When 28-year-old hairdresser Ursula Gresser decided to use an image of Adolf Hitler to sell her salon’s services and fight the political right wing in Germany, she didn’t think twice about it.
The innovative campaign featured posters and flyers bearing an image of the Nazi leader with a removable strip of paper above the lip which allowed readers to rip away his trademark moustache.
— sieghilde brade (@SieghildeB) March 10, 2016
The accompanying wording read “Waxing gegen rechts”, roughly translated as “Wax to fight the right”.
For every customer who paid for a shave, haircut or wax, Gresser and the Boderwerk salon in the city of Cham promised to donate €1 to Exit-Deutschland, an organization that helps right-wing extremists leave the scene.
Germany has seen a rise in right-wing extremism in the wake of the refugee crisis with attacks on homes for asylum seekers on the rise and the anti-Islam platform Pegida garnering international headlines.
And on Sunday, members of the right-wing populist AfD party backed a policy paper calling for bans on minarets on mosques and the call to prayer as well as prohibitions on full-face veils for women and female headscarves in schools.
“We wanted to show everyone what is going wrong here in Bavaria and all over Germany,” Gresser told regional daily the Mittelbayerische Zeitung.
But it didn't take long before Gresser’s plans hit a legal roadblock.
Two weeks into the campaign, prosecutors in Regensburg pulled the plug citing a clause in the German penal code which rules the use of symbols of illegal organizations.
“The reason (for the use) doesn’t matter,” chief prosecutor Theo Ziegler told regional daily the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The purpose of the law is to keep symbols of the Nazi era out of public view so that they remain taboo, he explained.
Ziegler admitted that there was a legal grey area in terms of images of Hitler. Images placed in their historical context were fine, he said. However, that was not the case for the hairdresser’s waxing ad. In fact, the advertisement could be misunderstood and it wasn’t clear from the wording that campaign was opposed to right-wing extremism.
Gresser has now removed all flyers and posters as well as deleting similar online promotional material.
As a result, she will not face charges.