There has been discord ever since the discovery and announcement by a church’s former organist that a church bell in Herxheim am Berg, Germany, reads “Everything for the Fatherland, Adolf Hitler” and below it it shows a swastika. Now the municipality has voted for keeping it where it is. For history’s sake. Do I like this?
If it was a Nazi, a person, I would say: did s/he serve time in jail and has s/he repented?
If it was an instrument of evil, like a weapon, or a personal item from a high-ranking Nazi, I would say: keep it out of the hands of Neo-Nazis, that they don’t use it as a symbol for adoration.
But if it’s a harmless object, who cares? Like a painting by Hitler. That’s interesting as it shows what kind of man he was. It explains why he was more into (grotesque) art than most dictators. And it also shows why he was unwanted by the art academy. I like his paintings, but he was rejected for his inability to paint people.
Now, the problem is never with what it says on a bell but rather for what it is rung. It makes a difference for whom the bell tolled. It was sounded, and still can be sounded, for calling on people to serve G-d in a religion that values civility and peacefulness. What’s wrong with that?
Buildings built for the Nazi regime do not need to be leveled. Maybe they should especially serve something anti-racist or pro-Israel or a highly respected clinic for the mentally or physically infirm.
This bell should sound for many more years, reappropriating itself for humane causes, exactly where it is and what it looks like. At the foot of the tower, a plaque should say: with every sound for holiness, this bell is redeeming it’s evil past.