Pogrom Punk: The Greek neo-Nazi rock bands boosting Golden Dawn’s rise

Golden Dawn members sing the national anthem in Thessaloniki (SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP/Getty)

The Guardian's Marla Margaronis begins her deep, and deeply disturbing, article on the rise of Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn with an interesting detail. The movement's favorite band is a group called Pogrom.

Just so we're clear, pogrom is a Russian word that originated in the 19th century to describe state-sanctioned mob violence against Jews. Encyclopedia Britannica defines it as "a mob attack, either approved or condoned by authorities, against the persons and property of a religious, racial, or national minority. The term is usually applied to attacks on Jews in the Russian Empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries."

Greek neo-Nazi music has its own charming history. Finding English-language articles from within this particular sub-culture can be difficult; most neo-Nazi groups, with the obviously significant exception of Greece, have learned to lay low in the Western world. But Greek neo-Nazi music fans seem to define the genre as "the Hellenic NS/WP skinhead music scene." NS/WP is the broader movement's self-styled acronym for national socialism (Nazi)/white power. Common shorthands seem to be Hellenic nationalist music or Hellenic skinhead. The music movement, which began 20 years ago in rock clubs and bars, now seems to moving into mainstream Greek politics.

Here's a taste of Pogrom's Hellenic nationalism, with a song titled "Rock the Homeland." It sounds like pretty straightforward, vanilla, late-1980s or early-1990s punk rock. But the Greek lyrics include such lines as "Rock for the fatherland, this is our music, we don't want parasites and foreigners on our land," according to Margaronis's translation. Other Pogrom lyrics insult Anne Frank and the Wailing Wall, a Jewish holy site in Jerusalem.

The video's visuals include the typical tropes of white nationalism and of punk rock. American viewers might notice a familiar sight pop up at the 1:20 mark: an album cover bearing a Confederate flag. That's Till The Darkest Hour, a 2007 album by Greek "skinhead" band Koi!Mpressor, and it's an anecdotal indicator of the way that this bit of Americana can sometimes be interpreted overseas. Two other Pogrom songs are "Auschwitz" and "Speak Greek Or Die."

The history of Greek neo-Nazi rock music goes back to a 1987 song "North Epirus" by the Greek band Last Patriots, according to a genre fan page that I won't link (sorry) because it's a neo-Nazi site. The song name is a reference to a region of Albania, bordering Greece, that Greek nationalists claim as their own. According to the site, this was the start of a trend of explicitly political songs and bands pushing the neo-Nazi view. 

Greek neo-Nazi rock seems to have mostly been about live performances -- and thus social gatherings -- rather than album sales. "Today the gigs are much better organized and take place much more frequently," according to the fan page. (You can Google that quote if you really want to visit their site.) "These last days, when suppression is becoming a boomerang against the state and the parastate and thousands of people join the struggle to survive and fight for the honour of our nation, it seems more than ever necessary to express this rage through music."

The former bass player of Pogrom, a man named Artemios Mathaiopoulos, is now a member of Golden Dawn. In July, he ran for and won a seat in the Greek national parliament. 

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