Intruders grind swastika off church bell
They left a letter on the church door saying they had chosen to end the community debate. “Schweringen has had a filthy, ugly half-year and the time came to bring fresh wind into the village with a spring clean,” their letter read. “We haven’t just cleaned the village but the bell too. Of pigeon muck, of the muck of the National Socialists that still threatened to divide the people of the village after 80 years.”
There were no signs of forced entry, said the vicar, Jann-Axel Hellwege.
The removed phrase read: “This cross provides success and conquers discord.”
Spring cleaning in Germany is closely associated with Easter festivities.
“Schweringen is a village with clear, decent, intellectual, cosmopolitan citizens, and they won’t just stand by and watch the villagers run towards division. In this hope, and as Christians for freedom, we have freed this bell from the signs of a time of guilt and abuse,” the letter added.
The existence of the Schweringen bell only gained wider publicity after another town, Herxheim, addressed its so-called “Hitler bell”.
Other German churches have faced similar debates about what to do with bells inscribed with Nazi symbols. Nazi symbolism, including the salute, are illegal in Germany and can only be used in education for teaching or research.
The parish decided to temporarily put the bell out of use while the parish council in neighbouring Balge decided on how to act. The decision to ring the bell again came in March, but Hellwege appealed, alleging procedural errors.
Elsewhere, councillors in Herxheim am Berg, a village with about 1,000 residents, voted 10 to three in February in favour of keeping a bell, to serve as a reminder of the country’s dark past. It featured a swastika and inscribed with the words “Everything for the fatherland — Adolf Hitler.”
Parishioners in Herxheim were alarmed to find they had been married or had their children baptised under the “Hitler bell”.
Herxheim mayor Georg Welker reportedly said he wanted the bell to hang in the church rather than “in some museum where someone could stand in front of the bell at any time and take a selfie”.
Schweringen. Picture credit: Wikimedia