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date: 16 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Over 175,000 of Europe’s bells were confiscated by the Nazis during World War II. A communal musical instrument, bells have permeated secular and religious life for centuries. Artistic, musical, and historical works, bells are bound up in the fabric of their nations, regions, and cities as cultural property and heritage, reflecting civic, social, and religious traditions as well as customs of bell founding and performance. Unlike the aesthetic motives that fueled Nazi-era looting of other musical material culture, bells were taken for their metal content for use in the Reich war machine, even though international law prohibited such seizures and destruction. By the war’s end, an estimated 150,000 bells were destroyed, leaving a sonic gap in the European landscape. Bells that remained were repatriated to their countries of origin. Bell losses were remembered at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg and remain symbols of community and culture, war and peace.

Keywords: bell, campanology, carillon, cultural heritage, cultural property, confiscation, Nazi era, repatriation, restitution, World War II

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