Athens, September 23

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was criticised today for appointing a nationalist to his new government notorious for his anti-Semitic and homophobic remarks.

Dimitris Kammenos, a lawmaker from the nationalist Independent Greeks party who has been named junior infrastructure minister, sparked uproar earlier this year by comparing the EU to Auschwitz.

He is also accused of peddling a conspiracy theory claiming that 2,500 Jews employed in New York’s World Trade “skipped work” on the day of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The 49-year-old lawmaker mocked pro-EU demonstrators in June by posting a doctored picture of the concentration camp gate on his Facebook page. In the posting, the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Makes You Free) over the gate were replaced with “We Stay in Europe”, the rallying call of the pro-EU demonstrators.

The stunt caused outrage, with the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece launching an immediate protest. Kammenos, a reserve special forces captain and former lobbyist, later tweeted by way of apology: “The comparison may have been unfortunate but there is an economic holocaust under way in my country!”

The government’s top European deputy, Dimitris Papadimoulis, today said he was “not at all happy” with having Kammenos in the Cabinet given his “extreme and racist views”.

Popular writer and former left-wing lawmaker Petros Tatsopoulos had earlier said he was “ashamed” to hear of Kammenos’ government appointment.

Tatsopoulos then retweeted a posting from 2013 in which Kammenos claimed that Jews had “skipped work” on the day of the September 11 attacks on the twin towers.

In June, the To Vima weekly noted that Kammenos had also mocked the Athens gay pride parade as “pathetic”.

The Independent Greeks party helped Tsipras form a government in January when he fell short of an absolute parliamentary majority.

They returned to the coalition after Sunday’s election that saw Tsipras re-elected but with fewer lawmakers.

His personal website CV shows him standing to attention before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Athens, Greece’s most revered military monument.