‘Graffiti Grandma’ fined €300 for painting over swastikas
A 74-year-old activist known as ‘Graffiti Grandma’ has been fined €300 (£260) plus court costs for painting over Neo-Nazi graffiti in the central German town of Eisenach.
The verdict of property damage handed to Irmela Mensah-Schramm has attracted fierce criticism, partly as it came on the day of the fatal synagogue attack in Halle.
Known in Germany as the ‘Sprayer-Oma’ or ‘Graffiti Grandma’, Ms Mensah-Schramm has spent more than three decades removing or painting over far-right slogans, swastikas and stickers, often creatively changing the meaning to one of positivity and inclusiveness.
Ms Mensah-Schramm was charged for painting hearts over graffiti which read ‘NS-Zone’, which translates as ‘Nazi Zone’, four times in December of 2018 in the village of Eisenach. A local resident filmed Mensah-Schramm’s actions and reported her to the police.
“I did not do anything wrong,” Mensah-Schramm told local broadcaster MDR Thüringen.
While Ms Mensah-Schramm has previously been charged with property damage and associated offences, this is the first time she’s been punished by a court.
The pensioner indicated she will appeal the ruling. Supporters have offered to cover her costs with crowd-funding campaigns launched online.
When handing down the fine, the court told Ms Mensah-Schramm that she could avoid the fine by paying €500 to local charity organisations. She refused, arguing that to do so would be an admission of guilt.
Eisenach is situated in the former East German state of Thuringia, which like much of the region has been struggling to contain rising anti-immigrant and racist sentiments. Eisenach is 90 minutes from the village of Eisleben, the hometown of the alleged Halle attacker.
Ms Mensah-Schramm, a former teacher born in Stuttgart at the end of World War Two, keeps detailed files of every act of graffiti removal. She’s received several awards and commendations for her work, including the Federal Medal of Merit, the Göttingen Peace Prize and the Jochen Bock Prize for Civil Courage in Erfurt.
During the refugee influx of 2015, Ms Mensah-Schramm replaced the frequently-appearing ‘Merkel muss weg’ (Merkel must go) with ‘Merke! Hass weg’ (Remember! Away with hate).