Europe

Secret donor keeps German town of Braunschweig guessing

The choir of the Am Hohen Tore hospice in Braunschweig
Image caption The Am Hohen Tore hospice was among the beneficiaries of Germany's mystery donor

Is there a new Robin Hood in Germany? That's certainly the talk of the town of Braunschweig. Someone there has been giving packets filled with 500 euro notes to local good causes - but doing it mysteriously.

Sometimes it's a blank white envelope left behind the hymn books in a church. Sometimes it's pushed under a doormat on a lighted porch.

Sometimes it's just left anonymously at the reception of the local newspaper. Nobody ever sees who the mystery donor is.

All the people of the town know is that he or she (or perhaps even they) are very generous, having left 190,000 euros (£158,480) so far. The mystery donor may have given even more - they leave the bundles of money (20 x 500 euro notes each time) where they are not certain of being found.

Last week, for example, a nurse at the hospice in Braunschweig happened to spot an envelope tucked under the doormat outside the front door. But there was no guarantee that she, or someone less scrupulous, would have found it.

The easier and safer way would have been to just push the envelope through the hospice's letter box on the street. So maybe the mystery donor gets a frisson of thrill from conducting the mission to donate.

Talk of the town

Who the generous benefactor might be is the talk of the town and theories abound.

The donations are often accompanied by a cutting from the local newspaper, Braunschweiger Zeitung. In one case, the clipping referred to a boy who had been paralysed in a swimming accident, with his name underlined in the article.

So the donor reads the Braunschweiger Zeitung. Beyond that, who knows? The favourite theory is that it's an old person who either doesn't have a family or has fallen out with them.

Another theory is that it's a modern-day Robin Hood, redistributing from the rich to the poor. That is the view of Michael Knobel, manager of the Am Hohen Tore hospice in Braunschweig.

Whoever it is, he would like to thank the donor: "It's strange for us not to know who he or she is because we would like to invite them in to have a cup of coffee."

Anke Burckhardt, a nurse at the hospice, said the money would be well used, providing training for staff on how best to care for those who know they are dying.

She, like everyone else in Braunschweig, has a theory: "It may be someone who won a lot of money in the lottery and is just trying to do something good."

'Fairy tale'

Hans-Juergen Kopkow, the pastor of St Markus' church, just happened to find an envelope tucked behind books on a shelf in the porch. At first, he didn't see it, but noticed it when he moved the shelf inside as he closed the church on a Saturday evening.

Image caption The donation to St Markus' Church was left in an envelope tucked behind some hymn books

He told the BBC: "I think it is a rich man or woman and he has nobody to leave this money to. In this congregation, we know what to do with the money - we can give it to people in great need. This person will create great joy for people."

Some ungenerous citizens have wondered if the donor might be a little crazy. But the pastor greets that suggestion with a loud guffaw: "no, definitely not crazy."

The one common factor seems to be the Braunschweiger Zeitung, cuttings from which accompany most of the donations. Its editor, Henning Noske, said they had decided not to put reporters on the case to uncover the donor's identity, even though the mystery person seems to relish the risk of being found out.

"He or she wishes to remain anonymous and we have to respect it. So it's anonymous, anonymous, anonymous as far as we are concerned," Mr Noske explained.

And the thrill the donor gets from sneaking in to public places to leave money when nobody is looking? The editor said: "Will the people who need the money get it? That's the part of the fairy tale, a real life fairy tale."

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