German Townsfolk Turn neo-Nazi March Into anti-Nazi Fundraiser

Unable to stop neo-Nazis from making pilgrimage to their small town, German residents dupe marchers into raising 10,000 euros against themselves.

AFP

Neo-Nazis paying homage to Adolf Hitler's deputy found out Saturday that their opponents in the small town of Wunsiedel had had the last laugh, The Local's Germany edition reported Monday.

Wunsiedel, near the Czech border, has been a pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis since 1988 because it was the burial place of senior Nazi official Rudolf Hess. While the grave was removed after 2011, the neo-Nazis kept returning over the protests of locals, The Local reported.

This year, however, the group Rechts gegen Rechts, or Rights versus Rights, turned the tables by turning the protest march into a charity walk – for a group that helps rehabilitate former neo-Nazis called EXIT-Germany, according to The Local. The streets were painted with slogans encouraging the marchers to keep on going.

"We wanted to create an alternative to counter-demonstrations," Fabian Wichmann, an education researcher at EXIT Germany told The Local on Monday.

For every meter the 200 neo-Nazis walked, 10 euros were donated.

"It was an absolute success," Inge Schuster, spokesperson for the mayor of Wunsiedel, told The Local. "It created something positive out of (the march), including the €10,000 donation for EXIT-Germany."

Neo-Nazis took their regular route through the town, but found the streets painted with encouragement to keep them going, complete with start and finishing line.

The town was also decorated with pink banners boasting puns that poked fun at the Nazis and their nefarious leader and thanking the "dear Nazis" for their donation, according to the report.

One banner read, "Final sprint instead of final victory."

A banner over a table offering the marchers bananas read, "Mein Mampf," or "My Snack" in English, punning on the title of Hitler's autobiography.

Locals showered the neo-Nazis with rainbow confetti when they crossed the finish line and offered them certificates of completion, The Local reported. A sign announced how much money they had raised for the cause dedicated against them. The marchers barely reacted.

"They probably won't go away. The history of the town is too important to them, but at least we've created something good out of it," said EXIT's Wichmann.