Georg Welker, the independent mayor of the southern German town of Herxheim am Berg, has promised that he will never again make statements that draw distinctions between Jewish and German victims of Nazi crimes.
During an appearance on the German public television show "Kontraste," Welker spoke about a controversial Nazi-era church bell in Herxheim. Welker argued that the bell, which is emblazoned with the words, "Everything for the Fatherland — Adolf Hitler," should be kept as a monument to those who suffered under the Nazis. He said that, when the bell rings, "I hear the victims: These were German citizens, not just Jews."
Accused of espousing Nazi ideology
Welker was immediately sued by a city resident after making the statement, and was sharply criticized by Josef Schuster, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.
Schuster accused the mayor of ridiculing victims with his words, saying Welker was espousing Nazi ideology by drawing distinctions between Jews and Germans. Welker denied that he sought to make such a distinction, adding that he was simply thinking of all of the people whom he had buried during his time as a pastor in Herxheim. Welker said many of those people had been the victims of Nazi crimes as well.
Wleker claims that the distinction arose from the fact that all of Herxheim's Jewish residents had left the city during the 1920s. He vehemently denied any desire to claim that Jews were not German citizens.
On Tuesday, Welker appeared before the Bad Dürkheim district court, where he promised to refrain from making such statements in the future.
On February 26, Herxheim will hold a public city council meeting to discuss the topic of the bell. The meeting was scheduled for the presentation of a report by the bell expert of the Evangelical Church of the Palatinate, Birgit Müller.
js/rt (dpa, epd)