Last month a local council in a small southwestern German village voted to keep a Nazi-era bell in its local church. The bell features a swastika and the inscription “Everything for the Fatherland- Adolf Hitler” on it.
Germany has strict laws against Nazi symbols. Nazi statues, flags and art are strictly prohibited. However Nazi imagery is permitted to remain in the country if it promotes historical memory and reconciliation, which is being argues as the case of the bell.
While the majority argued that the removal of the bell would mean the town’s history would be covered up, many worry that its existence would encourage neo-Nazi groups to congregate in the village.
The debate remains if this Nazi symbol may be influential in a time where Germany is experiencing a resurgence of far-right sentiment. Germany has seen a push towards the far-right following the arrival of more than a million immigrants and refugees. Many far right representatives compare the immigrants to “assassins, knife murderers and rapists.” The far-right political organization “Alternative for Germany” became the first nationalist party to enter the parliament for the first time in six decades, with almost 13 per cent of the national vote last year. The party stance on anti-immigration has gained notable support. This mass immigration has made Germans feel split politically in their acceptance or distaste for what is happening.
The former mayor, Rolan Becker also made comments that appeared to defend not just the bell but Nazi-era Germany — causing him to later resign.
With the rise of the far right it is understandable that people are concerned with any Nazi symbol being displayed such as the Hitler bell. To the wrong person, such a display could look like support of the right wing ideology. In such a critical time, does history preservation trump possibility of a rise in neo-nazi?