'Hitler bell' to remain in German church as a memorial

Picture taken on May 19, 2017 shows a Nazi-era church bell that bears a swastika and the words "All for the Fatherland Adolf Hitler" ("Alles fuer"s Vaterland - Adolf Hitler").Image source, AFP/DPA
Image caption,
Some residents are now worried that the bell could draw neo-Nazi groups to the village

A village in Germany has voted to keep a controversial church bell embossed with a swastika and the words "All for the Fatherland - Adolf Hitler".

The parish council of Herxheim argued that the Nazi-era bronze bell acted as a reminder for the nation's dark past.

The 10-3 vote on Monday rejected an offer to remove and replace the bell by the Protestant Church of St James.

Some parishioners were alarmed to find they had been married or had baptised their children under the "Hitler bell".

The local parish council said the Nazi-era relic, which has hung in the church since 1934, should stay as "an impetus for reconciliation and a memorial against violence and injustice", AFP news agency reports.

A memorial pointing to the controversial 240 kg (530 pounds) bell's history will now be fixed on the 1,000-year-old heritage-listed church, the Jakobskirche.

Herxheim am Berg, in southwest Germany, has repeatedly found itself in the media spotlight since a former church organist complained about the bell's inscription.

Until then its history had been largely unknown, and the bell had rung out every quarter of an hour.

Image source, Thomas Lohnes/Getty
Image caption,
Roland Becker argued in 2017 that removing the swastika and words would alter the bell's sound

The latest news from the village of just 700 people has reignited the debate on how Germany should handle Nazi imagery and symbols in the 21st Century.

The former mayor, Roland Becker, resigned last year over comments that appeared to defend not just the bell but Nazi-era Germany.

Some residents are now worried that the bell could damage the church's reputation or draw neo-Nazi groups to the village. Others have contended that disposing of the bronze relic would whitewash the town's history.

The bell was silenced last September and an alternative was used pending a decision by the local parish council.

At Monday's vote, the decision to keep the "Hitler bell" was met with applause from many community members, German news agency DPA reports.