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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

On this eve of the Jewish New Year, we turn now to Greece where the Jewish population has dwindled to just 5,000. Jews have lived in Greece since the time of Alexander the Great, but nearly all of the Greek-Jewish community perished during the Holocaust.

As Joanna Kakissis reports from Athens, Greek-Jews now face a new concern. They're worried about the rise of neo-Nazis in the country.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: No one has ever doubted Mois Yussuroum's patriotism. As part of the Greek Resistance during World War II, he fought Benito Mussolini's fascist army and then the Nazis.

MOIS YUSSUROUM: (Foreign language spoken)

KAKISSIS: The other resistance fighters did not know I was Jewish, says Yussuroum, who's now 94. His superiors had given him a Christian name, Yiorgos Gazis, in case he was captured. He served as a commander and received medals for bravery. But more than 70 years after Yussuroum and other Greeks fought the German Nazis, they're facing the rise of Greek neo-Nazis, the Golden Dawn party. Its members say they are patriots, not fascists. And that makes Yussuroum cringe.

YUSSUROUM: (Through translator) Their minds are sick. They say the Holocaust is a lie and don't believe Germans killed Jews. What can you do with people like that?

KAKISSIS: Golden Dawn is not going away. It holds 18 seats in parliament and is rising in public opinion polls. Its members use adapted Nazi symbolism and slogans and blame Jewish bankers for the country's debt crisis. And this propaganda is spreading, says Zanet Battinou, director of the Jewish Museum of Greece.

ZANET BATTINOU: It is heard, it is said, it is written. So many more people hear this and read this and are maybe wondering about it. What we are here to do is to offer accurate information, which has been double-checked and historically substantiated.

KAKISSIS: The museum is now running a special exhibit called "Synagonistis," or "Comrade-in-Arms," about the 650 Greek Jews who fought in the anti-Nazi resistance. More than 400,000 Greeks died during the Nazi occupation, among them, more than 67,000 Greek Jews. Most lived in the northern city of Thessaloniki and were Sephardim, descended from the Jews Spain expelled in the late 15th century.

Greek Jews were some of the city's most successful merchants. They spoke Ladino or Judeo-Spanish, say Erika Perahia-Zemour, curator of the city's Jewish museum.

ERIKA PERAHIA-ZEMOUR: It was very easy to recognize a Jew. Only young Jews spoke Greek. The Greek, they kept a small accent.

KAKISSIS: Their accents gave them away to the Nazis who deported them to die in concentration camps.

ROSINA ASSER-PARDO: (Singing in foreign language)

KAKISSIS: Some Greek-Jewish children escaped by hiding in the homes of Greek Christians. Rosina Asser-Pardo was a third grader in pigtails when her family went into hiding. In this recent documentary, she recalls emerging after 548 days and discovering Thessaloniki had become a city of ghosts.

ASSER-PARDO: (Through translator) They counted us, and there were only 70 Jews left from a community of 55,000 people. And there was this enormous feeling of loneliness.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing in foreign language)

KAKISSIS: The 1,500 Greek Jews who remain in Thessaloniki keep their traditions alive. The community's choir sings in Ladino. The choir's CD features children from the local Jewish elementary school singing "Eight Candles," a Hanukkah song.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing in foreign language)

KAKISSIS: But in Athens on July 24th, another song was heard - a Greek version of the Horst Wessel song, a Nazi anthem. The Golden Dawn party blared it outside its headquarters while handing out food to Greeks only. Party supporters have attacked African and South Asian immigrants, claiming they're all in Greece illegally. The violence scares Orietta Treveza, a Greek-Jewish educator with three young children.

ORIETTA TREVEZA: We think that we are next. It's not going to end with the immigrants.

MARIOS SOUSIS: (Foreign language spoken)

KAKISSIS: This could only end with Golden Dawn destroying Greece, says Marios Sousis, Treveza's 75-year-old father-in-law. Sousis is descended from Jews who have lived in Greece for more than 2,000. He was hidden during the war. His father is thought to have died at Auschwitz.

ANNITA: (Foreign language spoken)

KAKISSIS: Sousis lives outside Athens, near the sea, where he rows a small, weathered boat with his granddaughters, Annita and Linda.

ANNITA: (Singing in foreign language)

KAKISSIS: Annita is 14 and loves to sing Greek ballads. She wants to be a music teacher but, like other young people, worries that the post-austerity Greek economy will just keep sinking. Her parents talk about moving to Israel for work. But she wants to stay in her homeland.

ANNITA: (Foreign language spoken)

KAKISSIS: I am so attached to this land, and I wouldn't want to go anywhere else, for any reason, she says. I want to do whatever I can to save my country.

ANNITA: (Singing in foreign language)

KAKISSIS: For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis in Athens.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing in foreign language)

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