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Jewish group condemns remarks by leader of Greek far-right party

By the CNN Wire Staff
May 15, 2012 -- Updated 1548 GMT (2348 HKT)
Extreme-right Golden Dawn party leader Nikos Michaloliakos has been condemned over controversial Holocaust comments.
Extreme-right Golden Dawn party leader Nikos Michaloliakos has been condemned over controversial Holocaust comments.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Nikos Michaloliakos said on a Greek TV channel: "There were no gas chambers" in Auschwitz
  • The government and a Greek Jewish group condemn the far-right leader's remarks
  • Golden Dawn won almost 7% of the vote in parliamentary elections this month

Athens (CNN) -- A Jewish group in Greece has condemned the leader of the extreme-right Golden Dawn party over comments he made about the Holocaust in a TV interview.

Nikos Michaloliakos told Greece's Mega TV channel in an interview shown Sunday that "there were no gas chambers and ovens [crematoria] in Auschwitz," said the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, or KIS.

The politician's remarks come amid growing concern about the apparent rise of the far right in Greece.

Golden Dawn won 21 seats in the country's May 6 parliamentary elections, after winning almost 7% of the vote. Two years ago, it commanded only 0.28% support.

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Some members of the ultranationalist party, which proposes harsh measures to combat illegal immigration, have been linked with street violence and neo-Nazism.

In a statement, KIS urged the Greek government to "condemn and isolate the forces seeking the revival of the darkest ideology of the European history," saying Michaloliakos' position was an affront to the Greek people.

"It is an insult to the historical memory, the memory of the 6 million Jews, our brethren, amongst whom there where 70,000 Greek Jews, who perished in the death camps of Auschwitz, Dachau, Treblinka and the other sites of the extermination factory founded by Adolf Hitler," KIS said in a statement.

"It is an insult toward the survivors, who are still alive to bear witness of this atrocity. It is an insult toward all those who fought against the Nazis. It is an insult to the history of Greece, the sacrifices of the Greek people and the struggle to defend the principles of freedom, democracy and humanism."

Greek government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis condemned Michaloliakos' remarks in a statement Monday as "a distortion of history and a fierce insult to the memory of the millions of Holocaust victims."

Greece has been in a state of political turmoil since the elections, which saw voters fleeing the moderate parties blamed for backing harsh austerity measures for parties to the far left and far right of the political spectrum.

The country faces fresh elections after repeated attempts to form a coalition government ended in failure Tuesday.

The political instability has raised the possibility that Greece will fail to make debt payments as early as next month, potentially forcing the country out of the euro, the currency used by 17 European Union countries.

Matthew Feldman, director of the Radicalism and New Media Research Group at the University of Northampton, in Britain, says far-right groups are seeing a resurgence in parts of Europe.

Instead of open racial attacks, they play up a threat to national identity and criticize multiculturalism, particularly as it relates to Islam, he said.

However, while Golden Dawn gained strength in the May 6 election, another far-right party, LAOS, lost its small presence in Greece's 300-seat parliament as voters punished it for its support of Greece's austerity program.

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