Tag Archives: neo-nazi

Insignificant men and significant things

I met Rochus Misch in March 2007. He was an energetic old man, living at a quiet, insignificant Berlin suburb. For his neighbours he was just Rochus. For the rest of the world he was Hitler’s bodyguard and the last survivor from Hitler’s Bunker below the German Chancellery building. I read a couple of hours ago that he died today and spent some time thinking about my acquaintance with him.

With Rochus Misch at the site of Hitler’s Bunker (Berlin, March 2007) © Kostas Kallergis

I interviewed Rochus for more than 4 hours, it was my first “serious” interview and I wanted to get all the facts straight. Rochus narrated tons of details from his life and his service under Hitler’s direct commands. The inevitable questions were posed. Rochus kept telling me that he didn’t know about the Final Solution. He was Hitler’s shadow, but old Adolf never went to concentration camps, hence Rochus never saw anything. I asked him to conduct a part of the interview at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin; he had no problem at all, sitting on one of those eerie concrete blocks talking to me about his duties, his service.

Rochus Misch at the Jewish Holocaust Memorial (Berlin, March 2007) © Kostas Kallergis

Rochus Misch at the Jewish Holocaust Memorial (Berlin, March 2007) © Kostas Kallergis

Rochus was orphaned at an early age and, after trying his skills as a painter, he  joined the army. He was a very simple boy who was discovering the world and the offer to serve in Hitler’s bodyguards came completely out of the blue. Suddenly, from a village boy in uniform that he was, Rochus was transformed into the bodyguard one of the world’s most powerful men. Even when I met him, six decades later, I could feel his awe when he was talking about the “boss”. But still, I’d ask the same question again, in other words every time, and he would deny that he knew, he’d try to avoid denouncing the killings, “there is no war without crimes and there will never be one” he kept saying. Why wouldn’t he just denounce the Holocaust? I kept wondering during the week I was in Berlin.

At his home, with his photo albums (Berlin, March 2007) © Kostas Kallergis

At his home, with his photo albums (Berlin, March 2007) © Kostas Kallergis

Was he a fascist? No he wasn’t. He was an insignificant boy who suddenly became significant. His life got meaning under Hitler. He could easily deny everything else apart from the importance of those few years he lived next to Adolf. I remember him being extremely reluctant of talking about his family. I later found out that he had little or no contact with his own daughter. She had found out from her maternal grandmother that her mother (Rochus’ wife) had Jewish origin, something that he never accepted.

Pointing the "boss", as if one could miss him. (Berlin, March 2007) © Kostas Kallergis

Pointing the “boss”, as if one could miss him. (Berlin, March 2007) © Kostas Kallergis

After the war Rochus spent nine years in Soviet camps as a prisoner. He returned to Berlin and had a quiet life after that, much like his younger years. When I met him in his 80s, Nazi Germany was the most vivid, most important part of his life. He wouldn’t get tired of giving interviews to journalists from all around the world, asking him the same things. How was it in the bunker? Did you hear the gunshot when Hitler and Eva committed suicide? Did you see Magda Goebbels poisoning her own children? How did you feel?

Rochus Misch (Berlin, March 2007) © Kostas Kallergis

Rochus Misch (Berlin, March 2007) © Kostas Kallergis

Several years later he published his memoirs. At the website for the book there was this quote of his:

My name is Rochus Misch. I am an insignificant man, but I have experienced significant things.

I am now thinking about Greece. And the rise of the extreme far-right over here. I think of the countless Golden Dawn voters that I have interviewed. Most of them are marginalised. They feel important when they participate in Golden Dawn rallies. They belong somewhere. Much like Rochus. They deny any connection between Golden Dawn and the rise in racist attacks in Greece. We didn’t see, we didn’t hear, if this is true it’s bad but we are not sure yet. Much like Rochus. And they keep supporting them. They turn a blind eye to violence, to populism, to hatred, to intolerance, to social division. And, most importantly, they vote for them.

Insignificant men doing significant (but wrong) things.

PS: I had travelled to Berlin for the production of a documentary about Rochus Misch for WarZone Documentaries where I was working back then. The documentary is available online here (unfortunately only in Greek).

The far right in the new Greek government

There have been few surprises when we heard the names of those who compose the new Greek government under Lucas Papademos. As a government of national unity, everybody expected to see which members of New Democracy and LAOS parties would be selected and for which posts. New Democracy reluctantly offered its members, afraid that the new government will fail and that this failure could be partly blamed to them during the next general elections (yes, Greek politicians are still playing their little political games at this very crucial time). In this post, I decided to focus on two members of LAOS. Not the South East Asian country but the Greek far right populist party of the Popular Orthodox Rally (laos in Greek is the word for “people”, λαός). They are Mavroudis (Makis) Voridis and Adonis Georgiades.

The logo of LAOS party

Makis Voridis has been very active during his youth years in the nationalist and extreme right part of the political spectrum. Here’s some biographical data collected from already published articles.

LAOS party leader, Karatzaferis (left) with Makis Voridis (right)

He graduated from the Athens College, the same school that was attended by Lucas Papademos and the majority of the Greek political and business elite. Soon after he became General Secretary of EPEN’s youth. EPEN (National Political Union) was a far-right political party which was founded in 1984 by jailed former junta leader Georgios Papadopoulos. He substituted in that post Nikos Michaloliakos who founded and still heads the national socialist party Hrisi Avgi (Golden Dawn).  “EPEN was the main vehicle for the the national, popular and social right to express its views, and it had elected a Eurodeputy. As a youth activist in the national, patriotic circle who wanted to be active politically, it was the only outlet,” Voridis has stated. He later enrolled at the Law School of Athens University and founded a group called Student Alternative. The Law School Students Union expelled him in 1985 because of his fascist activity. Greek investigative journalist team “Ios” (i.e. virus in Greek) later published a photo of Voridis from those events (9/6/2002 in Eleftherotypia newspaper). He was seen holding an axe. At a later interview, he justified it as self-defence to an attack by leftists.

Makis Voridis holding an axe (photo from "Ios", Eleftherotypia newspaper 9/6/2002)

In 1986 the National Union of Students (EFEE-ΕΦΕΕ) sued him for participation to a fascists’ attack against several Law School students.

The logo of the Hellenic Front party

In 1994 Makis Voridis, together with members of EPEN and ENEK (United Nationalist Movement), found the Hellenic Front party. Originally it was a small insignificant party (“the Hellenic Front’s insignificance illustrates the comparative weakness of extreme right politics in Greece” – The Guardian newspaper) before it disguised itself into more acceptable, but still far right, forms. Voridis headed the new political formation until 2005 when the party was disbanded and its leadership called its members to join the LAOS party. A year earlier, in the 2004 general elections, the Hellenic Front cooperated with another far right party, Proti Grammi (Front Line), which was headed by the most prominent far right politician and author, Kostas Plevris (his bio at Wikipedia is quite informative). His son, Thanos Plevris, is today an MP with the LAOS party.

LAOS party leader, Giorgos Karatzeferis (whose popular nickname among Greeks is KaratzaFührer) once said in an interview to Ethnos newspaper (26/10/10) in an attempt to justify why Voridis wasn’t the party’s candidate for the Athens regional governor in the 2010 local elections:

Giorogos Karatzaferis: I was simply afraid that Voridis has a history which I have managed to cover after considerable effort…
Christos Machairas (journalist): What exactly do you mean by “history”?
Giorgos Karatzaferis: About his relation with Jean Marie Le Pen, the axes and all the rest. I am just thinking that suddenly, on the 30th of October (i.e. a bit before the local elections) some guy from New Democracy or from Tsipras’ team (i.e. SYRIZA leftist party) can throw a video on the air and drag me explaining about all these things.

Makis Voridis is now the new Minister of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks.

Adonis Georgiades speaking at the Greek Parliament

The second prominent member of LAOS who joined the new national unity government is Adonis Georgiades. He founded Georgiades Publications and he is Director of two magazines: History of Greeks (Ελλήνων Ιστορία) and Greek Education (Ελληνική Αγωγή).

Adonis Georgiades presenting his books' show at TeleAsty channel

He later started his own tv show in TeleCity (TeleAsty) channel, which is managed by Giorgos Karatzaferis’ party. There, Adonis Georgiades presented a show about books which was practically a 1-hour advertisement of publications that glorified the Greek past. A lot were related to ancient Greek literature and several had historical or even political subjects. Eleftherotypia (mainly the Ios investigative journalism team) and Ta Neanewspapers have accused Georgiades’ show of being a means for the promotion of nationalist and nazi-friendly content.

Kostas Plevris' book "Jews: the Whole Truth", published by Electron Editions (June 2006)

One example was his repeated advertisement of Kostas Plevris’  book “Jews: the Whole Truth”, an anti-semitic publication containing outright praises for Adolf Hitler and calls for the extermination of Jews, published by Electron Editions in June 2006. Shortly after its publication in June 2006 the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece and the Greek Helsinki Monitor brought a suit against Plevris for “insult of Jews” and “injury to Judaism”. On December 13, 2007 the court found Plevris guilty of inciting racial hatred and handed him a 14-month suspended sentencePlevris appealed and was eventually acquitted on 27 March 2009; his acquittal caused international reactions that were very unfavorable towards the Greek judicial system, as the Greek justice system failed to enforce Greece’s antiracist legislation

In 2007 and 2009, Adonis Georgiades was elected MP with LAOS party. In 2010 local elections he was the party’s candidate for the post of Athens regional governor (after Voridis was thought to be too risky a candidate – read above).

On 11 November 2011, Adonis Georgiades was appointed Deputy Minister of Development (his sector of responsibility is Shipping).