Nazi Memorial Embarrasses German Community

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The wreath is still quite fresh. It was laid on the war memorial on Nov. 13, Germany's day of national mourning for the victims of war, to commemorate the fallen of World War II, whose names are engraved on stone slabs. According to the community's official history, the war took "a very high toll in blood" in the municipality.

But it is not the slabs with the names of the fallen soldiers that are attracting visitors' attention at this war memorial in Tümlauer-Koog, located on the Eiderstedt peninsula near the Danish border in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein. Instead, it is a massive bell that dominates the memorial -- and it is dedicated to Nazi leader Hermann Göring, Adolf Hitler's second-in-command.

The small settlement of Tümlauer-Koog is built on land reclaimed from the sea ("Koog" is a northern German word for polder) during the Nazi period, under the influence of Hitler's "blood and soil" ideology, which glorified rural living and promoted the idea of Lebensraum ("living space"). Up until 1945, the community was known as Hermann-Göring-Koog. Göring himself traveled to the newly reclaimed polder in 1935 to inaugurate it.

The Göring bell has been part of the war memorial since 2008, where it stands next to a misleading explanatory plaque. For three years, nobody took offense to the monument, probably because there are few visitors to the memorial and even fewer take the trouble to read the inscription on the plaque. That changed a few days ago, when a holidaymaker wrote to Peter Harry Carstensen, the governor of Schleswig-Holstein, to inform him about the bell. Carstensen responded by writing to the local mayor demanding that the bell be removed and the inscription changed....

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