Golden Dawn refers to illegal immigration into Greece as ‘the Asian danger’, and vows to fight for its own racial survival.
This common historic theme is among those central to the party which earn it the branding ‘neo-Nazi’.
Last year, it won enough support in elections for 18 members to take parliament seats in Athens.
As the economy got worse, the party had gone from tiny to the third-ranked political force in the country.
Founder Nikolaos Michaloliakos saw vote share go from less than a third of one percent to nearly seven percent. It is now surveyed at more than ten percent.
His behaviour and his party’s has been repeatedly described as hooligan-like: a Golden Dawn MP insults his political opponents calling them goats… as he is removed from the assembly he makes a ‘heil Hitler’-like gesture and he shouts out those words.
The party claims it is the salute of the late-1930s Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas.
The movement begun in 1980 became a party in the early 1990s. Michaloliakos tapped his fellow Greeks’ disgust with corruption scandals, and dressed his body language as virtuous.
“They called us ‘Nazis’ once, twice, ten times… but they can’t call us thieves! These hands may sometimes salute like this but these hands are clean, they are not dirty, they haven’t stolen anything.”
Golden Dawn describes its ideology as social nationalism, or national socialism. Critics decry its growing popularity in a country which suffered under Nazi occupation in World War Two. It distributes food to crisis-hit people, but exclusively those of Greek nationality.
The right-wing extremist members last year took vigilante action posing as keepers of order, demanding foreign street vendors prove they were in the country legally, and those who couldn’t had their stalls and emplacements destroyed.
Greece is the country where the most illegal immigrants first set foot when they enter the European Union – 80 percent. Immigrants make up ten percent of Greece’s population.