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How Irmela Mensah-Schramm Battles Hate with Spray Paint, Conscience and a Sharp Scraper

Irmela Mensah-Schramm, was born in Stuttgart in 1945. What she, like others of her generation, learned about the Nazi era was fragmentary. “At home, the principle was, ‘It’s better not to talk about it,’” she said. As a young woman, she grew apart from her family, and found southwestern Germany too conservative for her taste. After moving to Berlin in 1969, she taught children with severe disabilities and became involved in the antinuclear movement.

For the last three decades, and starting long before the current uproar over the stream of refugees that is invigorating the German far right, Ms. Mensah-Schramm has spent her free time — lately, several days a week — roaming the streets of Berlin, where she lives, as well as other cities and towns throughout the country. Toting a canvas bag with the handwritten message “Against Nazis,” she checks train stations, condom machines, cigarette dispensers, playgrounds, lampposts and alleyways in search of banned Nazi symbols, anti-immigrant catchphrases and political stickers. The offending items often lurk among “refugees welcome” notes, soccer club adhesives and the odd stick-on circus ad — often with encoded slogans like “We want to live” or “Punish child abusers to the utmost extent” and with web addresses for shadowy groups from the radical right.

However, she says her first priority is to remove symbols of hate that can hurt vulnerable groups. “It follows me in my sleep,” she said. “I don’t think I could stop if I wanted to. If I see something, I have to take it down.”

Ms. Mensah-Schramm said she reached a turning point in the early 1980s when she visited a concentration camp for the first time. When she came home, she vomited, but also resolved to make the same journey every year to commemorate the dead. She said that a few years later, in 1986, she was shocked to see a sticker at her bus stop that demanded the release of Rudolf Hess, the imprisoned Nazi war criminal. The sticker bothered her all day at work. When she came home that evening, it was still there. “No one had taken it off,” she said.

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„Sie nennt sich „Polit-Putze“ und bekam für ihr Engagement gegen Rassismus und Antisemitismus das Bundesverdienstkreuz. Dieses gab Irmela Mensah-Schramm allerdings zurück, als sie erfuhr, dass auch der frühere CDU-Politiker Heinz Eckhoff, diese Auszeichnung bekommen sollte. Denn der Politiker soll, so Schramm, Mitglied der SS gewesen sein.

Seit 1986 übermalt und entfernt Irmela Mensah-Schramm Nazi-Parolen, rechte Aufkleber und rassistische Graffitis. Letztes Jahr wurde die 72-jährige beim Übermalen einer Hassbotschaft angezeigt. Das Berliner Gericht verwarnte sie mit einer Geldstrafe, die auf Bewährung vorbehalten wird. Das Urteil sorgte für viel Wirbel. Irmela Mensah-Schramm hat Berufung eingelegt. Wir waren mit Deutschlands ältester Sprayerin auf Tour und haben mit ihr über das Urteil gesprochen.“ (arte INFO)


Posted: 1. Februar 2017