70-year-old German woman Irmela Schramm is on a mission to rid the world of hate, and she’s started by spray painting hearts over any swastikas she sees graffitied in the street.
Irmela nicknames herself a ‘Polit-Putze’ – ‘a political cleaner’ – and carries round a can of red spray paint, nail polish remover and a scraper, in a cloth bag which has the words ‘Anti-Nazi’ written on it.
In an interview with CNN, she walked the streets of her neighbourhood, seeking out even the smallest of Nazi symbols and stopping to paint her hearts over them.
“I’m really concerned by this hate propaganda. And I want to take a stand,” she told CNN. “Not just hollow words. But to do something. I could look at that swastika and “Nazi Kiez” graffiti and say ‘oh, that’s awful’ and walk by. But no one would dare to do anything. Well, I don’t want to wait for someone else to do something about it.”
Her stance against neo-Nazi and racist graffiti is nothing new – it started more than 30 years ago after seeing a flyer supporting Rudolf Hess – a convicted Nazi war criminal. Disgusted by it, Irmela took out her house keys and scratched it off.
“I just scrubbed the hate away until it was all gone,” she says, “It was a fantastic feeling afterwards. This mind pollution was gone!”
Irmela doesn’t just stick to her neighbourhood, either – she has travelled across six other countries, and can spend up to 17 hours per week hunting down Nazi graffiti. She estimates that over the course of over 30 years, she has removed or painted over more than 130,000 signs and stickers.
Irmela, we salute you.