German woman devoted to removing Nazi graffitiBERLIN – Irmela Mensah-Schramm stopped abruptly at the crudely sprayed swastika on the wall of a pedestrian underpass. Whipping out a can of spray paint from her cotton tote bag, she quickly made short work of it, turning the neo-Nazi symbol into a nondescript black splotch.
For the 65-year-old retiree, it's all in a day's work.
"I scratched off the first sticker in 1986, at a bus stop in front of my house," Mensah-Schramm said as she ambled through the streets armed with her spray paint and metal scraper. It demanded "Freedom for Rudolf Hess" — Adolf Hitler's deputy, who at the time was still alive and in prison in Berlin.
"The sticker was there all day and I couldn't understand why nobody else took it off — people can be so ignorant," she said.
For 25 years, Mensah-Schramm has taken it on herself to clean Berlin of neo-Nazi propaganda scrawled by skinheads and other right-wing groups. She calls herself the "political cleaning lady of the nation" and during one of her recent tours of the city she said that in the last four years alone, she has scratched away more than 36,000 right-wing stickers.
She said seeing racist slurs sprayed on walls across the German capital with its atrocious Nazi past made her angry and she felt a personal responsibility to do something about them.
"Freedom of speech ends where hatred and racism begin," Mensah-Schramm said.
Since her retirement in 2006, Mensah-Schramm, who worked helping students with special needs, tromps the city six days a week, trying to track down all possible Nazi propaganda in the German capital.
Before she makes the racist slogans disappear, she documents everything, taking pictures of all the "evil stuff" she has found. She keeps several folders with hundreds of stickers demanding "foreigners get out," "Jews into the oven" or "Sieg Heil" — the infamous salute used by the Nazis.The number of far-right extremists in Germany are small — some 26,000 according to the most recent estimate from country's domestic intelligence agency — and when neo-Nazis hold demonstrations they are invariably dwarfed by counter-protesters....READ MORE