• Germany's news in English

Charity turns neo-Nazi march into fundraiser

Sabine Devins · 19 Nov 2014, 07:00

Published: 17 Nov 2014 16:18 GMT+01:00
Updated: 19 Nov 2014 07:00 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

It calls itself a little town with a big problem. Wunsiedel in Upper Franconia, near the Czech border, was a gathering place for neo-Nazis from across Europe who would make a pilgrimage to the tomb of Adolf Hitler's deputy, buried there from 1988 to 2011.

Despite the town's protest and attempts at stopping the march, the far-right extremists continued to turn up every year.

The 2014 march happened on November 15th, but this year, the group Rechts gegen Rechts, or Rights versus Rights, was on hand with an plan to turn the action into something positive.

Two hundred neo-Nazis turned up and unwittingly put themselves at the start line of a charity walk, raising money benefitting EXIT-Germany, a group that helps people leave the extreme right community and set up a new life for themselves. Every metre they walked, an additional €10 was put into EXIT-Germany's coffers. 

"We wanted to create an alternative to counter-demonstrations," Fabian Wichmann, an education researcher at EXIT Germany told The Local on Monday.

The result was €10,000 raised by the marchers completing their walk.

"It was an absolute success," said Inge Schuster, spokesperson for the mayor of Wunsiedel, told The Local. "It created something positive out of (the march), including the €10,000 donation for EXIT-Germany."

Schuster said that the town has been trying to push the march out for years. The municipal government even succeeded in removing Heß from his grave. Undeterred, the neo-Nazis showed up year after year to continue their solemn pilgrimage.

Photo courtesy Rechts-gegen-rechts.

Neo-Nazis took their regular route through the town, but found the streets painted with encouragement to keep them going, complete with start and finishing line.

Pink banners were hung about town with puns like "Schwarz. Rot. Geld." that switched out the "Gold" for the German word for money and thanked the "dear Nazis" for their donation.

Another banner said  "Final sprint instead of final victory".

There was even a table offering the unwitting athletes bananas to keep them going, with a banner that said "Mein Mampf" or "My Snack" in English, punning on the title of Hitler's autobiography.

Wichmann noted that only one banana had been taken, though no one could confirm if it had been eaten.

As they crossed the finish line, the neo-Nazis were showered with rainbow confetti and offered certificates of completion.  A sign informed them they had just raised money against themselves as they crossed.

Photo courtesy Rechts-gegen-rechts.

Story continues below…

The reaction from marchers turned charity walkers was mute, netting only one mention in social media, but that doesn't discount its success.

"They probably won't go away. The history of the town is too important to them, but at least we've created something good out of it," Wichmann said.

This isn't the first time Wichmann's group has protested against the neo-Nazis with humour. In 2011, they came up with what they called a "Trojan t-shirt" that was distributed at a nationalist music festival.

At first it simply said "hardcore rebel" surrounded by Nazi flags. But after going through the wash, the extremists found themselves with a tshirt that said "If you're t-shirt can do it, you can do it too: We'll help you get away from far-right extremism."

However, Schuster noted that the reaction of the town was "overwhelmingly positive."

"If there was a chance to do it again, we would," she said.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Sabine Devins (sabine.devins@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Long-vanished German car brand joins electric race
Photo: DPA

Cars bearing the stamp of once-defunct manufacturer Borgward will once again roll off an assembly line in north Germany from 2018, the firm said Wednesday.

Eurowings cabin crew union to strike all day Thursday
Photo: DPA.

UPDATE: A union representing cabin crews on Lufthansa's budget airline Eurowings has announced that strikes will last all day Thursday as ongoing contract negotiations continue to falter.

Hesse hopes to set example by building Iraqi orphanages
Refugee children in northern Iraq. Photo: DPA

The wealthy central German state of Hesse has set aside €1 million to build a school, family homes and an orphanage in northern Iraq, in an effort to help refugees there.

The Local List
10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
David Hasselhoff. Photo: DPA

Whether it be efficiency, humourlessness or a love of a certain Baywatch star, there are many cliches stuck in the heads of foreigners about Germany. But how true are they?

Fake Germanwings victim relative convicted in Cologne
A torn piece of metal at the crash site in 2015. Photo: DPA

A German court on Wednesday gave a woman a year's suspended jail sentence for posing as the cousin of a victim in last year's Germanwings plane crash and obtaining compensation offered by the airline.

Couple accused of torturing, murdering women go on trial
The so-called 'house of horrors' in Höxter where the couple allegedly tortured and killed women. Photo: DPA.

A couple accused of luring women to their village home with personal ads started trial on Wednesday over charges that they tortured and killed at least two of their victims.

After July attacks, govt drafts new video surveillance law
Photo: DPA

The Interior Ministry is drafting a law which will enable public spaces to be filmed for surveillance purposes as a reaction to deadly attacks in July, according to a newspaper report.

Merkel: murky internet giants distort perception of reality
Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA.

Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Tuesday for internet giants to make public their closely-guarded algorithms, claiming that they are not giving people diverse enough information.

Pegida leader 'paid court costs with group's money'
Pegida leader Lutz Bachmann. Photo: DPA.

The leader of the anti-Islam movement reportedly used money from Pegida's coffers to pay for two personal court cases, German media reported this week.

Anger as Berlin scraps Turkey concert on Armenia genocide
The Dresden Symphony Orchestra. Photo: DPA

Germany's foreign ministry Tuesday scrapped a planned symphony performance on the Armenian "genocide" in its Istanbul consulate, sparking accusations that it was caving in to Turkish pressure.

10 ways German completely messes up your English
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd