More

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."

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less

Empathy. Compassion. Heart-to-heart human connection. These qualities of leadership may not be flashy or loud, but they speak volumes when we see them in action.

A clip of Joe Biden is going viral because it reminds us what that kind of leadership looks like. The video shows a key moment at a memorial service for Chris Hixon, the athletic director at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018. Hixon had attempted to disarm the gunman who went on a shooting spree at the school, killing 17 people—including Hixon—and injuring 17 more.

Biden asked who Hixon's parents were as the clip begins, and is directed to his right. Hixon's wife introduces herself, and Biden says, "God love you." As he starts to walk away, a voice off-camera says something and Biden immediately turns around. The voice came from Hixon's son, Corey, and the moments that followed are what have people feeling all their feelings.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less
via Witty Buttons / Twitter

Back in 2017, when white supremacist Richard Spencer was socked in the face by someone wearing all black at Trump's inauguration, it launched an online debate, "Is it OK to punch a Nazi?"

The essential nature of the debate was whether it was acceptable for people to act violently towards someone with repugnant reviews, even if they were being peaceful. Some suggested people should confront them peacefully by engaging in a debate or at least make them feel uncomfortable being Nazi in public.

Keep Reading Show less

The English language is constantly evolving, and the faster the world changes, the faster our vocabulary changes. Some of us grew up in an age when a "wireless router" would have been assumed to be a power tool, not a way to get your laptop (which wasn't a thing when I was a kid) connected to the internet (which also wasn't a thing when I was a kid, at least not in people's homes).

It's interesting to step back and look at how much has changed just in our own lifetimes, which is why Merriam-Webster's Time Traveler tool is so fun to play with. All you do is choose a year, and it tells you what words first appeared in print that year.

For my birth year, the words "adult-onset diabetes," "playdate," and "ATM" showed up in print for the first time, and yes, that makes me feel ridiculously old.

It's also fun to plug in the years of different people's births to see how their generational differences might impact their perspectives. For example, let's take the birth years of the oldest and youngest members of Congress:

Keep Reading Show less