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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.'

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."

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

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