Wolfpassing, Austria is a sleepy, historic town that lies about sixty miles east of Vienna. At first glance, the place is beautiful, but not worth much note; until, of course, you discover that the town castle features a bell celebrating Hitler and his Nazi regime. Somehow, this delightful antique escaped notice for nearly eighty years, and even tolled each hour on the hour, announcing from it’s belfry the time so that all might be informed. The bell was forced out of hiding, though, once the castle was sold and the gem was discovered, much to the completely justified horror of many citizens and residents.
The “celebrating of Nazi ideals and spreading of its ideology” is illegal in Austria, in no small part thanks to the country’s past support of the genocidal regime. The bell proudly proclaims its attachment to this dark period of history, with an engraved message on the artifact praising Hitler as “the unifier and Fuhrer of all Germans” who freed “Ostmark [Austria] from the yoke of suppression by foreign elements and brought it home into the Great German Reich.”
Concern about the bell falling into neo-nazi’s hands and questions as to the legality of its unintentional purchase rose quickly, with criticism being aimed heavily at the Austrian government, who sold the castle. The Government claimed that they were unaware of the bell at the time the castle was sold, with the prime minister going on to say in defense, “The bell up to now was neither publicly displayed nor generally accessible.” This claim also seems to be the government’s defense when it comes to the legality of the situation; it is not criminal because it has not been intentionally used to “spread Nazi propaganda.”
The bell has raised both interest and disdain, perhaps best summed up by Raimund Fastenbauer, a senior official of Vienna’s Jewish community, who was quoted as saying, “I think the best thing would be if the bell disappeared and was buried somewhere.”