Bell stolen by Nazis to be returned to Poland

The bell in Münster
The bell has been sitting in a church courtyard in Münster for decades

A church bell that dates back to 1555 will be returned to its home in Poland, 77 years after it was plundered by the Nazis in World War Two.

Parishioners at Slawiecice in southern Poland began searching for the church’s old bell two years ago, they were in luck because, as the Münster diocese in Germany explained, the Nazis melted down some 80,000 bells to make weapons or ammunition. The bell was eventually tracked down to Münster by the Polish church’s pastor. According to the diocese, Marian Bednarek found the 400kg (880lb) bell listed in a book, it had been sitting for decades unnoticed with two other bells in a courtyard at the city’s Catholic Church court. After the war, some bells that had not been melted down for their metal content were returned but 1,300 bells that had been seized in eastern territories such as Poland were kept initially in a bell cemetery in Hamburg and photos of them were kept in an archive in Nuremberg.

The diocese said that British military authorities had banned the return of bells to the east, and instead they were loaned out to parishes across the old West Germany, the bell will not be sent back to its original home just yet because of the coronavirus pandemic. When it does finally arrive at St Catherine’s church, it will be on permanent loan as officially it is now owned by the German government. “After 77 years, waiting another month or so doesn’t really matter,” Hans Manek, a former resident of Slawiecice, told the Catholic Church in Münster.

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