Filmmaker Captures Unguarded Racist Hatred of Greece's Hostile Golden Dawn Party

Konstantinos Georgousis' film show group's fury over the immigrant community.

August 13, 2013, 1:26 PM

Aug. 13, 2013— -- In Greece, a country crippled by debt and years of failed leadership, a young filmmaker went inside the hate-fueled, rebellious political party known as "Golden Dawn" to capture its members' vocal hostility against immigrants in a society on the brink.

Greece's ancient cities, where tourists can wander the shadows of the Acropolis and marvel at the origins of democracy and philosophy, are also dotted with shuttered businesses, gutted neighborhoods and vast unemployment -- more than 60 percent of young people are without a job -- causing widespread public fury.

Out of that vacuum of rage and suspicion marched Golden Dawn from the far-right, looking for someone to blame.

"Nightline's" Bill Weir talked with filmmaker Konstantinos Georgousis, who managed to charm his way into the inner circle of Golden Dawn. Over the course of a month, Georgousis captured unguarded moments of the group's sheer racist hatred toward Greece's immigrant community in his film, "The Cleaners."

"These parasites drink our water, eat our food and breathe our Greek air," Alekos Plomaritis, who was a Golden Dawn candidate running for office at the time, says in Greek, translated into English, in Georgousis' film. "They are primitive, miasmas and subhuman. We don't care about their existence. We are ready to open the ovens. We will turn them into soap, but we may get a rash."

To the "Golden Dawn" members, their country's problems lie with anyone with dark skin and foreign blood. As tensions rise, immigrants in Athens are faced with resentment in graffiti on building walls and from the fluttering red and black Golden Dawn flags that feature an ancient Greek geometric-era symbol.

"It kind of resembles the swastika," Georgousis said.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that analyzes and evaluates migration and refugee policies across the world, analysts believe that between 1 million and 1.3 million immigrants live in Greece, making up as much as 10 percent of the population. However, the institute notes that the nation's economic crisis and growing xenophobia against immigrants have reduced immigrant registration in recent years.

There were 447,658 registered foreign-born citizens in 2011, according to the Migration Policy Institute, but it is estimated that more than 1 million immigrants arrived in Greece over the past two decades.

While Georgousis' film sparked outrage among a vast majority of Greeks and prompted an investigation by Greece's criminal prosecutor, Golden Dawn is considered the country's third most popular and fastest-growing political party. It won 18 of the 300 seats in parliament during the last election.

"There is a part of the Greek elite that supports the party," Georgousis said. "Maybe they think that is the future, you know, they will have more power so it's good to have good relations. I don't know exactly, but it's clear that [Golden Dawn has] a partial support from the elite."

Georgousis said that instead of embracing the thoughtful democratic legacy of Plato and Aristotle, today's young Greeks are more enamored with the legends of warrior Spartans.

Violent, race-based attacks are becoming more frequent and it's likely that many go unreported.

Golden Dawn has held marches through the stalls of immigrant merchants, demanding work papers and trashing wares. The party holds "Greek Only" food drives. One ended with riot police and tear gas. The group also offers natives strong-arm "security" to those living among "outsiders."

Golden Dawn members have been known to bar immigrants from churches and kick immigrant children out of playgrounds.

"Leave now, no more ball game, that's it, leave the place," one Golden Dawn member is seen yelling at a group of children on a playground in Georgousis' film. "The soil has to be replaced because of the filth. If you touch it you will get a rash. The filth of foreigners."

Recently, Golden Dawn has signaled it would like to go global, and has opened offices in Germany and Australia. A website has appeared claiming to be the hub for the group's New York City office.

"Nightline's" repeated email requests for interviews from Golden Dawn members were met with an angry "No."

"You can blame your fellow mainstream media cohorts for that, who do nothing but shamelessly slander us," one email response to "Nightline" said.

But as Georgousis' film shows, Golden Dawn sees the blame for Greece's woes spreading far beyond its shores. The party claims the economic crisis in Greece is not just caused by immigrants in Athens, but in Chicago and "especially New York," Georgousis said.

"They keep posting articles that, 'it's the Jewish capital that has brought Greece to this point, which is located in New York,'" he said.

Georgousis said not just Americans but "every logical human being" should be worried about Golden Dawn and the party's negative influence.

"They already have 7 percent [of the population] in Greece. They could get more, but imagine with the 7 percent they already have, they are causing a lot of trouble," he said.

"I think if you care about democracy, whether you are American, Greek, Israeli, German or whatever, in any place on the planet, we should stop people like them."

ABC News' Lauren Effron contributed to this report