A monument becomes a “monument to hearing

A monument becomes a 'monument to hearing

Swastika bell in the church in Schweringen © Fabian Gartmann

A church bell caused a fierce dispute in the Lower Saxony village of Schweringen two years ago. The reason: a swastika was cast in the metal. Now artists are to make a memorial out of the bell from 1934.

The controversial former “swastika bell” in Schweringen, Lower Saxony, is getting a new inscription by two Nuremberg artists. In addition, the artists Hannes Arnold and Klaus-Dieter Eichler will create a cuboid sculpture at the foot of the church tower that will point visitors to the bell hanging above.

“Nothing of history will be denied or returned to an earlier state,” Eichler emphasized on the sidelines of an information evening at the Kreuzkirche in Schweringen. There the design of the studio “Arnold+Eichler” was presented to the public.

The two artists from Nuremberg had won an artist competition. “Our goal is that people will pause and begin to think about the history of the bell,” Eichler said. Work is to begin next year. The cost of about 30.000 euros contributed by the Hanoverian regional church.

The approximately 1.800-kilogram bronze bell from 1934 was decommissioned two years ago after a swastika was discovered cast into it during investigations.

Fierce dispute over the bell

Afterwards, there was a heated argument in the village of 800 inhabitants near Nienburg about whether the bell should continue to ring or be replaced. The national church offered an exchange.

Shortly before Easter 2018, unknown persons climbed the church tower unnoticed and milled away the 35 by 35 centimeter swastika and parts of a Nazi inscription with an angle grinder. A year ago the bell was officially deconsecrated.

Arnold and Eichler plan to apply a new inscription directly to the damaged metal as a “contemporary commentary,” the artists announced. It is to cover both the remaining parts of the original inscription and the blank space. “The new text drapes over the bell mantle and part of the shoulder like a sash,” Eichler explained. “It lets the traces of time shine through, but shows the new understanding and attitude to the past.”Which text it will be, the artists want to determine together with the congregation.

A memorial will become a “cochlear mark

The negative shape of the bell will be incorporated into the cuboid monolith in front of the church. The approximately 1.70-meter-high sculpture made of ground clinker is intended to commemorate the casting of the former "Fatherland Bell". If visitors spoke into the hollow, the sound would be reflected back, the artists explained. A monument will thus become an "auditory monument".

The competition jury voted unanimously in favor of the Nuremberg duo. "The artistic design is convincing with its simple but all the more precise call to face up to the history of the Schweringen bell," said Protestant regional bishop Petra Bahr. A second "swastika bell" had been replaced at the end of September in Fabberg near Celle. Trigger for the research of the regional church were discussions about bells with swastikas in Rhineland-Palatinate.

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