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.'

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."

More
Facebook / Mikhail Galin

Putting your pet in cargo during a flight isn't always safe. In 2016, the Department of Transportation reported a total of 26 pet deaths and 22 injuries on flights. Because conditions in cargo can be uncomfortable for animals, the Humane Society recommends taking your pet aboard when you fly, or just leaving it at home.

It's not surprising that one Russian man didn't want to put his overweight cat in cargo during an eight-hour flight from Moscow to Vladivostok. What is surprising is the great lengths he took to fly with his four-legged friend.

Russian airline Aeroflot allows pets to fly inside the plane's cabin, as long as the cat weighs under 17.6 pounds and stays in its carrier during the flight. When Mikhail Galin went to check in, he was told he couldn't fly with his four-year old cat, Viktor. Viktor weighed in at 22 pounds and would have to be relegated to cargo.

But Viktor was sick from their earlier flight from Riga, Latvia to Moscow. And besides, Viktor had been allowed to fly inside the cabin during that flight. The airline staff didn't even bother to make Viktor sit on the scales. Galin was unable to persuade staff to bring his fur baby on board.

"To all attempts to explain that the cat won't survive there on an 8-hour flight with the baggage and would haunt her in her nightmares for the rest of her life, she (the Aeroflot staff member) replied that there are rules," Galin wrote in a Facebook post translated from Russian.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Photo by Kelvin Octa from Pexels

Newborn babies don't seem to do much beyond eating and pooping and, of course, hiccupping. A lot. Parenting advice on how to cure a baby's hiccups runs the whole gamut. It's recommended parents try everything from nursing to stop feeding the baby so much, from giving the baby gripe water to letting the hiccups play their course. But when your baby hiccups too much, you shouldn't freak out. There's a good reason why.

A new study published in Clinical Neurophysiology found that hiccups play an important role in a baby's development. Researchers from the University College London found 217 babies for their study, but only looked at 13 newborns with persistent hiccups. Ten of those babies hiccupped when they were awake, and three hiccupped during their "wriggly" sleep. We have no idea how the scientists got any work done with all that cuteness lying around.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
via The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon / YouTube

Actress Kristen Bell and "The Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon showed off their vocal and comedic chops on Tuesday night when the performed a medley of 17 Disney songs, spanning nine decades, in just five minutes.

The duo started with 1940's "When You Wish Upon a Star" and ended with 2013's "Let it Go" from "Frozen."

Bell will reprise her role as Anna in Disney's upcoming "Frozen 2."

Keep Reading Show less
popular

Ask almost any woman about a time a man said or did something sexually inappropriate to them, and she'll have a story or four to tell. According to a survey NPR published last year, 81% of women report having experienced sexual harassment, with verbal harassment being the most common. (By contrast, 43% of men report being sexually harassed. Naturally harassment toward anyone of any sex or gender is not okay, but women have been putting up with this ish unchecked for centuries.)

One form of verbal sexual harassment is the all too common sexist or sexual "joke." Ha ha ha, I'm going to say something explicit or demeaning about you and then we can all laugh about how hilarious it is. And I'll probably get away with it because you'll be too embarrassed to say anything, and if you do you'll be accused of being overly sensitive. Ha! Won't that be a hoot?

Keep Reading Show less
popular