Every year, neo-Nazi groups descend on a small German town to pay tribute to a notorious Hitler deputy who used to be buried there. This year, however, the townspeople pulled one over on their visitors: They turned the march into a charity walkathon that raised 10,000 euros ($12,533) for an anti-extremist foundation.
Nazi official Rudolf Hess committed suicide in prison in 1987 and was eventually buried in Wunsiedel, a town of about 1,000 in Bavaria. For more than 20 years, fascist groups have held an annual festival and memorial march in the town in his honor. Despite bans, court challenges, and local disapproval, at least a few hundred neo-Nazi pilgrims have landed there each year.
On Saturday, more than 250 people participated in the annual march for Hess. Unbeknownst to them, a group of local activists recruited businesses and people in the town to donate 10 euros ($12.50) for every meter walked by the neo-Nazis.
A video made by the activist organization Rechts gegen Rechts, or Right Against Right, shows the procession of neo-Nazi participants dressed mostly in black walking through the streets. Some have drums strapped on their chests, while others carry torches and banners.
Rechts gegen Rechts, which fights against far-right politics, called the event the "most involuntary walkathon," and put up mocking signs — one said "If only the Führer knew" — along the route.
The neo-Nazis weren't informed about their charitable giving until they crossed the finish line, where they were greeted with a sign thanking them for their donations. Adding further insult to injury, the proceeds were donated to EXIT Deutschland, an organization that assists people who want to leave extremist groups.
Locals in Wunsiedel have long been fed up with the neo-Nazi tourists, even successfully working with Hess's family to move the deputy's remains out of town, but that hasn't deterred the festival-goers from making the yearly trip for Volkstrauertag — a public holiday that commemorates people who died in war.
"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," Rechts gegen Rechts organizer Fabian Wichmann told the German media outlet DPA, according to the Guardian.
According to government figures, there are an estimated 9,600 right-wing extremists currently active in Germany. Neo-Nazis hold parliament positions in two states and have a representative in the European parliament, but the German Constitutional Court is currently considering a ban on the country's oldest far-right party, the National Democratic Party of Germany.
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