Although he didn’t vote for Golden Dawn, he sees it as “the only party that is actually doing things for the Greek people” — a cross between the welfare state and the Mafia. If he needed an escort to walk down the street or help paying for his cancer medicine, he’d call Golden Dawn. “They’re doing what the politicians should be doing,” he said. “There’s a hole, and they fill it.”

Authoritarian elements in the Greek government have a history of using far-right groups to outsource political violence against critics. Recent moves to rein in Golden Dawn came only after it grew too powerful to control and the state felt its own authority was challenged, explained Anastassia Tsoukala, a legal scholar. “They were bitten by their own snake,” she said. And Greece is not alone. Golden Dawn’s rise has parallels across Europe, and its significance should be of Continental concern.

IN September, I sat in a Budapest courthouse as four men with tattoos and shaved heads filed past in handcuffs. Called the Death Squad, the men were charged with six murders during a wave of attacks against the country’s Roma minority, including one in which the attackers tossed a Molotov cocktail at a house and then gunned down a father and his 5-year-old son as they tried to escape the flames.