Taking a broom to chimney sweeps

Dec. 3, 2006 at 2:35 PM

BERLIN, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Thousands of Germans want to sweep away a Nazi-era law that authorizes chimney sweeps do regular chimney checkups by force if necessary.

The 1937 law, introduced by Interior Minister Heinrich Himmler, makes chimney sweeping compulsory, London's Sunday Telegraph reports.

It also gives a sweep, or Schornsteinfeger, the right to enlist police and firefighters to break down people's doors if residents do not let them in.

"They broke in and officers had to handcuff me and press me against the wall as the sweep went about his business," said Harry Hollmann, 77, part of a network of more than 100,000 people demanding a change in the law. "It's outrageous. I have had gas heating from the 1990s. I don't need my chimney swept at all."

Authorities set prices of up to $200 a visit and householders must accept the service up to four times a year.

A chimney sweeps spokesman responds: "Yes, we can force people to accept our service. Yes, people cannot choose their Schornsteinfeger, but he also cannot choose his clients. Our service is not like any other -- it is a legal obligation in the interest of public safety."

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