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'Bells in the Cultural Soundscape: Nazi-Era Plunder, Repatriation, and Campanology'

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Bells in the Cultural Soundscape: Nazi-Era Plunder, Repatriation, and Campanology


Carla Shapreau


August 2018


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.

Carla Shapreau

Carla Shapreau is a Senior Fellow in the Institute of European Studies, a Curator in the Department of Music, and a Lecturer in the School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley. Co-author of the Ferrell-Vogüé Machaut Manuscript, Oxford: DIAMM Publications, 2014 (American Musicological Society Claude V. Palisca Award 2015) and Violin Fraud -- Deception, Forgery, Theft and Lawsuits in England and America, Oxford University Press, 1998, she has written broadly regarding issues of musical cultural property. Carla Shapreau also is a violin maker.

Source: accessed 10 August 2018


The Oxford Handbook of Musical Repatriation, edited by Frank Gunderson, Robert C. Lancefield, and Bret Woods
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