ATHENS, Greece (JTA) –The Greek government and Jewish community condemned the leader of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party after he denied there were gas chambers or ovens at Nazi death camps.
Speaking Sunday in an interview on the private Mega TV network, Golden Dawn head Nikolaos Michaloliakos said gas chambers were lies and claims that 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust was an exaggeration.
“There were no ovens. This is a lie. I believe that it is a lie," said Michaloliakos. “There were no gas chambers either."
His comments drew condemnation from the Greek government.
This "constitutes a distortion of history and a fierce insult to the memory of the millions of Holocaust victims," government spokesman Pentelis Kapsis said Tuesday.
"The Greek people have not forgotten that they mourned hundreds of thousands of victims of Nazism, including tens of thousands of Greek Jews," Kapsis said.
The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece called on the Greek government and public to "firmly condemn and isolate the forces seeking the revival of the darkest ideology of European history."
Some 5,000 Jews live in Greece today. The prewar community of some 78,000, most of whom lived in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, was almost entirely wiped out in the Holocaust.
"It is an insult to the historical memory, the memory of the 6 million Jews, our brethren, amongst whom there were 70,000 Greek Jews, who perished in the death camps of Auschwitz, Dachau [and] Treblinka," the Jewish community statement said.
The extreme-right Golden Dawn Party, whose flag closely resembles the Nazi swastika, received 21 seats in parliament, the first time it passed the threshold to enter the legislative body. It campaigned heavily on an anti-immigrant platform under the slogan "So we can rid this land of filth."
Michaloliakos came to prominence when he won a seat on the Athens City Council in 2010 and celebrated by giving the Nazi salute at the first City Hall meeting.