Inside Golden Dawn and
Its “Model Chapter”
We translate an interview with a former member of the Greek neo-Nazi organization, published last week in ETHNOS newspaper, Athens. The insider lays bare the party command structures and tells of organized violence and racketeering activities by its local chapter in the Piraeus district of Nikaia.
UPDATE 9/25: Greek press reporting Golden Dawn has shut down and “emptied out” its offices in Nikaia and one other location, possibly the beginning of a “domino effect.”
Since the Greek elections of June 2012 a neo-Nazi party known as Golden Dawn has held 18 seats in the country’s parliament. Under its long-time leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos, the group has been implicated in dozens of organized acts of violence against immigrants, leftists, anarchists, artists, gays and others.
On the evening of September 17, 2013, Pavlos Fyssas, known internationally as the hip-hop artist KillahP, and six of his friends were surrounded by an estimated forty unknown assailants on a street in a neighborhood of Piraeus. Fyssas was stabbed twice, once near the heart and once in the abdomen. He died soon after police arrived to the scene. The police arrested a suspect associated with Golden Dawn, Giorgos Roupakias. Roupakias has admitted to committing the killing. The Golden Dawn leadership has denied any involvement of their party.
In the days that followed, tens of thousands took to the streets in anti-fascist marches and rallies held in Greece, but also in European and U.S. cities. The protesters adopted a defiant slogan from a song by KillahP, “You think I’m scared? As if!” For the first time the Greek government, led by the New Democracy party, opened an investigation into thirty-two cases of violence attributed to Golden Dawn. Since then, two top police officials alleged to have Golden Dawn connections have resigned suddenly due to “personal reasons,” according to the BBC.
In an earlier incident attributed to Golden Dawn in the week before the death of Fyssas, on September 12, an estimated 50 men in helmets and armed with clubs staged a surprise assault on 20 members of the Greek Communist Party (KKE) in the neighborhood of Perama, resulting in the hospitalization of nine victims. On September 20, Ethnos newspaper of Athens published the following interview with an unidentified former member of the Golden Dawn chapter in the Piraeus neighborhood of Nikaia, which is considered the “model” for all other Golden Dawn chapters. The interview is one of the first public accounts of the organization’s internal workings by a former insider. The interviewee implicates Golden Dawn’s Nikaia chapter in both the Fyssas assassination and the Perama attack.
This translation from the Greek is provided by Greece Solidarity Movement (AKNY.org), New York. Interpolations in the original text by Ethnos are in parentheses, those by the translators are in square brackets.
“You think we’re scared? As if!”
When did you become a member of Golden Dawn?
I started from the first [public] meeting held by the local chapter in Nikaia, which was called for via Facebook. They said they needed help because some Pakistanis were going to attack their offices in Nikaia. That was the first time I went. I remember it was on a Thursday and I had gone to the office asking how I could sign up. I believed in the ideology that wanted a Greece without illegal immigrants, but I didn’t believe in terrorizing violence and beatings. These are two different things. So, I went and signed up. They even issued me a membership card.
How does one become a member?
You pay 20 euros, show your Greek identity card, and they sign you up. The membership card states the local chapter to which you belong and your membership number.
Do you still have this card?
Yes. I have kept it, I have it at home. After I signed up and became a member they put me in the “nucleus.” The difference between a member and the nucleus is that the latter will do everything, no matter what it is, without a question. The nucleus started out with 20 people, but at some point it grew uncontrollably. It became a fashion to be in the nucleus. Giorgos Patelis, who was responsible for the [Nikaia] organization, decided to set up an “open” and a “closed” nucleus. The closed nucleus comprised only beefed-up members, only those who were close to him. Those who take supplements and get beefed-up.
Who belongs to the open nucleus?
Most of the members and the women were in the open nucleus. Later on they made further distinctions and accepted only men. When someone came and became a member he first had to participate in five or six actions, and then they decided accordingly and placed you in the open nucleus. With time you moved closer inside and if they saw that you were capable they placed you in the closed nucleus. That’s where, supposedly, they discussed their secrets. But these were never secrets, because there were people from there who would come out and spill everything.
What sorts of secrets were these?
What they would do. They would go hit at such and such an address, at the house where ten Pakistanis lived, or go out and write slogans on the walls, or terrorize immigrants.
Did they hit primarily immigrants?
They hit the Pakistanis just for show. Because I can’t accept that I would hit a Pakistani but afterwards I would sell him protection. Ask any Pakistani in Nikaia and they will laugh at the mention of Golden Dawn. The local chapter of Golden Dawn protects the Pakistanis. The chapter takes the clothes donated from regular people for the poor, and they sell them to Pakistanis who sell them at the street market and then give a percentage of the profit to Golden Dawn. This is not just my testimony, there are other people who can attest to this. They would collect donations for someone who was in need and pocket the money. They would say “I collected 40 euros,” but we would learn that at the counting in the closed nucleus, they had collected 300 euros which they pocketed! And they also paid for the cost of their homes and they lived respectably. Despite the fact that Giorgos Patelis and his wife are unemployed and the only income they have is his mother’s pension, they live in a big, comfortable house in Nikaia. He pays for electricity, water, maintenance, he lives respectably and he boasts that he can give his child a daily allowance of 15 euros. If you are unemployed you have to be getting this from somewhere.
Does Ioannis Lagos [a member of parliament and one of the top Golden Dawn leaders] know these things that you are describing here?
He provides cover for all this. Lagos is informed about everything. Whatever we would say, whatever we would do, Lagos knew about it. Comrades who talked about these things openly were beaten up. They had gone with proof and evidence and they were beaten up and kicked out of the party. They called them liars, they accused them of being undisciplined and they were sent to disciplinary hearing. If you saw something crooked and spoke up about it, you were finished, you were kicked out. So that he could create his own clique with his own beefed-up cadres, with the attack battalion, just as they wanted it to be, so that we would arrive at today’s result, the murder.
How many members comprise the attack battalions?
The attack battalions are his nucleus. When I left the party there were 30 people left, but then more joined whom I don’t know.
Are these the same 30 persons who were present at the Fyssas murder?
How do the attack battalions operate?
The attack battalion wears the black-and-white camouflage uniforms. They call them “city uniforms” and they are the uniforms of the attack battalion, and only the local chapter of Nikaia has the right to wear them. They do what Patelis tells them to do. When they go to do something he tells them to be prepared and ready, to wear black, not the t-shirts with Golden Dawn insignia, so that the movement won’t be identifiable, to wear motorcycle helmets so that no one will recognize their faces.
Which order that was given were you there to witness?
When the anarchists organized a march in Nikaia, Patelis came to the office which was filled with members at that moment, totally beside himself, and ordered “all men to the street.” And everyone went into the street, armed with helmets, shields, and whatever wooden clubs they had, because they normally hide those, they move them from house to house every time so that the police won’t find them, and they went out into the street to face off the anarchists.
Where do they hide these arms?
The last time, because they were expecting the police to show up, they had hidden them in Patelis’s car. The shields and the clubs were taken out of the office and they hid them in his mother’s car and at her house, not his. Another time, when they had received a warning that the police would show up, they ordered us to unload any of our “metal” [weapons] to Giorgos (Patelis).
Did they have weapons?
Yes, they had knives, folding clubs, flares, and I had heard about someone who had a gun but I hadn’t seen it.
Does Giorgos Patelis carry a gun?
No. He always had others to do his dirty business for him and he appears as if he doesn’t know anything.
Does this mean that the local chapter of Nikaia has undertaken the protection of the other Golden Dawn chapters?
Yes, it protects them. Wherever it is called, not just in Pireaus but Salamis, Perama, wherever there is a problem it will appear. Nikaia guarded the events at Thermopylae [where G.D. celebrated the anniversary of the famous battle against the Persians in 480 BC], and the attack battalion went to the opening of the local chapter at Salamis. When there were ordinary citizens around, the battalion engaged in some “good deeds” with the immigrants. They hit them just to show who’s boss.
Did you have any incidents on other occasions with anti-fascists?
No. Every time the anti-fascists [held an event and G.D. did not show a presence, the anti-fascists] would say, the chickens did not come. We would say, the chickens had not yet found each other. [Now is] the first time that it’s come to this point, that someone says he is an anti-fascist and they kill him.
What does one have to do in order to become a member of the closed nucleus, of the attack battalion?
You have to have a really strong stomach. To accept everything. You are a zero, nothing. Do you know what it means to tell you to get down and do crunches and then they kick you on the sides in front of everyone? You are nothing, and whatever they tell you to do you must do it. You have no opinion. It’s an order and that’s the end of it!
What do you know about Pavlos Fyssas’ murder? What have you heard from other Golden Dawn members with whom you are still in touch? What do you believe happened there?
I know that they had him singled out because he was writing anti-fascist songs. He had some lyrics where he was bad-mouthing Golden Dawn. Brave of him, in my opinion. People can write whatever they want. That doesn’t put a gun in your hand. He was antifascist, he was singing it, and they knew it.
There are witnesses who say that two Golden Dawn members were sitting at the same café where Fyssas was sitting and that they informed someone by telephone that he was there. Whom would they call, according to the hierarchy of the party?
Patelis. Everybody has Patelis’ phone number and whoever made the phone call either called Patelis or someone who would pass the information on to him. Patelis informed Lagos. And Lagos would have informed [Nikolaos] Michaloliakos. For as long as I was a member of the Nikaia local chapter, that’s how we knew that things operated.
So, what was exactly the line of command?
Whatever was going on, first you would notify Patelis. You never called Lagos directly. Lagos notifies Michaloliakos. Lagos is informed about Nikaia.
Does Lagos notify [party spokesman Ilias] Kasidiaris, [Ilias] Panagiotaros and the other members of parliament?
That I don’t know, but I believe he does notify them. In Nikaia we notified Patelis, Patelis notified Lagos and from there on they told us the OK came from the leader [Michaloliakos]. Only if the leader gave the OK do you go ahead.
Could something like this happen without consent from the leader?
I believe yes, it could be that the leader hadn’t given the OK. But not without Lagos. Lagos is the backbone of Nikaia. He knows everything. From the thefts, the thuggeries, the racketeering in Memou Square and Eleftheria Square, where they are still killing each other.
What do you mean by racketeering?
We sell “protection” to the shops. They [G.D.] want to take over from the Albanians who do that now.
Do you know how the Nikaia local chapter is financed?
No. I have only seen contributions from members. Regular folks used to come and bring 200 euro contributions.
What was the relationship of Giorgos Roupakias [the alleged killer of Pavlos Fyssas] with the Nikaia chapter? Was he Patelis’ “right hand”?
Aside from being in the nucleus, Giorgos (Patelis) had appointed him to the Nikaia five-member council, without elections or nothing. And Giorgos takes on only his own people in the five-member council.
What does the five-member council do exactly and how is that proven?
It makes all the decisions for Nikaia. Supposedly, it’s in the office record. They were keeping a record, I don’t know if it still exists.
There were archives kept and names are mentioned?
Yes. In the five-member council are Patelis, his wife Nitsa, Tsakanikas who was Egyptian and because he couldn’t be visible they put in his wife Anastasia, Roupakias, and also Vasilis, whose last name I don’t know.
Does George Roupakias have a party membership card?
Of course he has a party membership card. The moment you enter the Nikaia local chapter you pay 20 euro and you show your ID. He has his membership card and it must exist in the office records. They even keep a notebook, in which you sign when you receive your card and you give your phone and your address, your family status; the men state if they have served in the military and where. Real record-keeping. For those who are in the closed nucleus they have a special book which includes a photo. There is even a record of their achievements.
How many Pakistanis they have beaten up, how many gatherings they have attended, how many times they were present at organizing events, etc.
Who is N. Beneki who was photographed with N. Skarpeli?
She is Lagos’ girlfriend. He appointed her to the Piraeus Regional Chapter. She was thrown out from the central headquarters because she is Albanian. She’s [at Pireaus] under Lagos’ protection. I am from Greece and I don’t accept ideological training from an Albanian.
Did the attack battalions start exclusively from Nikaia? In how many incidents did they take part?
That’s what they called us. Attack battalion. They have been everywhere. In the [August 2012] incident at the Corinth barracks [a clash with the police during the transfer of illegal immigrants to a barracks] they had left Nikaia and went down to Corinth. They even took an underage kid along. The guy in charge sat back and took photos, without thinking where he was sending these guys.
In Perama, in the [Sept. 12] attack on members of the KKE, who was there?
The same people as at the murder [of Fyssas]. Nikaia. And I know that from witnesses that saw them in both places. And I’m talking about the 150 persons who departed from the Nikaia local chapter.
But they were wearing helmets…
If I see you every day for a year and a half, even with a helmet I will recognize you. As simple as that. They told me that from Perama as well, that Giorgos [Patelis] brought down his own people and they crushed them.
Why did they commit the attack, however?
Order from Lagos. Everything starts there. You will do this, that’s it.
When you had to get together, who informed you where to go and what to do?
Pre-paid messages would be delivered via Internet when an event was planned. Not in our meetings at the offices.
Did they send you messages to go somewhere for these episodes, beatings, these sort of things?
No. They never informed us because they were afraid that it would leak out. Usually they would call us to the offices to inform us about what would happen the next day and they would ask for the men to be present. They used to say, this evening the men should be there. And when they arrived they would find out what they were supposed to do. To beat up the Pakistanis, to paint on walls. The next day they would come and talk about it and applaud. “Bravo to such and such who beat up the Pakistani,” they would say.
What impressed you the most during the time you were with G.D.?
They had gone up to a mountain and an executive member of the Nikaia local chapter (his identity is known to Ethnos) said that on their way back, they came across two Pakistanis. They made the one lie down in the street and he ran up to kick his head as if he was taking a penalty shot. I was shocked. And he bragged about it. This is where the final countdown started for me.
Why did many people walk away from G.D.?
Because of the thefts and the thuggeries. Being a nationalist doesn’t mean I kill someone. Put the illegal immigrants in boats, airplanes, wherever and send them back to their country. Not to kill them.
How many members are in the local chapter of Nikaia?
It counts more that 5,000 members. A great many have come. But also many went away.
What would someone have to do to join the closed nucleus and become the right hand of Patelis?
To beat up Pakistanis. I could have also done it.
Was Roupakias’s wife in the Golden Dawn chapter of Nikaia?
Yes. She was responsible for the canteen. Patelis assigned posts and kept a record. He would tell us such and such was responsible for this, his wife was responsible for the women, and theoretically a record was kept, because he would issue a list with the posts. If someone hasn’t gone into the offices and thrown these away.
Panagiotaros and [G.D. MP] Germenis would come often to the offices…?
And Lagos. At least every Thursday when his girlfriend would do the ideological training.
Did they ask you to buy bulletproof vests?
Yes. And we didn’t buy the cheap ones. We would buy them from a store next to the Aigaleo police precinct. We would go and say that we are from the local chapter of Nikaia, and we would get a discount.
Are Michaloliakos, Kasidiaris, Panagiotaros and Germenis present on a regular basis in the extended area of Piraeus?
They greatly support Nikaia because they all call for Nikaia to “take care of things.” We go everywhere. We’ve also gone down to Athens. If they call us we go everywhere. When a church on Diligianni [Street] held a procession with an icon, they called Golden Dawners from Nikaia. They are everywhere. In Ilioupoli as well, where a theatrical performance was taking place, Nikaia was there. And if they are not dressed in camouflage uniforms they are in black.
What is happening with the police?
When the police arrested Patelis – we were not sure why – he claimed they had him involved in the case of a pregnant woman’s beating. Then a policeman from the Nikaia precinct who was his buddy (his identity is known to Ethnos) intervened and “cleaned up” the matter on his behalf. I am 100% sure that the cops also provide information [to G.D.].
What do you know about the members of parliament?
The lower levels don’t know anything. Giorgos (Patelis) knows. And if he feels like it, he informs us. The only thing we know is that we will inform Lagos, and we will get the OK from Lagos for anything to happen. Lagos is the one to expel us, always with the command coming from Giorgos. [Lagos] would say to [Giorgos], this one is no good because he’s a leftist. Like that, suddenly. And they expel him. Without telling you anything. And without knowing it you go to the offices and you’d get beaten up and they threw you out. One member they expelled, who’d had surgery on his head because he had cancer, was beaten up severely by five individuals. The excuse was that he had stolen one euro. And when he tried to complain to Lagos, they didn’t let him. And everyone who complained found themselves on the outside.
Golden Dawn denies that Giorgos Roupakias is a member of the party.
Golden Dawn would do well to look at the pictures of them that got out. The simple fans don’t go to the events. To go to the recreational activities you have to be one of theirs.
The nucleus of Nikaia is considered – as has also been stated publicly by G. Germenis – as the model for all other Golden Dawn organizations to emulate. The MP personally congratulated G. Patelis.
But that’s how it is. Everyone says so. When we have “cover” and hide our dirty work, we are the best nucleus as far as public image. They [the nucleus] are the ones who save us from the Pakistanis, so it’s said. As far as what the public sees. It is the one that will save grandma. But it’s the best nucleus because it does the dirty work.
What about the hacker you mentioned? What does he do?
He takes down the Facebooks of members who left and he manages web sites. He took down my profile, he stole the passwords and he took it down. And in there I also had a lot of correspondence with the secretary of the organization, in which I informed him about everything that would happen.
You would tell him the facts?
I told him about a gang of blacks that was rising up and asked him what should happen. He had answered that “we are waiting on an order from Lagos.” Later he told me that Lagos did not give an order. Later I learned from the guys in the area that the “boys in black” [G.D.] had gone and beaten the crap out of the blacks.
But why did they “take down” your Facebook page? Did you have material that could harm them?
On this profile I was talking with many Golden Dawners, the way all of us talk through fake profiles. It doesn’t have orders for us to do anything, that stuff they would tell us in person. On Facebook we would inform each other about whatever we would hear. Whatever the case, there must have been something in there that bothered them. I had a lot of pictures from Golden Dawn. From all of our events, without pixels on the faces.
What kind of ideology did they teach to you at the offices?
We are Nazis. They say it at the offices. We do not salute Hitler, however. But in the ideological training that they did, they would tell us that Hitler did not burn the Jews.
Did the Nikaia local chapter have other attack battalions?
In the Nikaia local chapter there is also an individual who is the head of Innova and the Centaurs.
What is Innova?
It is the mechanized battalion, we say, “the Innovas are coming.” It is the brand of the scooters they drive.
Like the DELTA [motorcycle] team of the police.
Yes, something like that. These are the ones who go on Innovas rapidly to wherever it’s needed. They get involved if there is an incident, or they all get together to do actions.
What is the Centaur group?
These are the under-age people we have at the Nikaia local chapter. It has the same man in charge as the Innova. We have one high school student who is an excellent student and very good in history, who does ideological training. But with facts and events. How this happened, etc.
Why did you decide to leave Golden Dawn?
Because they were telling lies, because they were stealing, and when some of us started talking about and learning gradually about where the money contributed by the members was going, which we had not known, about the clothes being collected that were supposed to go to the needy and they were ending up sold in market booths by Pakistanis, and all this was happening without our speaking our own opinions and they’d expel us without a reason, for me that was the end.
Did the murder play a role?
Of course. You can’t take a gun in your hand simply because he’s different. That’s what they taught us. To hate the Pakistanis, the other.
Do you believe any more in Golden Dawn?
No, that is over for me.
Interview by Ethnos newspaper, Sept. 20, 2013. Translation from the Greek provided by Greece Solidarity Movement, New York (AKNY.org).