Civil courage with consequences: “there was no alternative to our actions”.

The brothers Reiner and Ralf Bender sprayed over swastikas in Limburg. Now they have to pay for the cleaning.

Even if it were a swastika: Overpainting can be expensive. Photo: AP

site: Mr. Bender, what happened on March 27, 2013?

Reiner Bender: I was driving in Limburg and noticed a large number of anti-Semitic and Nazi inflammatory writings and swastikas on the side of the road. Because I am paraplegic, however, I cannot get out of the car so easily. So I called my brother. We then faxed this to the public order office and asked them to remove the inhuman graffiti. Unfortunately, nothing happened, so we decided – after two and a half weeks – to scratch away the swastikas and inflammatory writings ourselves, and where that was not possible, to spray them over. The police caught us in the process.

For this, you have been sentenced to just under 1,000 euros in fines. The Regional Court has now confirmed the sentence. You are a primary school teacher. How do you explain the sentence to your students?

It’s impossible to explain at all. It’s a total insanity. The city of Limburg did not react to our notice and now it makes us, who removed the Nazi graffiti as a substitute for an inactive regulatory authority, the culprits in order not to have to admit our own failure.

What reactions have you experienced from the population?

Many people support us, some have even donated money. But there is also a certain amount of people who feel confirmed in their inhumane actions by the verdict. Someone painted swastikas on my car shortly after the verdict. The police have advised us to constantly change our movement profile and to take certain security precautions around our house.

The twin brothers, 53, are both elementary school teachers in the Limburg (Lahn) area.

The next time you pass a swastika, will you drive on?

Of course not. In the meantime, that has happened more often: For example, on Holocaust Remembrance Day last year. We just stuck a piece of paper over a swastika. Again, we reported it immediately, but it took several weeks and repeated requests before the swastika was finally removed by Limburg’s public order department.

Do you feel that you have made a difference?

Yes, I think so. At any rate, we could not have acted any other way. Otherwise we would have made ourselves complicit. Removing or spraying over the anti-Semitic and Nazi inflammatory writings and the swastikas was – if I may quote the Chancellor – without alternative.

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