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WOMEN IN POLITICS Grannies against the Right Honoured for their courage

August 2023: One has to confront right-wing extremism wherever it raises its head. This is how Inge Heimer from Rhineland-Palatinate justified her commitment to 'Grannies against the Right' (OMAS GEGEN RECHTS). Now she has received the renowned Ludwig-Weber Prize for tolerance and civil courage. (1) Especially at times when right-wing extremist criminal and violent acts are on the increase, Inge Heimer's activism is, according to the jury, downright exemplary.

Her involvement with the OMAS GEGEN RECHTS' was triggered by right-wing demonstrations in the Palatinate town of Kandel. In 2017, an Afghan refugee murdered his 15-year-old ex-girlfriend. For weeks, following the murder, far-right groups used the crime as a pretext to organise and hold xenophobic marches. Inge Heimer was determined to challenge their hate against foreigners and particularly against immigrants and refugees.

She said she wanted her grandchildren to grow up in a free society. And so, she initiated and became involved in the group ‘Kandler Omas gegen Rechts’. Whenever far-right groups march in southern Rhineland-Palatinate, she and her fellow campaigners stand up for democracy, human rights and peaceful coexistence with counter-protests. Inspired by a similar group that already existed in Austria, OMAS GEGEN RECHTS in Germany was founded on Facebook in January 2018. It is a civic, non-partisan initiative that wants to be part of the political discourse and challenge anti-democratic and racist sentiments. With eye-catching symbolism, older women, so-called grannies, speak up against the dangers that threaten peaceful co-existence today. Of course, grandpas, children, grandchildren and friends are also welcome. One of the OMAS’ leitmotifs is the phrase, often attributed to the Irish statesman Edmund Burke, ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’ A year after the founding of OMAS GEGEN RECHTS, Inge Heimer was temporarily put under police protection after death threats were posted against her on right-wing extremist internet media. One blogger on VKontakte (VK), a Russian-funded platform, described Inge Heimer as a particularly disgusting specimen of a goody two shoes. Another blogger suggested a hammer blow to her head. Inge Heiner replied that she would not let members of the far-right scare her. “I have grown a very thick skin.” In 2019, as a candidate for the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), Inge Heiner took part in the local elections. Why are you doing all this, she was asked. "For my grandchildren! I want them to grow up in a free, cosmopolitan and democratic society. I do it because our democracy is in danger and must be defended." She also voiced criticism of some in her own party. "The SPD needs to be more active in the fight against the right. Democratic politicians are sometimes too naive for me. They should look much more closely at the tactics of their enemies." She said this also applied to the police. "I have seen that police officers at a demo were not aware that Holocaust denial was a criminal offence." In 2020, the ‘Central Council of Jews’ in Germany awarded the Paul-Spiegel Prize for Civil Courage (2) to the nationwide initiative OMAS GEGEN RECHTS. The award recognised not only the commitment of older people to democracy and human rights, but also the courage of the activists. OMAS GEGEN RECHTS consists now of more than 100 regional and local groups, including those in Aachen, Baden-Baden, Berlin, Bonn, Dresden, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Freiburg, Karlsruhe, Cologne, Magdeburg, Mannheim, Offenburg, Stuttgart, Tübingen and Weimar. For your information: (1) Ludwig Wagner, born in Augsburg (Bavaria) in 1869, organised holiday courses for Germans and foreigners in Kaiserslautern (then part of Bavaria now Rhineland-Palatinate) from 1905 until the outbreak of the First World War. He advocated French-German friendship long before it became a reality after the Second World War. (2) The Paul Spiegel Prize for Civil Courage has been awarded by the Central Council of Jews in Germany since 2009 in memory of its former president Paul Spiegel and his tireless commitment against racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism and for a strong civil society.

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