(ANTIMEDIA) — Following a week of increased publicity for white supremacists and neo-Nazis in America, one town in Germany may have a helpful, nonviolent strategy for those seeking to discourage these hateful displays.
For two decades, neo-Nazis marched on the town of Wunsiedel in Bavaria, where Nazi leader Rudolf Hess was buried.
After counter-marches failed to stop them — as did removing Hess’s body from the town’s cemetery in 2011 — the group Rechts gegen Rechts (Right against Right) organized a campaign to donate funds to an anti-neo-Nazi group for each meter the demonstrators walked.
As the Guardian reported in 2014:
“Without the marchers’ knowledge, local residents and businesses sponsored the 250 participants of the march on 15 November in what was dubbed Germany’s ‘most involuntary walkathon.’ For every metre they walked, €10 went to a programme called EXIT Deutschland, which helps people escape extremist groups.”
They hung posters around the event, the Guardian noted, some mocking the protesters and another thanking them for their donations. They also painted markers on the pavement to let the marchers know how much they were raising. They ultimately generated 10,000 euros to donate to EXIT.
According to a video by Grabarz & Partner, a German marketing agency that has done pro-bono campaigns for EXIT, “Donations came from citizens and small businesses, who served as sponsors. [The neo-Nazis] were left with only two choices: to go home or to go donate.”
Grabarz & Partner added that “For the first time in history, right-wing radicals took to the streets to protest against themselves,” raising money “for their own exit from the Nazi scene.”
A report by British foundation SOFII (Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration) notes that other cities and countries have adopted the strategy, which was picked up by news outlets around the world. Rechts gegen Rechts continues to hold these fundraisers.
Considering American neo-Nazis and other far-right groups appear emboldened to display their ideology and some counter-protesters react with violence, this trolling approach for a good cause may be a valuable tactic in the fight to keep extremism out of the mainstream.
As Fabian Wichmann, an education researcher at EXIT and organizer for Rechts gegen Rechts, told German news agency DPA in 2014 (as noted by the Guardian):
“We want to show what else you can do, what other courses of action you have. You can do more than just block the street or close the shutters.”