‘Nazis against Nazis’ - not your average walkathon

Exhibited by
Jan Uekermann
Added
March 10, 2016
Medium of Communication
Face to face, word of mouth
Target Audience
Individuals
Type of Charity
Anti-extremism
Country of Origin
Germany
Date of first appearance
November 15, 2014

SOFII’s view

EXIT Deutschland’s campaign is a wonderful example of creative, brave, jaw-dropping fundraising. Rather than sit back and watch neo-Nazi extremists hold an annual memorial march, this innovative organisation turned the event on its head  –  raising both funds and awareness for their cause.

This surprising idea was presented during SOFII’s IWITOT session at the International Fundraising Congress in October 2015.

Nazis against Nazis – Germany's most involuntary charity walk

Summary / objectives

On November 15, 2014, 250 neo-Nazis walked the streets of Wunsiedel, Upper Franconia, as they do every year. But this time they inadvertently raised money for an organisation that helps people escape from extremist groups.

You see, the small town of Wunsiedel decided to defend itself against this annual ritual – not with violence, but with an idea. Under the motto ‘Nazis against Nazis’, local residents put on the ‘most involuntary walkathon’ in Germany and garnered donations of €10,000 for EXIT Deutschland. But how?

Background

Unfortunately, there are still neo-Nazi extremists within Germany. And, in a democracy, people can think and believe what they like. Groups of people are allowed to demonstrate and walk together – whether that be for or against something in particular.

It’s precisely why neo-Nazis from across Europe flock to Wunsiedel, in Upper-Franconia (Bavaria), each year. The town has long been considered a place of pilgrimage for these extremists because it was home to the grave of Hitler’s deputy Rudolf Hess from 1988 to 2011. In his honour, neo-Nazis hold an annual memorial march that has become a fixed institution of the extreme right-wing scene.

Unsurprisingly, the town’s inhabitants have long felt paralysed by this tradition. They simply didn´t know what to do or how to handle their unwanted visitors. 

Then, in 2014, everything changed…

Special characteristics

The residents of Wunsiedel decided to take a different approach and turn the funeral march of the neo-Nazis into the ‘most involuntary walkathon’ in Germany.

Without the knowledge of the usual participants – posters, banners and ground markings were put up all along the demonstration route, giving it the look of a sporting event. Complete with motivational sayings displayed on cheerful confetti-strewn posters, typical competition elements such as a start and finish line were added to complete the transformation.

Yes it seemed odd. But all this was intended to motivate the nearly 250 demonstrators – because walking was the very idea behind it all. Except this year, for every metre walked, €10 would be going to the Nazi opt-out programme EXIT Deutschland. All the money was collected from private persons, companies and NGOs beforehand. The only thing left to do was wait for the neo-Nazi group to walk their usual route.

The result? The neo-Nazis reached the ‘finish line’, €10,000 was raised, and a lot of right-wing extremists got a big surprise.

That’s because a group of neo-Nazis had unwittingly turned themselves into donors for EXIT Deutschland – an organisation that has been helping extremists (just like them!) escape from the group and build a new life for themselves since 2000. They didn’t know it at the time, but the neo-Nazi walkers were actually raising money to fight right-wing extremism…with every step they took. 

Results

€10,000 was raised on the day and this was an increase of 1000 per cent vs. the same campaign period the year before.

Of course, the success story really only began on November 15th. Important magazines, newspapers and TV programmes in Germany reported on the event. And the story of neo-Nazis walking in support of a charity that helps people safely defect from right wing extremism was picked up by media outlets in 42 countries around the world. It was too good a story to pass up.

Later the campaign was honoured with a special prize by the German Fundraising Association in April 2015. It won the Global Awards for Fundraising 2015 (category: Innovation) and was elected as the audience award at the IFC 2015. There were many, many more awards for this brilliant idea – too many to mention in fact.

Influence / impact

The campaign inspired other cities in Germany and other countries to have a new, creative and amusing way of handling the problem of Nazi-walks. A lot of cities copied the idea and are organising involuntary walkathons too. 

Merits

The creators of the campaign took a working fundraising-tool (the walkathon), gave it a back-flip (180 degrees) and added some humour. But most importantly they were brave enough to take a risk – and it was a risk that paid off. 

Creator / originator

‘Nazis against Nazis’ was developed by the ZDK Gesellschaft Demokratische Kultur gGmbH. It was supported by various projects who work to fight against right-wing extremism, including Bayerischen Verein für Toleranz, Demokratie und Menschenwürde e.V., Aussteigerhilfe Bayern e.V., DGB and Wunsiedler Bündnis gegen Rechtsextremismus.

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What was once an extremist memorial march was now a walkathon, complete with a start line.
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There were even bananas provided to give the neo-Nazi walkers energy to keep going!
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Along the route, the walkers were reminded how much money they had raised so far.
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Confetti filled banners were a humorous way to motivate the neo-Nazis demonstrators/walkers.
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Behind police protection, the neo-Nazis finished the “most involuntary walkathon”.