Category Archives: News/Stories

Nazi legacy found in Norwegian trees


The relentless campaign to find and sink Germany’s WWII battleship, the Tirpitz, left its mark on the landscape that is evident even today.

The largest vessel in Hitler’s Kriegsmarine, it was stationed for much of the war along the Norwegian coast to deter an Allied invasion.

The German navy would hide the ship in fjords and screen it with chemical fog.

This “smoke” did enormous damage to the surrounding trees which is recorded in their growth rings.

Claudia Hartl, from the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, stumbled across the impact while examining pines at Kåfjord near Alta.

The dendrochronologist was collecting wood cores to build up a picture of past climate in the area. Severe cold and even infestation from insects can severely stunt annual growth in a stand, but neither of these causes could explain the total absence of rings seen in some trees dated to 1945.

Some had a ring but you would hardly see it.

A colleague suggested it could have something to do with the Tirpitz, which was anchored the previous year at Kåfjord where it was attacked by Allied bombers.

Archive documents show the ship released chlorosulphuric acid to camouflage its position.

“We think this artificial smoke damaged the needles on the trees,” Dr Hartl told BBC News.

“If trees don’t have needles they can’t photosynthesise and they can’t produce biomass. In pine trees, needles usually last from three to seven years because they’re evergreens. So, if the trees lose their needles, it can take a very long time for them to recover.”

The Tirpitz pictured in Kåfjord with the smokescreen seen drifting across the water.

In one tree, there is no growth seen for nine years from 1945. “Afterwards, it recovered but it took 30 years to get back to normal growth. It’s still there; it’s still alive, and it’s a very impressive tree,” Dr Hartl said.

In other pines, rings are present but they are extremely thin – easy to miss. As expected, sampling shows the impacts falling off with distance. But it is only at 4km that trees start to display no effects.

The Tirpitz sustained some damage at Kåfjord. However, a continuous seek-and-destroy campaign eventually caught up with the battleship and it was sunk by RAF Lancasters in late 1944 in Tromso fjord further to the west.

Dr Hartl believes her “warfare dendrochronology” will find similar cases elsewhere.

“I think it’s really interesting that the effects of one engagement are still evident in the forests of northern Norway more than 70 years later. In other places in Europe, they also used this artificial smoke and may be also other chemicals. So perhaps you can find similar patterns and effects from WWII.”

The Mainz researcher presented her research here at the European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly in Vienna, Austria.

Sampling shows the impacts falling off with distance.
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German defense minister tells troops in Afghanistan to prepare for long haul

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has told Bundeswehr troops in Afghanistan they should prepare to stay in the country for the foreseeable future. This follows the Bundestag’s decision to raise troop numbers.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen admitted on Sunday that Afghanistan was still far from ready to take responsibility for its own security situation.

“It is not a question of a time frame that must be stubbornly stuck to,” von der Leyen told German troops during a visit to the Bundeswehr base in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

The length of the mission in Afghanistan depended on whether conditions in the country improved, she said, adding that “we need patience and staying power.”

Von der Leyen’s remarks came on the back of the German parliament’s decision on Thursday to extend the Bundeswehr’s mission to Afghanistan, now in its 16th year, and raise the number of troops stationed in the conflict-ridden country from 980 to 1,300.

Germany’s new ruling coalition government has also vowed to increase military spending by some €10 billion ($12.4 billion) over the next four years, with further funds expected to be allocated towards development aid.

The German Defense Ministry defended the rise in troop numbers amid concerns that it would overstretch the Bundeswehr’s aging military equipment.

The German military came under criticism in the winter after it was able to carry out only around a half of its joint operations alongside the Afghan army. Von der Leyen blamed these shortcomings on a lack of security personnel and vowed to “fix this situation.”

NATO’s “Resolute Support” mission is focused on training, advising and assisting Afghan security forces in the ongoing conflict with extremist groups, such as the Taliban and affiliate divisions of the so-called “Islamic State” (IS). The German military is involved in implementing these goals in northern Afghanistan, mainly in the city of Kunduz.

Deteriorating security situation

Von der Leyen’s pledge to keep German troops in Afghanistan reflects the deteriorating security situation in the country. A resurgent Taliban has regained control of large pockets following the initial withdrawal of US-led NATO troops at the end of 2014. IS affiliates also remain powerful in the region, despite the main group having been effectively defeated in Syria and Iraq.

Afghan security forces currently only control around 60 percent of the country: “That is good, but not enough by a long shot,” von der Leyen said.

The Afghanistan military’s wavering control has prompted a surge of extremist attacks since the new year, the most devastating of which saw a Taliban suicide bomber blow up an explosive-laden ambulance on a busy Kabul street in January, killing more than 100 people and injuring at least 235.

This week, an IS suicide bomber killed 29 Shiite worshippers celebrating the Persian New Year.

According to the United Nations, more than 10,000 civilians were killed or wounded in the ongoing war in Afghanistan in 2017, with militant bombings and terror attacks responsible for a majority of the casualties.

 

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The leap of hope that ended in despair

When Conrad Schumann jumped over the Berlin Wall, he became a symbol of freedom. But the burden was too great.

MANY PEOPLE were standing around, and that was good, because they distracted my colleagues. I was able to swap my loaded sub-machine- gun for an empty one before I jumped. The jump was not so difficult then. After that the gun fell noisily on the ground; with a full magazine it probably would have gone off.”

That is how the East German border guard Conrad Schumann recalled, in one of hundreds of subsequent interviews, the moment he was devoured by history. At 4pm on 15 August 1961, two days after the Communist regime began erecting the Berlin Wall, the 19-year-old soldier set off on the journey that was to define his entire life.

“My nerves were at breaking point,” he remembered. “I was very afraid. I took off, jumped, and into the car … in three, four seconds it was all over.”

A photographer mingling with onlookers on the western side of Bernauer Strasse captured the “Leap of Freedom”, and a Cold War pin-up was born. Pictures of the lanky youth soaring above coils of barbed wire in his tight uniform were blitzed across the world. Suddenly Schumann was a hero of the Free World, and in his homeland a despicable traitor. Some 2,100 East German soldiers and policemen were to follow his example.

“Welcome to the West,” bystanders shouted. But Schumann, a simple NCO, was ill-prepared for the adulation. All he asked for when he arrived at the West Berlin debriefing centre was a sandwich. He said simply that he had been angered by the spectacle of a fleeing East German child being dragged back from the West, and did not want to “live enclosed”. A fit of desperation or an act of heroism: history books rarely distinguish between the two.

But Schumann never really escaped. Uninvited stardom drove him to the bottle in the first decade of his new life. He eventually married, settled down in a Bavarian village, had a son, and worked conscientiously on Audi’s assembly line for 27 years.

Then, last Saturday, something snapped. After a family row, Schumann left the house. He was found by his wife a few hours later, hanging from a tree in the nearby woods. The History Man left no farewell letter behind.

Neighbours in the village of Kipfenberg describe him as a quiet, retiring man. All he had to show for his ephemeral fame was that picture on the living-room wall, alongside floral tapestries and a photograph of him with Ronald Reagan. The family were reasonably prosperous: they had inherited a house from the in-laws.

From the freedom photograph, however, he made not one pfennig. “As lawyers explained, because I am a historical figure, the picture can be published everywhere without my consent. But the photographer did not become rich either,” he consoled himself. “He was working for an agency.”

Nor did he get much joy from official quarters. A hero he might have been for the Western propaganda machine, but all officials wanted from him was information he did not possess. Schumann, according to the German press, was “squeezed like a lemon” by his Western interrogators.

Little wonder that the hero-villain felt confused by his dual status. As he drifted through life in West Berlin, frequently changing jobs in the initial years, alcohol provided the only solace.

Lonely and depressed, his only human contact with his family in the East was through letters. He had not changed his name or gone underground, and now the Stasi, the East German secret police, were after him. They wanted the Cold War icon back, for their own purposes. The family wrote letters asking Schumann to come home – everything would be fine.

“Only much later did I realise how dangerous this situation was,” he recalled in a 1994 interview. “I did not know that the letters my parents were writing me were dictated by the Stasi.”

He was even naive enough to contemplate going home for a visit while the Wall was still standing. At the last minute, a West Berlin policeman managed to talk him out of that plan.

After the Wall fell and Germany was reunited, Schumann was able to return to his native Saxony for the first time. But the homecoming was not the triumphant procession he had anticipated. Many people had been kind to him, he said, but quite a few had shunned him. “There are still some people who refuse to speak to me,” he said. The traitor had remained a traitor to many, even if the country he betrayed had since disappeared.

Still, he was back in the whirlwind of history, and for a time seemed to be enjoying it. In the euphoria of reunification, heroes of old were in great demand again, for one last hurrah. Schumann beamed into the cameras as requested, signed the posters depicting his run, and made efforts to speak cheerfully about his situation.

In 1989, as the Wall was being hacked to pieces, Schumann made guest appearances at the Checkpoint Charlie museum, signing pictures for tourists. He was no longer recognisable from the photo: now he was a podgy middle- aged man with tattoos on both arms.

After that, he devoted his full attention to car-building, making only rare visits to Berlin. The posters nevertheless remain the best-selling item at the Checkpoint Charlie museum, and visitors formed a long queue a month ago when Border Guard NCO Schumann came to sign for the last time.

The museum’s directors worry that business may take a down-turn now that the man it celebrates is no longer alive. They are probably wrong. For the picture was never about Conrad Schumann, the soldier with the invisible face, but about the act. It was the human spirit that soared above that barbed wire, and Schumann was merely an unlucky man who accidentally got into the picture.

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Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ becomes German Bestseller Year after Reprint

by The Local – DE

It has been one year since Adolf Hitler’s book could once again be printed in Germany after 70 years off the shelves. Now it has swiftly become a bestseller.

For 70 years after the end of the Second World War, the brutal dictator’s manifesto remained unpublished in Germany.

Its copyright was owned by the state of Bavaria, which prevented new editions from being printed in Germany for fear of reinvigorating Nazi sentiments.

But when its copyright expired – 70 years after the death of the author, as is standard – an annotated version was printed for the first time again last year by the Institute of Contemporary History (IfZ) in Munich. And the publisher quickly began to sell out, rushing to print more copies to meet the high demand.

Over the past year, around 85,000 copies have been sold, much to the surprise of the institute. The IfZ had at first only printed 4,000 copies, and now it’s heading for its sixth print run.

In April, the book become number one on Spiegel’s bestseller list.

“The number of sales has overwhelmed us,” the director of the IfZ, Andreas Wirsching, told DPA on Tuesday. “No one could have really predicted it.”

Partly autobiographical, Mein Kampf outlines Hitler’s ideology that formed the basis for Nazism. He wrote it in 1924 while he was imprisoned in Bavaria for treason after his failed Beer Hall Putsch.

The book set out two ideas that he put into practice as Germany’s leader going into World War II: annexing neighbouring countries to gain Lebensraum, or “living space”, for Germans, and his hatred of Jews, which led to the Holocaust.

In its heyday, around 12.4 million copies were published in Germany and from 1936, the Nazi state gave a copy to all newlyweds as a wedding gift.

‘Mein Kampf readers are not right-wing radicals’

There was concern leading up to the re-publication that releasing an un-annotated version would allow Hitler’s assertions to go unchallenged. Jewish groups questioned why the anti-Semitic text – already accessible for academics – should again be widely distributed.

“It turned out that the fear the publication would promote Hitler’s ideology or even make it socially acceptable and give neo-Nazis a new propaganda platform was totally unfounded,” Wirsching said in a statement.

“To the contrary, the debate about Hitler’s worldview and his approach to propaganda offered a chance to look at the causes and consequences of totalitarian ideologies, at a time in which authoritarian political views and right-wing slogans are gaining ground.”

The IfZ edition is intended to be a critical look at the written work, including analysis and commentary from experts.

“It would have been irresponsible to allow this text to go freely,” said Wirsching.

And by the end of the year, Wirsching noted that those who bought the book turned out to be mainly readers interested in politics and history, including many teachers, not “old reactionaries or right-wing radicals”.

Recently the project even won the “Society needs Science” award with a €50,000 prize for how it “reveals Hitler’s false statements and distortions, corrects factual errors and explains the contemporary context.”

Wirsching said his institute’s edition has over the past year driven academic debate, some positive and some critical of the annotated work. He also said he would consider doing an English translation of their version.

But the IfZ is not the only group working with the text that now lies in the public domain. A right-wing publishing house in Leipzig called Der Schelm released a version without commentary, stating that readers should “have the courage to come to your own understanding”.

The Bavarian state is also working on a guide for history classes on how to use excerpts from the book in education.

“The aim is to handle a very difficult and historically weighty source in a sensitive way,” said a state education spokesman.

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The 1,000s of Germans Massacred after WWII

Germans fleeing from eastern Europe after the Second World War.

by DW

Seventy years ago on Friday, a munitions depot exploded in the Czechoslovakian town of Ústí nad Labem. For the thousands of Sudeten Germans who lived in the town, the event was a death sentence.

The explosion happened in the afternoon of July 31st, 1945. Around 27 people were killed, including seven Czechs.

World War II had ended just weeks before – and Czechoslovakia had begun to forcibly expel over two million Sudeten Germans who lived in the country.

So when the explosion happened, rumours quickly spread that the Germans were responsible.

What followed was a massacre.

All ethnic Germans had been forced to wear white armbands, making them easily recognizable – and on the day of the explosion, German men, women and children were mercilessly beaten and killed.

Some were shot dead. Others were thrown into the River Elbe and then shot at while they tried to swim to safety.

Part of the “fierce expulsion”

Those responsible for the massacre were Revolutionary Guards (a post-war Czech paramilitary group) alongside Soviet and Czech soldiers, as well as around 300 Czech civilians who had just arrived from Prague by train.

Mayor Josef Vondra tried to help the victims, as did many local Czechs. But the death toll continued to rise.

In the aftermath, the event was shrouded in controversy.

With an estimated 75,000 Czech citizens having been killed in forced labour camps under Nazi rule, Czech officials were unwilling to commemorate the Germans who lost their lives.

“This was a time of continental ruin,” explained James Mayfield from the Institute for Research of Expelled Germans, “and [with] no tribunals to prevent war crimes or local violence.

“Over 50 million had died in the war anyway,” Mayfield told The Local, “so the lives of 2,000 to 5,000 Germans at Ústí nad Labem were seen as largely insignificant.”

The massacre was part of something much wider, Mayfield said – and what happened in Ústí was “only one of many violent examples of what historians and German expellees call the wilde Vertreibungen (fierce expulsion) of Germans from countries such as Czechoslovakia.

According to Mayfield, local vigilantes ignored instructions from Allied powers to make the expulsions as “orderly, humane and non-violent as possible.”

Commemorating the victims

Ten years ago, former Czech foreign minister Cyril Svoboda unveiled a memorial plaque on the Aussiger Bridge over the River Elbe, where part of the massacre occurred.

“In memory of the victims of the violence of 31st July 1945,” it reads in Czech and German.

A decade on, the bridge is the scene of further remembrance.

Organized by the Association of German Citizens in the Czech Republic, a special ceremony took place this Friday to commemorate the victims of the massacre.

As in previous years, Sudeten German Association chairman Bernd Posselt travelled to Ústí for the service.

Yet the ceremony was particularly important this year, Posselt told the Local, as for the first time, Czech politicians would be in attendance.

The service began at 3:30pm and was attended by current Ústí mayor Věra Nechybová, as well as members of German minority groups in the town.

There was also a remembrance service in the street at 1pm, to commemorate those killed in the original explosion.

And at 6pm, a church in the town will hold a special mass for the victims.

Czech-German relations since the massacre

The massacre divided the two countries for decades – with ongoing controversy as to why exactly it occurred.

The Czech government have since claimed that they were unable to stop massacres such as the one in Ústí, Mayfield said.

However, he argued: “all historical evidence suggests that most locals, government officials, and particularly the communist party were widely aware of the massacres.”

“They either supported limited reprisals against the Germans, looked the other way, or even provided intelligence and names of German families.”

Since the German expulsion from Czechoslovakia, the Czech government has refused German calls for compensation for these refugees – several thousand of whom died in the expulsion.

But in 1997, the German-Czech Declaration was founded.

The agreement saw both sides state that they would “not allow past legal and political issues to be a burden” on the relationship between the two countries.

“The 1997 German-Czech Declaration paved the way for Germany and the Czech Republic to become present-day friends and partners, duty-bound to uphold human rights, freedom and democracy,” a spokesperson for the German Foreign Ministry told The Local.

“Ethnic cleansing”

“Despite the many cases of massacres and forced dispossession, it would be inaccurate to describe the expulsion of the German minority of over 3,000,000 from Czechoslovakia as genocide or extermination,” said Mayfield.

“It was, instead, when combined with the expulsion of over 7,000,000 ethnic Germans from the rest of Eastern Europe, the largest and most organized ethnic cleansing in modern history.”

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History Lesson to Help Stupidity

By HWB von Richter, Chancellor of the Society

History Lesson to Help Stupidity: We are going to give people who lack any understanding of history or think they have an understand of history on this Page, Website, and Historical Society’s Mission. 
People come here in support of Nazism and Racism, state the ‘Nazi’ army, think we support Nazism, and think every German Soldat is a Nazi due to the emblem or awards on his uniform.
 

Most of the German Wehrmacht and German Volk were not Nazis. 7.85% of the population were registered National Socialists at the height of the party. If you were a Teacher, Lawyer, Doctor, you had to register to continue your occupation. This does not include the other occupations also. With this in thinking, this will cut down the amount of true Nazis. Then you have people who want to advance, are worried about power, or want prominence. This reduces the number. I’m not going to give numbers I cannot provide so lets stick with 8% then go back to 1933. 

In 1933 Elections, Hitler and the National Socialists had polled over 11 million votes but was still behind Hindenburg. The second and final round took place on 10 April: Hitler (36.8% 13,418,547) lost out to Paul von Hindenburg (53.0% 19,359,983) whilst KPD candidate Thälmann gained a meagre percentage of the vote (10.2% 3,706,759). Now the Nazi lovers are going to come along and state that the 8% is not correct. It must be 36-37%. This is not accurate due to more ignorance of history. The German state is still in the Great Depression as is also the world. Hitler made many promises and did act on them which rose Germany from the chaos of this. As a politician, we give him credit. So many parts of the population want a better Germany as in the 36%. Hitler of course only gained 2nd most votes so in time (after political maneuvering) became Chancellor (2nd in power) to Hinderburg being number one in power. Then of course when Hindenburg passed from the earth, Hitler illegally seized power by also taking the office of President thus making himself Fuhrer. That is another story for another day.

Many conservative Nationalists voted for Hitler. Being only Nationalists, no they were not Nazis. They believed in the support of the country and having it grow strong again. Hitler and his group was a means to the end. Unfortunately they did not see how much power Hitler was to gain and the consequences of the future with the extermination camps. Many highly doubt that most would have not voted for Hitler with hindsight.

Nationalism is a love and support of your country. Socialism is a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole. Of course Socialism sounds like Communism, but it is not. It is a step towards it if nations make the mistake. Socialism is about your basic needs being met and provided to by the government/people. Gas, Water, Electricity, Healthcare provided at low cost to no cost to the people. National Socialism in Hitler’s form provides these elements.

National Socialism in the purest form was perverted by Hitler and his elite. Nazism is a characterized as a form of fascism that incorporates scientific racism and antisemitism. Nazism subscribed to theories of racial hierarchy and Social Darwinism, identifying the Germans as a part of what the Nazis regarded as an Aryan or Nordic master race. It aimed to overcome social divisions and create a German homogeneous society based on racial purity which represented a people’s community. So both words together are forever linked  to the regime.  Before this, both words could be used together to promote love of the country and providing services to the people.

National Socialism is dead. Yes there are Facists, Nazis, Neo-Nazis, Far Right who still think that it will make a comeback. This is impossible. Due to German culture and the guilt due to the ‘brown-shirted’ regime, this is dead in Germany. Due to the lessons of the Holocaust and World War Two, it is dead around the world. No one will support it in any form of a majority.

Neo-Nazism is an even more perverted form of National Socialism. ‘New’ National Socialism is a bunch of racists and bigots coming under one banner of Nazism thinking they are the new movement. They try to use the National Socialists of Germany (1923-1945) as their beacon and thing they most look up to. I hate to let them know that Nazi Germany had every color, race, religion serving in the Wehrmacht (please do not correct me, yes there were Jews in the armed forces, a small minority). The SS added what was called Divisions of the SS. This is non-aryan/partial Germanic divisions of the SS to fight in World War Two. Does everyone think that they would exterminate the other races on the planet after the war was won? More stupidity from a class of people who are on the level of gutter rats.

So back to the ‘Nazi’ army. Yes the Wehrmacht was created under the Third Reich and the National Socialist regime. The armed forces were not allowed to be registered Nazis. While some generals supported Nazism also including parts of the rank and file, most were good men who served their country in a time of need. Even ones who signed up for the Waffen-SS (military formations of the SS) were also good men. They were card carrying Nazi’s and prescribed to the virtues of the Nazi Party, but also good Germans who believed in the country and the German Volk. Does that make all SS men and Wehrmacht personnel good men in our opinions? No. There were formations under order who committed war time massacres which did come from superiors with evil or warped intentions. But for the overall German majority in the all the armed forces, most served with discipline, honor, distinction and the will to see the German Fatherland great again.

So for the ‘Nazi’ army or the website and historic society supporting Nazism, please take yourself to some obscure place or corner of the internet to enjoy your fantasies and stupidity. This was the armed forces of the Third Reich in which we honor the German man and woman who served the Fatherland.

After My Main Purpose, This Website Honors All German Soldiers. – “No Matter What has been Done in the Past or Present, We Honor the German Soldier with His Sacrifice and Dedication to Fatherland!”

Nach Mein Hauptzweck, Diese Website Ehrungen Alle Deutschen Soldaten. – “Egal, was in der Vergangenheit oder Gegenwart getan wurde, wir ehren den deutschen Soldaten mit seinem Opfer und seiner Hingabe an das Vaterland!”

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German village votes to keep ‘Hitler bell’

by DW

Councilors in Herxheim am Berg in southwest Germany have voted to keep a controversial Nazi-era bell hanging at a local church. Some residents feared it could become a draw for far-right groups.

In a vote on Monday night, the local council in a small southwestern German village decided by 10 votes to 3 that a Nazi-era bell — complete with the inscription “Everything for the Fatherland – Adolf Hitler” — should continue to hang in the local church and be put back in use.

Councilors in Herxheim am Berg, 50 kilometers (30 miles) northwest of Heidelberg, said the bell, which also bears a swastika, should serve as a force for reconciliation and a memorial against violence and injustice.

The council rejected calls by some residents for the bell to be dismantled or put in a museum. They also turned down an offer by the local Protestant church to bear the cost of installing a new one.

Herxheim am Berg Mayor Georg Welker told reporters that it was better the bell remained in the church “than if it would hang in some museum where someone could stand in front of the bell at any time and take a selfie.”

Resident spoke out

The contentious bronze bell has been in the church since 1934, where it was used until recently. Its existence only became known when a former church organist, Sigrid Peters, complained about the inscription.

Following the council vote, Peters told DW she was deeply concerned about the signal the council was sending about Germany to the rest of the world.

She said she was deeply saddened “that this could happen, that they allow a bell dedicated to a murderer to hang in the church.”

For Peters, the council’s decision to keep and use the Nazi-era bell and the electoral success of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) aren’t a coincidence.

The Jakobskirche has stood in Herxheim am Berg for 1,000 years.

Put back to use

After Peters found out about the Nazi-era bell and informed local media last summer, the local authority ordered an outside assessment to help councilors decide its fate. Experts came to the conclusion that the bell should be classified as a memorial and either moved to a museum or kept in the church tower.

The council decided the bell will be put back into operation, and a commemorative plaque displayed in the church to point out its history.

Months before Monday’s decision, the church voted not to ring the bell any more, and would rely instead on its other two bells, which have no Nazi motif.

How to deal with Nazi past

The large bell sparked an intense debate about how Germany should deal with Nazi symbols. Many residents were concerned the bronze relic would ruin the church’s reputation, or that its existence would encourage neo-Nazi groups to congregate in the village.

Others complained that its removal would mean the town’s history would be covered up.

The dispute intensified when the town’s then mayor, Roland Becker, argued that not everything was bad during the Nazi era — comments that forced his resignation.

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