jews as a whole, but little is done to stop it. Law 1419 bans membership in organizations that engage in organized propaganda against minorities, yet there has been no attempt to disband such groups, though their activities are hardly secret.
In 1984, an unprecedented court decision outraged Jews throughout Greece and showed the extent to which antisemitic propaganda had infiltrated Greek society. A lawsuit was filed by the Greek Orthodox Church of Crete against the Jehovah's Witnesses, who had established the Christian Church of the Witnesses of Jehovah of Crete under union status. The Orthodox Church demanded the revocation of the Witnesses' legal status, claiming that the original court decision which had granted the group that status was inconsistent with the articles of the Greek constitution and other laws regarding religion, proselytism, acceptable customs, and public order. The court decision was overwhelmingly in favor of the Orthodox Church, and its multi-page decision made alarming reading for Jews:
In 1987, the court decision was revised to exclude any allegations connecting the Jehovah's Witnesses to the Jewish religion.20
Greece has passed no antisemitic legislation, and the safety of Jews and their property is protected by law, yet it is clear that gaps exist in the legal protection of Jews against slanderous verbal attacks. It is of paramount importance that the laws on discrimination should be enforced more stringently in the future, lest the publication of antisemitic propaganda result in the creation of a potentially dangerous climate in the country.
The conservative New Democracy party, the socialist PASOK party, and the Communist party are the three main political forces that have determined the balance of power in Greece over the past two decades. Party politics have naturally played a role in each side's view of the State of Israel, and since Greeks often confuse the terms “Israeli” and “Israelite,” anti-Israel or anti-Zionist remarks have often developed into clearly anti-Jewish attacks and contributed to the creation of a strongly antisemitic climate.
The communists, for example, have always viewed the United States as a trigger-happy imperialist monster with Israel as its Middle East agent. An “anti-Zionist” stance has been an integral part of communist policy, with occasional “slips” in which Jews per se are blamed for various offenses.
Although the socialist party PASOK typically denounced antisemitism, it too was sometimes embroiled in anti-Jewish controversy. Only months before PASOK's rise to power in 1981, a Greek Jew, Raphael Moissis, was appointed head of the state-owned power company. It was immediately (and falsely) alleged that Moissis has served as a major in the Israeli army during the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War, and that his allegiance lay with Israel rather than Greece. PASOK MPs Kassimatis, Papageorgopoulos, and Cretikos brought the issue before Parliament, suggesting that “Moissis's activities render him unsuitable to run even the least important public enterprise, let alone the strategically significant power company.”21 The incident shocked the Jewish community, who felt reason to fear PASOK's future stand towards them.
In a July 1982 article, published following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Yannis Loulis, a reporter for the daily Mesimvrini, accused the pro-socialist press of encouraging antisemitism. He cited articles in Eleftherotypia, which spoke of “Israeli Nazis”; Ta Nea, which called the Israelis “worthy descendents of Hitler”; and Ethnos, in which a front page headline declared that the “Israelis have surpassed the Nazis.” “Have those who compare the Israelis to the Nazis lost every sense of measure, or is their hatred for the Jews vast enough to have distorted even their most elementary sense of logic?” Loulis asked.22 In the article he cited a letter written by a listener which was read on the state-owned (socialist-controlled) radio, encouraging a massive boycott against Jewish-owned stores in Greece; the appeal had also been printed in Ta Nea. A member of the board of directors of ERT (Greek Radio-Television) asked people to “show through our contempt the disgust we have for the cold silence of Jewish intellectuals [regarding the Lebanese situation]”; suggesting a boycott of Jewish performers who might visit Greece, and barring Jewish athletes from competing in the 1982 European Games to be held in Athens. The same person implicitly warned Greek Jews “not to provoke Greek public sentiment” by siding with the Israelis. Less than a month later, Loulis wrote again about antisemitism that was being encouraged by PASOK.23 Avriani, a strongly pro-socialist newspaper, published a front page article with the title “Jews Behind the Fires,” blaming “Jewish circles who have great hatred for the Prime Minister,” and concluding that recent forest fires were part of “a Zionist plot aimed at turning Greece into a new Lebanon.”24
In a public statement, Prime Minister Papandreou openly compared the Israelis to the Nazis.25 Later, in an attempt to repair the damage, he declared in 1983 that “Greek Jews are an integral part of the Greek people and the government is determined to take whatever measures necessary to deal with anisemitic incidents.26 That same year, however, PASOK MP Ioannis Koutsoyannis inundated the Greek Parliament with a nearly incoherent flood of antisemitic remarks, praising the book Zionist Conspiracies, written by a notorious Greek antisemite, and blaming “the Jews, the Masons, the CIA and [former Israeli Defense Minister] Moshe Dayan” for preparing and coordinating the April 1967 military coup that took place in Greece.27 These remarks were made in the presence of the Prime Minister, and the speaker was heartily applauded by his socialist colleagues.
In 1986 an ordinary session of the Athens City Council received national -- and international -- attention because of comments made by socialist mayor Dimitris Beis. At one point during the session, there was some noise and confusion, which the mayor described as a “havra”-- an insulting term which equates noise and tumult with Jews praying in unison in the synagogue.The mayor defended his remarks, and mocked those who protested. An article in Apoghevmatini noted that at the time when Jews were being blamed for everything from forest fires to the Chernobyl meltdown, the mayor could expose his prejudice openly without concern about losing votes from a few Jewish citizens.28 Beis's comments were noted by New York Mayor Ed Koch, in his New York Post article about Greek antisemitism.29
Such attitudes within the ranks of PASOK led to an unthinkable political act at the end of 1988. Following a judicial investigation, the Athens Court of Appeals and the Greek Supreme Court decided that Abdel Osama Al-Zomar, an alleged Palestinian terrorist apprehended in Greece, should be extradited to Italy to face charges of bombing the Synagogue of Roma in October 1982, injuring thirty-four people and killing a three-year-old child. Greek Justice Minister V. Rotis used his authority to overrule the court decisions, stating that Osama's acts were part of the “Palestinian people's struggle for liberation of their homeland, and therefore cannot be considered as acts of terrorism.” He compared the act of terrorism to anti-Nazi resistance during World War II. Osama was allowed to fly to Libya. The Central Jewish Board, other Jewish and non-Jewish organizations inundated Greek embassies with telegrams condemning Osama's release, and the Washington Post wrote that Greece had already rolled out a red carpet for terrorists.30
The outcome of the Osama affair came as a shock in spite of the previous record of antisemitism demonstrated by certain PASOK officials and the pro-socialist press. Papers like Avriani and Ethnos have a mixed record, sometimes speaking out against antisemitism, yet also at times engaging in antisemitic or anti-Zionist propaganda. For example, in 1985, a front page article in Avriani accused the leader of the opposition, Mitsotakis of the New Democracy Party, of “selling off the state-owned telecommunications, power, waterworks and railway companies to the Jews,” who were said to be ”agents of foreign interests.”31
PASOK fell from power in 1989 amid a flood of allegations of wire-tapping, fraud, and embezzlement, but made a comeback much sooner than most observers thought possible. Papandreou remained at the party's helm, emerging from what had appeared to be irreparable damage to his image, and led the Socialists to victory in a thousand days. Papandreou now leads the country in a world which has changed considerably. His party may well become more moderate in its approach towards Jews in view of the new European realities, and the threat from the extreme right. The recent high-profile results of the Middle East peace talks will perhaps make the anti-Zionist rhetoric a thing of the past.
Unlike PASOK, the conservative New Democracy Party has rarely given the Jews cause for alarm. Prime Minister Mitsotakis recognized Israel in 1990, and individuals within New Democracy's ranks have shown sensitivity towards problems of an antisemitic nature. In 1982, for example, it was five conservative MPs who brought the issue of antisemitism to Parliament following indiscriminate leftist attacks on Israel and on Greek Jews alike. The conservative press has often defended Israel following socialist and communist anti-Zionist attacks, yet the largest conservative daily, Eleftheros Typos, recently published several interviews with Maria Dourakis, a singer who publicly describes Jews as the instruments of Satan. The paper also defended Jean-Marie Le Pen during his visit in June 1993 to Corfu for a convention of right wing extremists, saying that he was not half as bad as most communist dictators, and that his message, supported by one out of ten Frenchmen, at least deserved to be heard.
EXTREME RIGHT ORGANIZATIONS AND THE PRESS
In spite of the blow that organized antisemitism received after the Nazi defeat in 1945, it has survived and made a resurgence in Greece during the 1980s. In recent years, many antisemites have sought legitimacy under the banner of “political” parties or organizations that seem to have the promotion of antisemitism as their sole purpose. Most of these groups are at the extreme right of the political spectrum; only a few are neo-Nazi. Three types of antisemitic organizations are presented here, quite different from each other in ideology and practice, though they are united in a conscious effort to alienate the Jews and contribute to the creation of an antisemitic climate in Greece.
Religious antisemitism briefly entered the political arena as part of Christian Democracy, a party that has little in common with its European counterparts of the same name. Its only success was the one-time election of party leader Nikos Psaroudakis to the Greek Parliament in 1985, achieved through a cooperation agreement with the Socialist PASOK party. Psaroudakis is one of the most notorious of Greek antisemites, whose activities have included the translation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion into Greek. The party promised to lead the Orthodox Christian country away from the miserable traps of Zionism and its satanic, antichrist instruments, the Jews, and incarnated religious antisemitism into a political form, hoping for greater exposure and the legitimacy that party labels often provide.
A recent article in the Greek daily Eleftheros Typos looked at the origins of the right extremist groups in Greece.49 The group “August 4th” (named after the date of the establishment of a dictatorship in Greece in 1936) is considered by the author to be the precursor of subsequent groups. August 4th was founded by Kostas Plevris in 1960, and its members were appointed to various (mostly minor) government posts following the 1967 military coup. The group maintained ties to Italian neo-fascist groups and to Libya's Muamar Kadafi (who had once trained in Greece as a young officer). Plevris was jailed for financial scandals just before the restoration of democracy; his group was disbanded and reorganized under the name “Movement.” In 1977, the Movement merged with Stefanos Stefanopoulos's National Party, only to withdraw two years later to form ENEK, or the United Nationalist Movement. The group, led by Andreas Dendrinos managed to take control of ENEK's publishing house, Eleftheri Skepsis (Free Thought).
ENEK maintained offices in many Greek cities for years, and although spray paint was widely used by party members to make their presence known, the party itself kept a low profile. Its publishing house put out dozens of antisemitic books, including some which denied the Holocaust, and others “exposing” the many evils that Jews have brought on earth. The party is no longer active politically, but the publishing house and bookstore are still operated by Vladimiros Psiakis and Andreas Dendrinos (who also makes regular appearances on a private television channel). Small private television channels, notably TeleCity, TeleTora, and more recently, Channel 67, have given antisemites a new forum, though these channels are not exclusively antisemitic in their programming. Kostas Plevris is one who appears regularly voicing nationalist themes, with antisemitic propaganda.
Another bookstore and publishing house, Nea Thesis (New Position) is also located on Hippokratous Street (neo-Nazi bookstore heaven), and is controlled by John Schinas.
EPEN was the first nationalist party to show electoral strength, gaining 2% of the vote in the 1986 municipal elections, though it later lost strength, and joined Ethniko Komma (National Party).
A party which does not hide its enmity for Jews is Ethniko Metopo (National Front), led by M. Konstas. This until recently unknown group circulated a large number of fliers and stickers in Athens, which read “Jews Killers of the People,” “Condemn the Recognition of Israel,” and “[Greece] Out of the EEC of Jews and Capitalists.” The party's organized propaganda attempts may be evidence of significant financial backing. Ethniko Metopo has not appeared in national elections as of yet, so it is difficult to determine whether it is a political party, or merely an antisemitic organization. It also publishes a magazine, Metopo (Front); its youth organization, headed by Dimitris Artzetakis, publishes Nea Tasis (New Tendency).
Antisemitism has always been the heart and soul of neo-Nazi organizations, of which Greece has its share. Most groups are small and poorly organized, given to decorating the streets with swastikas. Chrysi Avghi (Golden Dawn), however, is well-financed, although it is unclear from what sources.33 The group is headed by Nikos Mihaldiskos, and produces a weekly newspaper published by Christos Pappas. A few years ago, when the European Jewish Congress convened in Athens, Chrysi Avghi published a flier entitled “[Say] No to the Zionist Provocation,” which called the Jews the “eternal enemy of our people who have the audacity to speak of persecution and antisemitism.” People were urged to join the organization in order to “drive the Zionist snake our of their home.” An address for potential new members to contact was provided. The group is not a secret organization, but has offices in several Greek cities. In addition to fliers and red-black-and-white stickers bearing the group's neo-Nazi logo and slogans such as “Zionism is our Misfortune,” Chrysi Avghi also began publishing a monthly magazine of the same name. Nazi leaders have often appeared on the cover, while Jews have been the topic of discussion in the articles. A 1988 issue denied the Holocaust, citing several “revisionist historians” and other “reliable sources” and stated that the death of some tens of thousands of Jews in bloodshed which they themselves had provoked should come as no surprise.34 In 1994 the group ran unsuccessfully in the European Parliamentary elections.
THE ANTISEMITIC PRESS AND OTHER LITERATURE
Any reference to organized antisemitism in Greece would be incomplete without a glance at what is being published. The oldest and most notorious antisemitic newspaper is Stochos, which published the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in their entirety in serial form.35 As a weekly, the newspaper hangs in the kiosks for five or six days, therefore giving it greater exposure. It sells only a few thousand copies in all of Greece, and just as many abroad, but it is quite easy to find due to an aggresive distribution network. A front page story in 1987 called the Jewish festival of Hanukkah “a celebration of hatred against Greeks,” while a 1988 cover featured a picture of Israeli soldiers under the title “The Beasts Who Crucified Christ Are Now Exterminating the Orthodox.”36 In its pages, “Zionists” have been accused of leading the young into homosexuality and drug use, and the paper questions the allegiance of Greek Jews to their native land. Stochos at one point was engaged in something of a contest of antisemitism with the right wing paper Eleftheri Ora, with each reproaching the other for not being eager enough in its fight against the Jews in a near-comical swap of accusations. Eleftheri Ora's publisher, G. Michalopoulos, also publishes a smaller paper, Nei Anthropi, in which a typical front page article was entitled “Jewish Human Sacrifice,” and providing “proof” of the familiar blood libel.37
Well-known Greek antisemites have authored a number of books about Zionism and the Jews; Ioannis Fourakis and Andreas Dendrinos argued that there is a constant battle between Zionism and Hellenism, and wrote about alleged Zionist conspiracies. Kyriakos Diakoyannis wrote several books about the “human piranhas,” which were printed in several editions after having sold out.38 Ioannis Passas included several antisemitic articles in the scholarly encyclopedia Helios which he edited, and followed that with a book to further “document” his case against “Jewish Zionism, one of the greatest enemies of Hellenism, Christ, and Civilization.”
ENEK's Eleftheri Skepsis published an entire series of books similar to and including Dietrich Eckart's Zionism from Moses to Lenin, based on the English translation which had been published by White Power Publications in the United States that was based on the 1924 edition published in Nazi Germany.39
Other Athens publishers have printed the works of foreign antisemites, and such literature is not difficult to find in bookstores in the heart of the city.
Organized antisemitism has made significant advances in the last decade, and the current pattern points to further growth and evolution, particularly if Greek antisemites find additional funding for their activities. The best possible way to limit further resurgence of organized antisemitism may be to enforce the laws which currently exist against it.
Although few antisemitic incidents are recorded in Greece compared to other European nations, they are still notable.
Slogans against Jews have long decorated the streets of every Athens neighborhood, from the port of Piraeas to the elegant suburb of Kifissia and beyond. The medium of choice is black spraypaint or markers, although in recent years, stickers have become more prominent.
In the archives of the Central Jewish Board, one can find typical slogans: “Greeks kill the Jews”; “Jews to the ovens” (Thessaloniki, May 1980); “Deport the Jews,” “Bomb the synagogue” (Athens, March 1983); “Jews you will die” (Maroussi, April 1987); “Death to the Jews” (Kefalari, 1990); and many more, accompanied by a swastika or other neo-Nazi symbol. Some slogans demonstrate their origins among the ultra-religious: “Jews = Antichrist,” or “No to the new [EEC-issued] ID cards of the Jews and Masons” (Kifissia, 1993). Such slogans are often accompanied by others such as “Jesus saves,” or “Orthodoxy shall prevail.”
More serious acts of vandalism, almost certainly the work of right wing extremist elements have been known to occur from time to time, such as the incident that took place in Volos on July 26, 1987.40 Swastikas, threats, and slogans were spray-painted on the synagogue, as well as the windows of several Jewish-owned stores, one of which was smashed. In a letter to the police commissioner, the local Jewish community expressed fears that similar or more serious incidents might occur in the future, threatening the safety of Jews and their property. In an equally disturbing incident in 1989, a Jewish memorial was smashed by perpetrators who were never caught. The memorial was a marble plaque at the Lianokladi railway station in memory of 5,000 Jews who were forced by the Germans to build railway tracks in 1943, and were subsequently sent to their deaths in concentration camps.41
Such incidents are usually committed in the dark, but one incident took place openly in 1989; it occurred in Germany, but the protagonists were Greek. While the European Championship Cup basketball matches were taking place in Munich in April, the players of Maccabi Tel Aviv went to visit the site of the nearby Dachau concentration camp. Greek hooligans, fans of Aris Thessaloniki, were waiting for them there, shouting “Hitler served you right,” “Heil Hitler,” and “Jewish pigs, we'll turn you into soap.”42 To any one who has lived in Greece, the incident is far from surprising. Such catcalls of Greek fans towards Israelis, usually at basketball games, go unnoticed, but the Dachau affair was too blatant to dismiss. It was embarrassing for the Greek government, which swiftly issued a statement condemning the act.43 A day later, the Jerusalem Post stated that the Greek press had “unanimously condemned” the occurrence, but the condemnation was not always untainted.44 The large socialist daily, Eleftherotypia, for example, condemned the events, but also suggested that Maccabi was “glorifying the Zionist propaganda of the modern Israeli state,” and stated that Maccabi had political rather than athletic aims, in an attempt to remind the world of “Israel's superiority in the Middle East.”45
Outside of the petty attempts to discredit what was clearly labeled the “Jewish team,” the vast majority of the Greek press was harsh in its condemnation: many articles express disgust and rage at the behavior of the Greek “fans,” and suggested that perhaps Greeks were not as immune to racist sentiment as they thought or claimed to be. People tended to ignore such occurrences, or discount them as unimportant. Be it denial or indifference, the consequences were the same, and for once had received wide exposure.46
ATTEMPTS TO EXPOSE ANTISEMITISM IN GREECE
Attempts to expose racism, antisemitism, and xenophobia in Greece itself seem to pass unnoticed. However, when such topics are reported outside of Greece, opposition is strong and vocal, as if it were a kind of treason to admit to the “the world” the existence of such problems in Greece. Reaction against articles in the foreign press come not only from the government, but often from the Jewish community itself.
In April 1988, an article in Politis magazine touched upon a general aversion to the “antichrist” Jews, as well as prejudice against other ethnic and minority groups. It spoke of contempt, nationalism, a sense of superiority, and outright racism as characteristics that are alive in Greece today.47 In an article that appeared in the following year in the large daily Eleftherotypia, Andreas Christinidis wrote specifically about the phenomenon of antisemitism in Greece, focusing largely on the Socialist government's tolerance and/or encouragement of the phenomenon.48 Ironically, the article was published only a few days before the antisemitic incident involving the Greek hooligans in Munich. Christinidis denounced the ugly status quo, and foretold its perpetuation.
As early as 1985, Dr. Panayiotis Dimitras published a significant article in Foreign Policy in which he discussed the anti-Western orientation that Greece had assumed since the ascent of the Socialists to power. He touched upong the “latent anti-Semitism of Greek public opinion” and its expressions. Dr. Dimitras spoke of the notion of the existence of a “Jewish conspiracy,” the image of the Jews as “Christ-killers,” the comparison of the Israeli intervention in Lebanon to Nazi atrocities, and the “Nazi-inspired slogans that some Greek fans chant during Greek-Israeli sporting events.” Also cited was an unpublished 1984 public opinion poll conducted in Athens by Eurodim. According to the survey, most Greeks believe “that the Jews dominate the political and economic life in the United States and Europe [and] more than half of those agree that this domination harms their own country as well as other lands.”49 In response, Stavros Frangopoulos, Press Counselor at the Greek Embassy in Washington, D.C., wrote a letter to the editor citing Greek solidarity with its Jewish population during the German occupation. Frangopoulos also criticized the Eurodim polling firm, claiming that “it is not well-known in Greece” and its data is unreliable. Eurodim, founded by Dimitras, has published polls in numerous large newspapers and magazines both in Greece and abroad, and has conducted surveys on behalf of the mainstream political parties, a number of government ministries, the Orthodox Church, the European Community, and several academic institutions.
In subsequent years, other Eurodim polls supported Dimitras's original arguments. In 1986, Hellenobarometer, a survey conducted in the greater Athens area every six months, painted a grim picture. 57% of Greeks said that they did not trust the Jews; while 41% would avoid having a Jewish boss; 43% would avoid a Jewish doctor; and 49% would not vote for a Jewish candidate for Parliament.50 Similarly, a December 1988 Hellenobarometer poll found that 71% of Greeks had a “somewhat or strongly unfavorable” opinion of the Jews.51 A full year later, in November of 1989, the European Commission published a report on racism and xenophobia based on opinion polls conducted in each country in the European Economic Community. ICAP Hellas conducted the polling in Greece. 17% of Greeks (the third highest percentage in the EEC) reported being bothered by the presence of people of other races, religions, or nationalities; 44% were in favor of restrictions on the rights of immigrants. The questions included in the EEC's Eurobarometer poll were far broader in scope and content in order to cover issues applicable to all twelve countries, and did not include questions about specific minority groups.52
Shortly after the 1986 Eurodim poll, New York Mayor Ed Koch wrote an article in the New York Post in response to the bombing of the statue of President Truman in Athens, and the Greek government's decision not to re-erect it. Koch stated that the government's action was an indication that Greece was moving away from democratic principles, and that “other symptoms” pointed in that direction as well. “Other symptoms” referred to antisemitism, and the mayor cited the antisemitic outburst by Athens Mayor Dimitras Beis, the 1984 Eurodim poll cited by Dimitras in Foreign Policy, and insinuated that Greek attitudes towards Jews may have contributed to the murder of Greek Jews by the Germans during World War II.53 In reaction to this, the Greek press especially disputed the claim that Greek antisemitism may have facilitated the Holocaust in Greece, and spoke of a “hidden agenda” and deliberate attempt by Koch to harm Greece. The Central Jewish Board also condemned Koch's position, and vehemently denied the existence of antisemitism in Greece. It disputed the results of the 1984 Eurodim poll on grounds that “a sample of 500 cannot possibly be representative of the population.” This reaction is surprising, given the fact that Koch's comments were both careless and tactless in tone. Nonetheless, much of what the mayor stated was quite accurate, and it would have been far more constructive had it been presented in an appropriate manner.
Generally speaking, denial is still the most common way of dealing with the question of antisemitism in Greece. Those who have had the courage to report on it, mostly Greek journalists, deserve praise, for recognizing a problem is the first step in finding solutions. Yet the existence of antisemitism in Greece is still disputed, even by the leadership of the Jewish community, which has attempted to keep a low profile in Greek society. Any attempts at exposing Greek antisemitism have met with sturdy opposition.
LINKS BETWEEN TERRORISM AND ANTISEMITISM
The few well-known terrorist organizations that currently operate in Greece are very proficient; their targets have included notable politicians, foreign diplomats, army personnel, and foreign corporations. There have been only a few narrow escapes, and no group members have been identified or arrested. Proclamations issued following a hit have fiercely attacked the United States, capitalism and imperialism. The two most notorious guerilla groups that have operated successfully in Greece at the ELA (People's Revolutionary Struggle) and 17N (“November 17,” named after the date of the revolt against the military dictatorship that power following the 1967 coup).
A five-page statement issued by ELA in 1982 was indicative of the group's antisemitic, as well as anti-Israel, stance. Issued following the bombing of three American banks, a company importing Israeli-made solar systems, and a Jewish-owned travel agency, it referred to Israel as a “criminal religious state,” which is a creation of the Americans and the world capitalist-imperialist system. It warned against those who “sometimes present themselves as Israelis and sometimes as Greeks...and maintain separate communities, schools, churches, representatives, rabbis, summer camps...and even a separate place for their corpses.” It further attacked the existence of separate Jewish communities, and the “incredible privileges” that they enjoy while serving the interests of Israel.54 Anti-Israel statements were not surprising in the wake of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The Greek Jewish community was alarmed by the proclamation's attack on the Jewish religion, institutions and way of life in view of ELA's proven ability to carry out its threats. Though operating separately, 17N has publicly praised the ELA for its revolutionary activities. 55
Links between 17N and Palestinian organizations was demonstrated in 1991, following a failed attempt to bomb the British consulate in Patras. Four Palestinians were arrested in Thessaloniki; the weapons in their possession were shown to be identical to those used by 17N. Continuing interrogations further indicated that some terrorist strikes in Greece may have been carried out by Arab terrorists rather than Greek groups who proclaimed themselves responsible.56 Thus, support shown by Greek terrorists for their Palestinian counterparts was not merely ideological, but the result of cooperation in obtaining arms and in making attacks on targets of common interest. 17N later blamed the Patras explosion on the Israeli Mossad, which they claimed was attempting to frame the Arabs. The groups expressed solidarity with the Palestinians, whom the conservative government, they claimed, was trying to drive out of Greece, under orders from “chief Zionist George Bush.”57
Although there can be no doubt that antisemitism exists in Greece, few major antisemitic incidents have been noted in the country. In comparison with other European countries where antisemitic movements have gained substantial support, the situation in Greece is better. Still, it would be a mistake to discount the severity of the problem; the recent growth of the phenomenon is worrisome, and should be dealt with decisively before it can acquire menacing proportions.
Among possible short-term solutions is the strict enforcement of existing legislation that protects minorities. Antisemitic texts should be removed from state schoolbooks. Political parties should isolate those within their ranks who engage in antisemitic behavior, and the church could be more outspoken in condemning those who attack Jews in the name of Christianity.
Long-term solutions include the fostering of understanding and religious tolerance. Political interests that make Jews a scapegoat must be exposed for what they are and be done away with. Condemnation of antisemitism must take place consistently, not only in theory but also in praxis. Much can be accomplished though education, which is where the greatest challenge lies.
in transportation and telecommunications and the phenomenon of economic
globalization are overriding traditional European religious, linguistic,
cultural, political, and socioeconomic boundaries. At the same time, increased
exposure to “foreign elements” has resulted in a vigorous resurgence of
nationalism and antisemitism. Greater integration in the world community
is inevitable, and people must learn to respect diversity if they are to
avoid conflicts of untold magnitude and consequences.
1. This essay is based
on a more extensive study of contemporary Greek antisemitism presented
to the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism,
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
2. Neoteron Encyclopedikon Lexikon Heliou, 18 vols. (n.d., was published in 1952/53) 6:455.
3. C. Papakyriakos, “The Antisemites,” (n.p., n.d.), 9.
4. Michael Molho, “In Memoriam,” (Thessaloniki: Jewish Community of Thessaloniki, 1974), 120.
5. Rabbi Sabethai, “Jews and Christians” in Chronicles (Central Jewish Board of Greece, 1981).
6. Institute of Jewish Affairs, report compiled by Ruth Oster, August 1975.
7. Central Jewish Board Information Bulletin, 1 March 1990.
8. Metropolitan Augustine Kantiotis, sermon, audiocassette recording, n.d. [?1988-92].
9. Dynamis 9 (March-April, n.d.).
10. Magdalene, Hevraikes Taftotites (Jewish Identification Cards) (Kozari: Analipseos Kozanis Convent, 1992).
11. Jules Isaac, “L'enseignement du mepris”, in “Jules Isaac and his Work” (Jewish Youth of Greece). “The Teaching of Contempt” was published in Athens by the Society of Friends.
12. Rabbi Sabethai, “Jews and Christians” in Chronicles (Central Jewish Board of Greece, 1981).
13. “Antisemitic Texts in Schoolbooks,” in Central Jewish Board of Greece Information Bulletin, 1 July 1988. The CJB is the governing body of the Jewish Communities in Greece, formally affiliated with the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, but autonomous in administration.
14. N. Gregoriadis, D. Karvelis, C. Milionis, et al, Modern Greek Literature Texts, 4th ed. (Athens: OEDV, 1985), 263. The CJB asked Minister Apostolos Kaklamanis to overrule the decision of the Pedagogical Institute to continue publication of the Karyotakis poem, but the minister claimed that the Institute is “an independent board beyond the Ministry's direct control.” CJB, “Antisemitic Texts.”
15. Pedagogical Institute document 1588/23.5.1988.
16. Law 927, Paper of the Government of the Hellenic Republic, 139, vol. 1, (18 June 1979).
18. Law 1419, Paper of the Government of the Hellenic Republic, 28, vol. 1 (14 March 1984).
19. The case was decided by the Protodikeion Harakleiou on 14 September 1984. The opinion was published on 21 September 1984.
20. Crete Court of Appeals decision 354 of 1987.
21.Chronicles, March 1981.
22. Yiannis Loulis, “Antisemitism Resurrected in the Deliberate Anti-Jewish Raving,” Mesimvrini, 28 July 1982.
23. Yannis Loulis, “Antisemitic Incidents and Government Responsibility,” Mesimvrini, 10 August 1982.
26. CJB Information Bulletin, 1 July 1988.
27. Minutes of the Parliament of the Hellenic Republic, 2 November 1983, 951.
28. Spiros Payatakis, “City Council Holocaust,” Apoghevmatini, 29 August 1986.
29. Edward Koch, “A Modern Greek Tragedy,” New York Post, 17 September 1986.
30. “You Can Kill A Jew!” CJB Information Bulletin, 1 January 1989; the Washington Post article was quoted therein.
31. “Mitsotakis is Selling OTE and DEI to the Jews,” Avriani, 22 April 1985. The article, on page 1 carried the subheading: “Half the Staff Will be Thrown Out on the Streets So the Foreigners Can Eat More.” OTE is the state-owned Greek Telecommuications Company, and DEI is the Public Electricity Company.
32. Nikos Stamatiou, “Neo-Nazis ’Made in Greece',” Eleftheros Typos, 7 February 1993.
33. Petros Kassimatis, “[People] Nostalgic of the Third Reich in the Heart of Athens,” Vradini, 24 August 1987.
34. “The Myth of the Six Million and the Truth of Numbers,” Chrysi Avghi, October 1988.
35. Stochos 103 [n.d., marked “Ninth Year (of publication)”, late 1970s?].
36. Stochos, 7 April 1988.
37. Nei Anthropi, 31 January 1982.
38. For example, Aristides Andronikos, Judas Throughout the Centuries [n.p., n.d.]; Dionissis Chionis, Cleansing of Christianity from the Jewish Elements (Athens: Amilla, 1985); Andreas Dendrinos, The Problem of Israel, 2nd. ed. (Athens: Eleftheri Skepsis, 1985); Kyriakos Diakoyannis, The Human Piranhas (n.p., n.d.); Ioannis Fourakis, Jews, The Forgers of History, 3rd ed. (Athens: Grammi, 1984); Petros Vavalis, Israeli Neo-nazism, 2nd ed. (Athens: n.p., 1984).
39. Dietrich Eckart, Zionism from Moses to Lenin, 2nd ed. (Athens: Eleftheri Skepsis, 1985), translation of the edition published by White Power Publications, Reedy, WV, 1966.
40. “The Jewish Community of Volos Denounces Vandalism,” Tachydromos Volou, 1 August 1987.
41. “Racist Vandals,” CJB Information Bulletin, May 1989.
42. David Ezraty, “The Shame of Greek Munich,” To Mati, 16 (April 1989), a newsletter of Jean Jose Cohen.
43. The government statement was reproduced in the CJB Information Bulletin, May 1989.
44. Ezraty, “The Shame of Greek Munich”(see note 42).
45. K. Georgiades, Eleftherotypia, 6 April 1989, cited in Ezraty, op.cit.
46. A list of articles in the Greek press is given in the CJB Information Bulletin, May 1989.
47. “Some Racist and Other Significant [Issues],” Politis, April 1988.
48. Andreas Christinidis, “Laicism, Antisemitism and PASOK,” Eleftherotypia, 5 April 1989.
49. Panayotis Dimitras, “Greece: A New Danger,” Foreign Policy, 58 (Spring 1985).
50. Hellenobarometer Vol. 2, no.18 (March 1986). The segment on racism and antisemitism was published in English in Greek Opinion, Vol. 3, no. 5 (May 1986).
51. Hellenobarometer, Vol. 2, no. 27 (December 1988); the English version appeared in Greek Opinion, Vol. 6, no. 1 (January 1989).
52. “Special: Racisme et Xénophobie,” Eurobaromètre (Bruxelles: Direction Générale, Information, Communication, Culture; Commission des Communautés Européenes, 1989), 94.
53. Edward Koch, “A Modern Greek Tragedy,” New York Post, 17 September 1986.
54. ELA Proclamation, 2 July 1982, CJB Archives. The targets included American Express, Chase Manhattan and the National Bank of Chicago offices in Athens (representing “North American capitalism and imperialism”); D. Roussakis's firm which imports Amcor solar systems (as an agent of Israeli interests); and Solon Bernardout's Atlantis Travel Agency (“a cover for Israeli agents and assassins”).
55. 17N proclamation published in Avriani, 18 July 1991.
56. Petros Karsiotis, “Two Steps Away from 17N!” Eleftheros Typos, 5 May 1991.
57. 17N proclamation, Avriani, 18 July 1991.
Perdurant was born in 1946 to parents of Greek-Jewish descent. He has
long studied the history of Greek Jews, with particular emphasis on the
Holocaust years, and has published some related articles. The original
study upon which this paper is based was funded by a grant from the Vidal
Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, Hebrew University