Friday, February 22, 2013

Erasing hate

"A former neo-Nazi, who had massively threatened me in the past and later exited the scene, stopped me on the street one day. He took off his sunglasses, looked me straight in the eyes and said that he wanted to thank me for never giving up my fight." — Irmela Mensah-Schramm

SO MANY OF the world's problems seem overwhelming and intractable. It's difficult to believe that any of us can make any measurable difference. Below is the intro to a great story from NBC's World Blog about a 66-year-old woman who is doing so — all by herself.

A retired teacher's courageous crusade: Tackling neo-Nazi hate

By Andy Eckardt
February 3, 2012

BERLIN – Irmela Mensah-Schramm has embarked on her very personal "combat mission" almost daily for 26 years. Her weapons? A scraper, nail-polish remover, a camera and lots of courage.

Come rain, heatwaves or stormy weather, the 66-year-old sets out to battle what she calls "extremely disturbing" neo-Nazi and racist graffiti, stickers and posters that blight the streets of Germany's capital.

The retired special-needs teacher has now removed more than 90,000 stickers and scribblings.

Using a scraper, nail-polish remover and a camera, 66-year-old
Irmela Mensah-Schramm is tackling neo-Nazi hate in Berlin. 

"Even when I injured my leg several years ago and was walking on crutches, it did not stop me from removing the muck off traffic light poles, bus stops or building walls," Mensah-Schramm says.

Mensah-Schramm travels by commuter train to areas she believes are right-wing strongholds, places where xenophobic propaganda and spray-painted Nazi symbols mix with gang-related graffiti and the more colorful works of spray-paint artists.


Her "vocation" started with a single neo-Nazi sticker on a street light outside of her apartment in the upmarket Berlin-Wannsee area.

"One morning, I saw a banned Nazi symbol well visible on a lamp post and was appalled that people in my neighborhood ignored it day in and day out, without removing this trash," Mensah-Schramm recalls.

"Only a short while later, I witnessed an incident in which my Indian brother-in-law became the victim of racist bashing. This shocked me so much that I decided to act."

Click here to read the whole story.

1 comment:

  1. Wow - heroes come in interesting packaging, eh? She's astounding. That's real courage, especially in the face of the hateful attacks. Let her example empower us all to do something meaningful in our own communities!