The Story of Max’s Freedom Bell
Once the BELL was the sole communicator between the “masters” and their captives: the Nazis and their prisoners, who were mostly Jewish and Hungarian professional men, and Poles, during World War II. The concentration camp, called Mathousen, was located 11 miles downstream on the Danube River, near Linz, Austria’s third largest city. The BELL told the prisoners, who were never allowed to speak, when to get up, work, eat, exercise, and retire.
In June 1945, the late Max Connolly, who was from Tempe and a First Sergeant at that time, was stationed at Horshing Air Base. He was placed on detached service and his duties were to return POWs and displaced persons to their homes. That is when Max decided to liberate the BELL also. With the help of some of the people who had lived with the dreaded bell, and hated its sound day after day and year after year Max set about obtaining the BELL.
This is what happened in Max’s own words:
“One day we drove over to the camp and during the afternoon light, we fooled the guards, while one former inmate scaled the building, high on the side of a quarry. He hacked down the support pole, and then lowered by rope the unit composed of pole, bell, and tin hood. After many lengthy attempts to ship the BELL to my brother Frank, of the Tempe Daily News, it was barely too wide, and barely too heavy to put in a mailbag, after much conniving, a cooperative officer put the BELL in a bag for me with the words, “It looks about right to me”.
Upon returning to the States, and to Tempe, Max donated the BELL to William Bloys American Legion Post #2, stipulating that it only be rung in the name of freedom.
Shortly after, Post 2 members constructed a special belfry on top of the old Post Home on East Fifth Street, where it hung until we moved into the new Post Home. This special belfry was built in memory of Max to house his “liberated” BELL, and it is rung on July 4th each year as a symbol of LIBERTY & FREEDOM for all.
When we join together on our day of Independence, and prepare to ring the BELL for Freedom and Liberty, it is a most opportune time to tell the story of the BELL. Because of its unique and unusual history, it could well qualify as
“Tempe’s Freedom Bell”.