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A simmering row in Germany over Nazi symbols on church bells has boiled over again, as prosecutors consider whether to bring charges over five churches.

The authorities in the central state of Thuringia have received complaints from a campaigner about the local churches and the regional bishop of the Evangelical Church, Ilse Junkermann, the regional broadcaster reports.

Last year swastikas and pro-Hitler inscriptions were found on church bells in Herxheim in the south-west and Schweringen in northern Germany.

Herxheim parish council controversially voted to keep the bell as a "", but anonymous protesters took matters into their own hands in Schweringen by the insignia in a "spring cleaning of the filth of National Socialism".

Gilbert Kallenborn, a resident of the Saarland on the border with France, brought the Herxheim case to public attention at the time, and has also brought the latest complaint.

He told MDR that he wrote to the Thuringian prosecutors at the start of the month, accusing the Evangelical Church of "preserving and continuing to use" six bells in the five churches, "in violation of the Penal Code, which bans the preservation and use of anti-constitutional, banned Nazi regalia", after his complaints to the Church itself before Christmas "went unanswered".

The regional council of the Evangelical Church has responded by calling a meeting in April to discuss the matter with the Thuringian authorities and the head of the Jewish community in the state, Reinhard Schramm. Judging by previous discussions, the meeting is likely to be uncomfortable.

The Jewish community in Thuringia has already called for the removal of the bells, according to the , but the Church says it will take time to decide whether to grind off the inscriptions, remove the bells, or melt them down and re-cast them.

The national leadership of the Church has offered financial support, as has the Thuringian finance ministry, which says it could make lottery funds available to rework the bells or cast new ones.

The Evangelical Church in Central Germany surveyed its belfries last year, and confirmed that there were still six bells with Nazi inscriptions in Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt.

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