German rightwing rock fans tricked in anti-extremist T-shirt stunt
Nationalist message on T-shirt changes to call for tolerance when taken home and washed
German neo-Nazi rock fans were tricked into accepting T-shirts with an anti-extremist message. Photograph: Roland Weihrauch/AP
Rightwing rock fans at a nationalist music festival in eastern Germany were taken by surprise when souvenir T-shirts they were given were emblazoned with a secret anti-extremist message.
The slogan on the shirts first read “hardcore rebels” along with a skull and nationalist flags. But once the T-shirts were washed, the tagline turned into a message from a group offering to help far-right extremists break away from the neo-Nazi scene.
“If your T-shirt can do it, you can do it too we’ll help you get away from right-wing extremism,” reads the slogan on the shirts after their first washing.
The shirts were handed to 250 people at a “Rock for Germany” festival in Gera by organisers after they had been donated anonymously. They were provided by Exit, a group which helps people disassociate themselves from the far-right.
Exit claimed to have pulled off the stunt after contacting festival organisers in the eastern state of Thuringia using a false name, saying they wanted to support the scene while retaining their anonymity. The T-shirts were in lieu of a donation, they claimed.
The organisers accepted and dished out the freebies at the festival on Saturday.
Twenty-four hours later a warning message was sent from the organisers via Facebook and SMS warning festival-goers that the T-shirts were not all they seemed. “Exit has wasted several thousand [euros] of tax payers’ money,” said the missive.
But Bernd Wagner, founder of Exit, insisted that no state funds had been used in the initiative. “It was all paid for by private money not one cent came from taxpayers,” he said in a phone interview.
He said a supporter had approached Exit with the idea, saying he had developed a special fabric ink for concealing hidden messages. “It had never been done before. It was completely new. We had to experiment with it a lot to make sure it worked, to ensure the top layer would not wash away in rain, for example,” he said.
Gordon Richter, a member of the far-right NPD party who organised the festival, said the stunt was a waste of money.
But Wagner said the stunt went better than they ever dared hope.
“We wanted to raise awareness about our programme, especially among the young and less committed,” he said. “There were so many points along the way where our plan could have failed, but it all went perfectly.”