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Why this badass 70-year-old is waging a one-woman war against Nazi graffiti.

'I want to prevent you from accepting dangerous and ever-present racism and hate as inevitable.'

Why this badass 70-year-old is waging a one-woman war against Nazi graffiti.

70-year-old Irmela Schramm has a knack for spotting hateful graffiti.

She calls herself "Polit-Plutz" (which she says means "political cleaner" in German) because that's exactly what she does. Schramm spends her days walking the streets of Berlin, seeking out racist, neo-Nazi messages scrawled on public surfaces and covering them up.  

Photo by John MacDougall/Getty Images.


"I'm really concerned by this hate propaganda. And I want to take a stand," she told CNN. "I could look at that swastika and Nazi Kiez graffiti and say 'oh, that's awful' and walk by. ... Well, I don't want to wait for someone else to do something about it."

She's fine-tuned her graffiti removal skills over the past 30 years, ever since she first saw a flyer in support of Rudolph Hess at her neighborhood bus stop.

At the time, she only had her keys to remove the message. In the three decades since, she's armed herself with more efficient tools like nail polish remover, a scraper, and a can of spray paint. She carries it all in a cloth bag that reads "Gegen Nazis!" or "Against Nazis" in German.

Schramm and her bag. Photo by the Associated Press.

Born at the tail end of WWII in 1945, Schramm became politically active in the 1960s when West Germany still had leaders with Nazi backgrounds. While she joined many anti-Nazi movements, according to her website, she ultimately felt she could make the biggest difference with her graffiti-removing vigilanteism.

At this point, she claims to have removed over 130,000 Nazi stickers and posters, and she spends 17 hours a week on average doing so.

It's not a glamorous job and can often be downright dangerous. Schramm racks up expenses for graffiti-covering supplies and regularly receives threats from neo-Nazi groups.

Photo by John MacDougall/Getty Images.

Once, she came across a graffiti message that read, "Schramm, we're coming to get you."  

While the German government supports her work, and even reportedly gave her the Medal of the Order of Merits in 1994 (which she returned when a former Nazi was awarded it in 2000), they don't offer her any financial help. When she worked as a teacher, she spent 10% of her salary on her efforts, according to the Wall Street Journal.

But she perseveres, and even collects photos of the hateful work she wipes away.

Today, she's collected over 5,450 photos of graffiti, and 1,100 stickers and posters, which she shows at educational exhibitions.

Photo by John MacDougall/Getty Images.

"I just want to shake you up," she told 16-year-olds visiting her exhibition in a Berlin high school back in 2001. "I want to prevent you from accepting dangerous and ever-present racism and hate as inevitable."

At a time when hate crimes are on the rise, both in Germany and the United States, more and more people like Schramm are stepping up to stamp them out.

Sign painter Olivia Trimble from Fayetteville, Arkansas, has vowed to cover up any hate graffiti she comes across and even launched a movement called #RepaintHate, which called on artists around the country to paint over racist graffiti when they see it. Two days after the election, this couple covered up hateful chalk messages with messages of love outside Hillary Clinton's headquarters in New York City.

As Schramm well knows, it's a job that's often thankless, but, at the end of the day, ridding the world of hate makes a difference and that's what matters.

"People tell me I am intolerant, that I don't respect the far-right's freedom of speech," she told CNN. "But I say: Freedom of speech has limits. It ends where hatred and contempt for humanity begins."

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

This article originally appeared on 11.21.16


Photographer Katie Joy Crawford had been battling anxiety for 10 years when she decided to face it straight on by turning the camera lens on herself.

In 2015, Upworthy shared Crawford's self-portraits and our readers responded with tons of empathy. One person said, "What a wonderful way to express what words cannot." Another reader added, "I think she hit the nail right on the head. It's like a constant battle with yourself. I often feel my emotions battling each other."

So we wanted to go back and talk to the photographer directly about this soul-baring project.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."