Swastika, Nazi inscription in Lutheran church bell removed; Anonymous cleaner leaves note

A Lutheran church bell no longer bears the swastika and Nazi inscription that brought controversy to a small town in Germany for years. Someone anonymously cleaned the markings out and even left a note to claim the deed.

(Reuters/Carlos Barria)A Nazi swastika is seen attached to the uniform of a member of neo-Nazi group Tsagaan Khass, as they walk along a street in Ulan Bator June 22, 2013.

Jann-Axel Hellwege, the pastor of the church, informed officials in Schweringen that the Nazi symbol and words that were once engraved on the bell are gone. No one has come forward to claim responsibility, except that the ones who removed the markings simply left an anonymous note on the church's door. Die Harke, a local news publication, posted the note on its Twitter page.

"We not only cleaned the town, but the bell: from pigeon filth, from the filth of National Socialism, which was threatening after 80 years to divide the people of this village," the note partly read. "In this hope, and as Christians for freedom, we have freed this bell from the signs of a time of guilt and abuse," it went on to say.

The church stopped using the bell after the discovery of the Nazi markings in 2017. Recently, however, local officials of the Balge parish where the church belongs wanted to use the bell again but the pastor opposed the decision. The controversy drew heated debates that delayed the plans to reuse the bell.

The removal of the swastika and the Nazi-inscriptions left the Lutheran church bell slightly damaged and the church is still assessing how it will proceed with restoring the bell since its sound might not be the same anymore. The church might also take legal action but because the ones responsible are anonymous, it's still unclear who will be charged for the deed.

Inscriptions in church bells were common in the 1930s or during the height of Nazi rule in Germany. In some communities, such as in Herxheim, residents voted to keep the markings to serve as a grim reminder and lesson for succeeding generations about injustice.