• For decades neo-Nazis have marched through the German town of Wunsiedel, the original burial place of Rudolf Hess, one of Adolf Hitler's deputies. (Karwasz/ullstein bild via Getty Images)Source: Karwasz/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Sick of being over-run by marching neo-Nazis every year, the town of Wunsiedel got creative.
Alyssa Braithwaite

21 Aug 2017 - 4:09 PM  UPDATED 21 Aug 2017 - 4:12 PM

This weekend more than 500 neo-Nazis gathered in Berlin and attempted to march to the site of the prison where Nazi officer Rudolf Hess died 30 years ago. 

They were blocked by opposing groups and residents who chanted "Nazis go home!" and "You lost the war!", and forced them to turn back. 

"The rats are coming out of the sewers. Trump has made it socially acceptable," 64-year-old Jossa Berntje, whose parents lived under the Nazis, told the Guardian.

But it's something that Wunsiedel, a German town near the Czech border, has been dealing with for decades.

It was the original burial place of Hess, and every year hundreds of neo-Nazis would march to his grave site, despite strong local opposition. Even after the town had Hess's body exhumed and cremated and his grave stone removed in 2011, the neo-Nazis kept returning.

So in 2014, the town got creative, and decided to use their presence for good.

The campaign, called Rechts Gegen Rechts, or the Right Against the Right, used the neo-Nazi's own march against them by making it "Germany's most involuntary walkathon".

For every metre the neo-Nazis walked, local residents and businesses would donate 10 ($14.80) to EXIT Deutschland, a program which assists people to leave right-wing extremist groups.

"We've secretly turned this Nazi march into something sensible," says the narrator of a video made by Rechts Gegen Rechts.

"With every step they take, the neo-Nazis campaign against neo-Nazis, and unwittingly finance more and more defections from the extremist scene." 

The marchers weren't aware that they were basically marching against their own cause until they started to see colourful signs mocking them 'If only the Führer knew!', read one sign, which a banner over a table full of free bananas said 'Mein Mampf!' (my munch) so that "even the most unfit neo-fascist will manage to goose-step their way across the finish line in this donation run", says the video.

Stencils on the footpath updated the neo-Nazis about how much money they were raising as they walked, and at the end of the march they were showered rainbow confetti while a sign thanked them for their €10,000 ($14,800) contribution to the anti-Nazi cause.

Since then, this approach has been tried in other places in Germany, as well as one Swedish town, the New York Times reported.

While the initiative isn't new, a tweet about it by author and activist Cleve Jones has gone viral in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville.

Here's the video of the 2014 walk by Rechts Gegen Rechts:

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