For 80 years, a large bell in an ancient castle in the sleepy village of Wolfpassing, Austria, has rung every hour. Charming—except the bell is a monument to Adolf Hitler, complete with a swastika and inscribed with praise for the "unifier and Fuehrer of all Germans." Even during the Soviet occupation, when Red Army soldiers actually lived in the castle, the bell seems to have gone unnoticed by the country at large. But it suddenly began attracting a lot of attention recently when the government sold the building, and ruled that the bell must remain untouched as part of the castle's cultural heritage, the AP reports.
The issue is that celebrating the Nazi period and spreading Nazi ideas is illegal in Austria. The government says it wasn't aware of the bell's Nazi past when it sold the building, but nevertheless doesn't think its sale was a crime. "The bell up to now was neither publicly displayed nor generally accessible," says a government minister. The town's mayor claims no one in the village even knew about the bell until the media picked up the story. But a local historian says they did, and has asked state prosecutors to investigate whether the government committed a crime by selling the bell and thus "spreading National Socialist ideology."