Updated at 10:10 a.m. ET on Oct. 9, 2020.
ATHENS—In 2012, life here seemed like a never-ending story of political and economic upheaval. The global financial crisis had badly damaged Europe’s economy, and soon after, Greece’s government revealed that huge amounts of debt had been concealed. The country’s economy went into shock, shrinking by a quarter, while its public finances required an international rescue and crippling austerity measures.
Waves of unrest would follow. At one point, major squares nationwide were occupied by an anti-austerity movement. The stage was set for political change, and in May 2012, Greek voters turned on their rulers. A majority cast ballots for what had been fringe parties across the political spectrum. The radical-left Syriza group, which would go on to win elections in 2015, shot up from 3 to 16 percent of the vote. But the revolt had a dark side: Nearly 7 percent of voters supported the far-right Golden Dawn. The stunning result handed the party 21 seats in Greece’s Parliament. Snap elections the following month effectively confirmed that level of support—an openly neo-Nazi party had joined the country’s legislature.
In quick succession, news reports cataloged attacks on refugees, immigrants, and political activists by Golden Dawn’s emboldened members. In one case, Egyptian fishermen were targeted; in another, Communist Party campaigners. In early 2013, Shehzad Luqman, a Pakistani immigrant, was stabbed to death while returning home from work on his bike. Throughout, the Greek and international media treated Golden Dawn—whose members were blamed for the violence but remained at large—with curiosity. Its deputy leader, Ilias Kasidiaris, became an item in gossip columns, described as “the playboy of the Greek far-right.” The party became normalized.