Austrian officials are scrambling to explain how a tower bell embossed with a swastika and words praising Adolf Hitler has been marking the hours in a small village for nearly 80 years.
The bell in the village of Wolfpassing celebrates Hitler for the Nazi annexation of Austria in 1938, a move that was supported by most Austrians at the time. It pays homage to the mass murderer as “the unifier and Fuehrer of all Germans,” and says he freed Austria “from the yoke of suppression by foreign elements and brought it home into the Great-German Reich,” according to The Associated Press
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The relic sits in the belfry of a castle that was recently sold. Many are calling for it to be melted down or otherwise destroyed. Furthering Nazi propaganda or praising Hitler is illegal in Austria.
The bell was apparently overlooked until now, but others aren’t so sure.
Many are criticizing a ruling by a government agency that oversees historic monuments, which said the bell must remain part of the castle as part of its heritage. A government official said the agency in charge overseeing the sale was unaware of the inscription praising Hitler, the AP said. Besides, the government said, the bell is not within public view, nor is it accessible to the public.
A senior official in Vienna’s Jewish community noted that other Hitler-era relics, such as the dictator’s house of birth, continue to attract a growing population of neo-Nazis.
“I think the best thing would be if the bell disappeared and was buried somewhere,” Raimund Fastenbauer told the AP.
The castle’s new owner is mum on what his plans are for the bell.
The town’s mayor, Joseph Sonnleitner, said no one even cared about the bell until the publicity began, according to The Associated Press.
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