German teacher fined after painting over swastikas

The local council of Limburg fined Ralf Bender for the way he erased the offensive graffiti – not for the act itself.

By: Atara Beck, World Israel News

A teacher in Germany was ordered by a local court in 2014 to pay $1,200 in fines for spraying black paint over neo-Nazi graffiti, Nazi swastika symbols and stickers on light poles and benches near the public school at which he teaches.

The teacher, Ralf Bender, 52, contested the 991 euros fine in a court in the German city of Limburg in Hesse, but the the decision was upheld by the town on Tuesday.

“I did not damage any public property,” he said after the 2014 ruling, arguing that “the city originally did nothing to remove the disturbing symbols” and that it was his “duty as a democrat” to take action.

“I’m deeply hurt by the fact that the court fined me, and by how the local municipality ignored the swastikas despite the many warnings I gave them,” said Bander after Tuesday’s ruling. “Swastikas were a witness to the victims of the Holocaust, and this is something no one needs to suffer.”

Bender promised to take his case to Germany’s highest court and refused to pay the fine. “I stand in front of children every day. It is my job to set an example to them,” he told German Süddeustche Zeitung newspaper.

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City officials argued that removing Bender’s paint from at least 10 light poles cost the city money. Alexandra Hesse, a spokeswoman for the city of Limburg, said Bender had gone too far. “If he would have just scraped off the symbols we would have given him a medal, but he went over the top,” she told NBC News.

The display of Nazi symbols, including swastikas, is illegal under German law.

Bender isn’t the only German to take such action against Neo-Nazis, NBC News pointed out. Retired special-needs teacher Irmela Mensah-Schramm has tirelessly removed more than 90,000 stickers and scribblings over the past three decades.