20:26 GMT14 May 2021
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    A small German town has decided to keep using its "Nazi bell" despite a campaign to get rid of it, Sputnik Deutschland reports.

    The local council in German town of Herxheim am Berg has decided, for the time being, to keep using the "Nazi bell" that rings out in the local St Jacob's church. The council has decided to consult with an expert to determine whether the Nazi symbolism can be removed without harming the bell's sound quality.

    The bronze bell is engraved with a swastika and the inscription, "Everything for the Fatherland — Adolf Hitler." Since it was installed in the church in 1934, it has signaled weddings and baptisms and Sunday worship.

    While many locals know that the bell has a Nazi inscription, the news came as a shock to a former organist at the church, Sigrid Peters. Dismayed at the revelation, she recently enlisted the help of the media to get rid of the bell. 

    "It can't happen that a baby is baptized and a bell with the words 'everything for the Fatherland' is chiming," Peters told news agency DPA.

    However, the mayor of Herxheim am Berg, Ronald Bekker, told Sputnik Deutschland that he agrees with the council's decision to leave the bell, for now.

    "The bells will remain for now," he confirmed, adding that a specialist has been asked to examine the bell to establish which historical protection laws apply. He said it is important to find out whether the swastika and inscription can be removed from the bell, without damaging its acoustic quality.

    Hitler's bell in Herxheim am Berg
    © Photo : Ronald Becker
    "Hitler's bell" in Herxheim am Berg
    "That [simply removing the inscriptions] would be my wish," Bekker said. According to the mayor, the bell currently chimes every quarter-hour, but another bell is used to mark weddings and baptisms. 

    He dismissed claims that the bell could become an attraction for far-right groups, explaining that its location in the church tower "is not open to the public."

    Bekker said that a benefactor has offered to pay for a "worthy plaque of bronze or brass" to be placed outside the church tower, explaining the existence of the bell.

    Representatives of the evangelical church in the local state of Rhineland-Palatinate have also expressed opposition to installing a new bell, estimating the cost at more than €50,000 (59,300). 

    "For me, it is de-Nazified, in the sense that there is no reverence associated with it. For me, it isn't a Hitler bell. I would be reluctant to forego these bells," local pastor Helmut Meinhardt told the SWR broadcaster.

    "It is the only Nazi-bell in the Palatinate, one of three in the whole of Germany. You can't erase history," Birgit Mueller, bell commissioner for the evangelical church in Rhineland-Palatinate, said.

    The German penal code outlaws the use of symbols of unconstitutional organizations, a law which is particularly applied to far-right groups. The use of the swastika, Hitler salute and other gestures, slogans or emblems is punishable with a fine or up to three years in prison.


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