Human being, it seems, have very short memories.
Little over half a century after the end of World War II, there are genuine Nazis out on the streets in force. In truth, they never really went away, but under Trump’s presidency, and with the worrying rise of far-right politics across both the US and Europe, they are now more prominent than ever.
The marches in Charlottesville have thrust the problem further into the spotlight. Anti-fascism protester Heather Heyer was killed when a man drove his car into a group of people marching against racism. There have been actual Nazi flags on display, and plenty of salutes.
White nationalists – people who have nothing in their lives to be proud of, so cling to the fact that they are white – are a problem that has to be tackled, but how? Some say engaging them in meaningful debate only serves to legitimise their points of view as being worthy for discussion, while there has been much discussion around whether’s it’s OK to punch Nazis ever since the famous Richard Spencer moment back in January.
But the German town of Wunsiedel, in northern Bavaria, might have found the perfect way of dealing with the neo-Nazi problem, and it serves to both humiliate them and raise money to fight them at the same time.
The town has suffered a fascism problem for a long time, since it is the former burial place of Adolf Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess. Neo-Nazis march there on a fairly regular basis, but a viral tweet from Cleve Jones, from San Francisco, has brought to light the way in which residents are tackling the problem, and honestly, it’s genius.
In 2014, a bunch of sponsors agreed to start donating money for every step the neo-Nazis took, with all the money raised going to EXIT Deutschland, a group which helps re-educate neo-Nazis and bring them back to – you know – a reasonable way of thinking.
And that’s not even the best part – the best part is that the sponsors put up banners along the route for the ‘Nazis against Nazis walkathon’, erect deliberately mocking signs along their route, hand out bananas and other energy sources along the way, and even write how much the marches have managed to raise so far on the ground in front of them.
Full humiliation basically. It’s perfect.
Once the racists finish the march, the sponsors hand them all certificates telling them how much they’ve raised for the anti-Nazi charity. At the first one back in 2014, the total came to 10,000 Euros.
In his tweet, Cleve Jones quoted Villanova philosophy professor Yannik Thiem, who grew up close to Wunsidel. It read:
“In the small town in Germany where the Nazi leader Rudolf Hess was born, every year right-wing activists have been showing up to commemorate his birthday. Counter marches didn’t stop them.
“What really got them was when people organised to sponsor donations on their behalf, treating their march like an AIDS walk. For every metre marched, there would be 10 Euros donated to anti-racist organisations.
People turned it into kind of a sports event as they showed up with music and banners cheering the fascists on like ‘thank you for marching for racial justice’ and updating with bullhorns how much money the fascists marching had already raised.”
The SOFII Foundation (Showcase of Fundraising, Innovation and Inspiration) found that Wunsiedel’s response to the fascist was so effective that other places have now started to emulate it.
And not only does it work, it’s funny too. Let’s bring this idea to the UK. Let’s roll it out in America. Let’s humiliate neo-Nazis all over the globe. It’s a new sport.