Some recent posts have gained some substantial attention on social media, in particular Tumblr and Reddit. A number of interpretations, extrapolations and negations have been made on the basis of what I have written. I hope this post both clears up any misunderstandings, but also highlights some historical precedences not only in about the situation in Greece itself, but also in the discourses that is surrounding the reporting of it.
The posts that I have written on trans gender people being rounded up in Thessoliniki and the follow up post which gave an overview of the situation in Greece have been spread far and wide across these platforms and have also come in for some criticism that I am exaggerating the situation and that the detention camps which I refer to as “concentration camps” are the benevolent gifting of food, shelter and the essentials of life to “illegal immigrants” awaiting deportation rather than the harsh and degrading places that I have suggested.
Let me start by clarifying a misinterpretation.
As far as I am aware, no transgender people have been interred in any of the camps. Last month in Thessoliniki, trans gender people were being stopped, accused of being involved in the sex industry, detained at police stations for several hours then released only to be rearrested the following day. Some were picked up and let go several days in a row. The lawyer for the Transgender Association of Greece, who went to represent a client was herself detained and held for several hours. On release she attempted to make a formal complaint about her treatment, and the police station refused to take the complaint and she was forced to register it at another police station. Full details are available from the Transgender Association of Greece. This is the second time that trans gender people have been targetted: 25 trans women were also detained during the initial phase of Operation Zeus in August 2012 in Athens.
Now that’s out of the way, lets start by looking at some history.
I have described the detention camps in Greece as “concentration camps“. A term most commonly associated with the detention camps of Nazi Germany. The twenty two (see note 1) concentration camps in Nazi Germany were not designed to kill the inhabitants. They were called “concentration camps” because a large number of people were concentrated in a very small area. The first concentration camp was Dachu, established in 1933.
The concentration camps of Nazi Germany served a variety of purposes. Firstly, in those camps, free labour could be extracted from the inmates; secondly there was a desire to segregate sections of the population – notably communists and trade unionists – who may have caused problems for the regime; thirdly there was a desire to weed out “undesirable elements” of society – among them homosexuals, disabled people, Roma, and perhaps most famously, Jews. Above all they served the purpose of being a silent threat to the population, who feared that if they spoke out, they too might find themselves also interred.
Later, at the end of 1941, after Hitler had announced “The Final Solution“, Germany established the extermination camps (see note 2). This was where the majority of the killings took place and where the notorious gas chambers were situated. Only two of the original concentration camps, Auschwitz and Majdanek were converted into extermination camps, the others were specially built.
I understand that people consider my description of the detention camps of Greece as “concentration camps” is hyperbole, given the association that term brings but, quite frankly, these detention camps are concentration camps. People held in these camps sometimes have less than one square metre each, have to sleep in shifts because there is not enough room for them all to lie down at the same time, dozens share the same sanitary facilities and they are held in the mass rooms of up to 100 with men, women and children all held together for up to 24 hours per day. The camps are surrounded by razor wire, with armed guards and beatings are common.
It is not Godwin’s Law to describe these as concentration camps, it is simply calling a spade a spade, however uncomfortable it may be to do so. It is commonly believed that during the Nazi dictatorship in Germany, people were unaware of the camps. That is a complete fallacy. The camps were well known about and publicised as a means of keeping the population subdued. The German people knew. They knew about them because they had read about them, they were reported in the papers of the time, and although the mass killings were not reported, Hitler’s views about the eradication of Jews in particular was well known. The reporting was mixed in with the propagada against marginalised groups, and sought to justify their internment. What wasn’t allowed was reportage which was critical of them.
Now lets look at some holocaust revisionism
The precise number of people killed in the holocaust will never be known, but it was a hell of a lot. Rough estimates suggest approximately 12 million people, roughly half of them Jewish. That’s twice the population of Scotland. There is ample footage not only of the liberation of the camps, but footage from within the camps themselves which documents this, the testimony of survivors – and of course – a fuck of a lot of people that disappeared never to be seen again. But not everyone accepts this. And some of those people are in the Hellenic Parliament.
There were no ovens — it’s a lie. I believe it’s a lie. There were no gas chambers either
Nikos Michaloliakos, Leader of the Golden Dawn, May 2012
There are holocaust deniers on [this committee]
Ilias Kasidiaris,Golden Dawn MP, June 2013
(referring to a parliamentary committee on which he is the only Golden Dawn Member)
I do not care about what happened back then, but it was not a Holocaust. …. no pseudo-intellectual will force me to adopt the term holocaust; this term is unacceptable. And it is the Jews that make them force us to adopt it….These [other political] parties are under Jewish control and they pollute the Parliament. Their only problem they are concerned with is that we do not recognise the holocaust, the so-called holocaust of the Jews”.
Michalis Arvanitis, Golden Dawn MP, June 2013
These are all Members of the Hellenic Parliament, which comprises 300 members. 1% of the Hellenic Parliament, now have openly deny that the holocaust ever happened and I don’t doubt that more have done so in private. Now, admittedly, these are all members of the neo-nazi Golden Dawn party. Facists denying the holocaust; bears shitting in woods territory, you might suggest but more worryingly, the New Democracy MP and, as of Monday, the new Health Minister for Greece is also a sympathiser of these views.
Lets remember that eighty percent of the Jews of Greece were murdered during the Second European War. On 15th March 1943, over forty six thousand Greek Jews from Thessoliniki were rounded up and sent to the extermination camp at Auschwitz. Although commonly known, this information was only included in Greek school textbooks on the Second European War a decade ago.
Those who do not remember history are destined to repeat it
The lessons that we should take from the concentration camps of the Second European War are multiple. The concentration camps were known. They were talked about in the press of the time to justify their existence, along with propaganda about how necessary they were. You see this being repeated in Greece at the moment, where immigrants are described as a sourge, a source of criminality and degeneracy; abusers of women, thieves and parasites. Just like the Jews of German occupied Europe.
German fascism rose among a population which were not only hungry and demoralised, but also felt the sting of national humiliation after the Treaty of Versailles. The wished to develop pride in their nation, and they did it by demonising the other. The austerity being imposed on Greece at the moment is leading to hunger and privation among the indigenous population. The state is dispensing food, while in a chilling echo of Goebbel’s “Hunger Plan”, the Golden Dawn dispenses food to “ethnic Greeks only“.
The undesirables which were interred in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, were not only ethnic and sexual minorities, but also political activists. You see echoes of that being repeated in Greece now, where Kostas Sakkas has been held for 2.5 years without trial, a year longer than the maximum amount of time that he can legally be held for. He has now been on hunger strike since 4th June. The civil mobilisation orders imposed on the public transport workers in January and on the teachers in May – threatening them with up to four years in gaol should they withdraw their labour is another incidence of totalitarian authority being used to crush civil dissent.
No – Greece is not Nazi Germany. There are no extermination camps – although there is torture being inflicted on those who are detained, including electric shocks to the genitals and demands for sexual favours. But the dismissal of people on reading some of the material that I have written about the camps is deeply worrying. The suggestion that the horrific conditions are somehow justified because the majority of the people in them are “illegal immigrants” is concerning in the extreme. No-one should be held in these kinds of conditions; in fact they shouldn’t be being held at all.
The vast majority of the people who are held in the concentration camps are refugees. They are fleeing violence, political instability and climate change. Greece, as a signatory to the UN convention on Refugees, has a duty to grant them asylum. However the asylum system in Greece is fucked. In 2011, Greece granted refugee status to only 1,500 people – that’s half the number that were granted asylum in Afghanistan. They are not “illegal immigrants” they are immigrants to a country which is illegally denying them the rights and protections to which they are entitled under international law.
On Monday, Vryonas Polydoras, a member of the ruling New Democracy party and the former minister for Law and Order was asked in a radio interview if he believed that his party should co-operate with the neo-fascist Golden Dawn he replied
“Absolutely. We should be sensitive to the views of Golden Dawn which was voted for by more than 600 thousand people, will be voted by 1 million next time. We remember the Weimar Constitution. That was was the most advanced constitution in social policy in Germany between the Wars.
When later questioned by Alpha television on this statement he insisted that the Golden Dawn were no threat to democracy, that not all of its members were neo-nazis and that the channels of communication should remain open. His statement was officially condemned by New Democracy, but the existence of these views within it, and the fact that someone so senior can express them publicly is another worrying escalation.
- There are no exterminaion camps in Greece – but there are concentration camps and more are being built.
- No trans gender people are held in them – but an awful lot of cis gender people are.
- Political dissidents are not held there – but many have been threatened with gaol, and some are held illegally.
- The Greek government is not fascist – but is extremely authoritarian and is flirting with fascists.
This situation isn’t good. It isn’t good at all. You have thousands of people interred in concentration camps, with mainstream propaganda which demonises them; trade union rights and the right of political expression are being curtailed through the imposition of civil mobilisation orders, there are neo-Nazis sitting in the Hellenic Parliament openly denying the holocaust ever happened and senior members of the ruling party see no barriers to co-operation with them.
This isn’t Godwin’s Law.
This is the reality of Greece today.
The twenty two concentration camps of Nazi Germany were: Arbeitsdorf, Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Dachau, Flossenbürg, Gross-Rosen, Herzogenbosch, Kaunas, Krakow-Plaszow, Majdanek, Mauthausen, Mittelbau-Dora, Natzweiler-Struthof, Neuengamme, Ravensbrück, Riga-Kaiserwald, Sachsenhausen, Stutthof, Vaivara, Warsaw, Wewelsburg. There were also thousands of other smaller camps all across German controlled Europe.
The six extermination camps were Chelmno, Belzec, Treblinka, Sobibor, Auschwitz-Birkenau and Majdanek. The latter two were converted from their initial designation as concentration camps.