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Thousand-year-old German church's 'Hitler bell' will remain in place

The bell represents "the suffering of the victims" of Hitler, the mayor said over the objections of residents and the Central Council of Jews.

An infamous bell dedicated to Adolf Hitler could ring again after the town council in a small German village voted not to dismantle it.

The local council in Herxheim am Berg, a town of about 700 people north of Heidelberg, in southwest Germany, voted 10-3 Monday night to reject requests to remove the massive 83-year-old bronze bell at Kirche St. Jakobus, or the Church of St. Jacob, the regional newspaper Die Rheinpfalz reported.

The bell bears a swastika and the inscription "Alles fuer's Vaterland — Adolf Hitler," or "Everything for the Fatherland — Adolf Hitler."

Image: Nazi-era bell at St. Jacob's Church
A Nazi-era bell at St. Jacob's Church in Herxheim am Berg, Germany bears a swastika and the words "Everything for the Fatherland — Adolf Hitler."Uwe Anspach / AFP - Getty Images file

After having hung in the church tower with little notice for decades, the bell has been the object of intense debate for almost a year after the church's organist complained about it. The town's mayor, Roland Becker, resigned in September after he gave a TV interview in which he quoted a local woman as saying Hitler should be remembered for "the things he achieved." (Becker said he'd been taken out of context, but the damage was done.)

The new mayor, Georg Welker, supported keeping the bell in place — and even ringing it again — telling the public broadcasting program Kontraste last month that it could sound "the suffering of the victims," both Jewish and non-Jewish. Before the vote Monday night, Welker submitted a report from a historian who said the bell is an official monument, meaning it can't be altered, Die Rheinpfalz reported.

Image: St. Jacob's Church in Herxheim am Berg, Germany
St. Jacob's Church in Herxheim am Berg, Germany,Ronald Wittek / EPA

Welker proposed erecting a plaque intended to put the bell in its historical context, but the Central Council of Jews in Germany remained fiercely opposed.

"If the bell, which was hung in honor of Hitler, should again sound the call to worship, then — plaque or not — this to me would be a conscious renewed glorification of the Third Reich and the person of Hitler," the council's president, Josef Schuster, told Südwestrundfunk local radio on Tuesday.