Macht Frei sign stolen from Auschwitz
Sign that spanned entrance
to former Nazi death camp in Poland removed
Dated: December 18, 2009
The iron sign bearing
the Nazi slogan "Arbeit Macht Frei" that spanned the main
entrance to the former Auschwitz death camp was stolen
before dawn today, Polish police said.
The sign with the
German words for "Work Sets You Free" is believed to have
been stolen from the gates of the Auschwitz memorial
between 3.30am and 5am, when museum guards noticed it was
missing and alerted authorities, said a police
spokeswoman, Katarzyna Padlo.
40kg sign across a gate at the main entrance to the
former Nazi death camp in southern Poland, where more
than 1 million people died during the second world war,
was unscrewed on one side and pulled off on the other,
Padlo said. A spokesman for the Auschwitz museum, Pawel
Sawicki, called the theft a "desecration" and said it was
shocking that the tragic history of the site did not stop
the thieves. In Brussels, the European parliament
president, Jerry Burzek, appealed for the sign to be
returned "out of respect for the suffering of over a
spokesman, Jaroslaw Mensfelt, said the thieves carried
the sign 300 metres to an opening in a barbed-wire gap in
a concrete wall. The opening had been left intentionally
to preserve a poplar tree dating back to the time of the
investigators and a sniffer dog were sent to the grounds
of the vast former death camp, where barracks,
watchtowers and the ruins of gas chambers stand as
testament to the atrocities inflicted by Nazi Germany on
Jews, Gypsies and others.
The sniffer dog led
police to a spot outside the wall where the sign left an
imprint in freshly fallen snow, then to a roadside where
the sign appeared to have been loaded on to a getaway
vehicle. A 5,000-zloty (£1,000) reward has been
offered to anyone who can help track down the
Padlo said there were
no suspects but police were pursuing several
spokesman told TVP Info television: "The whole area is
under surveillance. There are many cameras there. We are
now analysing the film. I hope we will find the
Yad Vashem, the
Holocaust remembrance centre in Jerusalem, told Reuters
the theft was "an attack on the memory of the Holocaust".
Noach Flug, president of the International Auschwitz
Committee in Jerusalem, said it "deeply unsettles the
survivors" and the sign "has to be found".
Poland's chief rabbi,
Michael Schudrich, said the thieves were guilty of
desecrating a site of immense importance.
"If they are
pranksters, they'd have to be sick pranksters, or someone
with a political agenda. But whoever has done it has
desecrated world memory," he said.
to stand intact because without it, we are without the
world's greatest physical reminder of what we are capable
of doing to each other."
Sawicki said the
museum authorities had already replaced the sign with a
replica, which was used briefly a few years ago when the
original was being repaired.
sign was made in the summer of 1940 by non-Jewish Polish
inmates of Auschwitz in an iron workshop at the camp.
After occupying Poland in 1939, the Nazis established the
Auschwitz I camp in the southern Polish city of Oswiecim
and initially used it for German political prisoners and
non-Jewish Polish prisoners.
"We believe that
the perpetrators will be found soon and the inscription
will be returned to its place," said Sawicki.
"Arbeit Macht Frei" was used at the entrances to other
Nazi camps, including Dachau and Sachsenhausen, but the
long, curving sign at Auschwitz is perhaps the best
More than a
million people visit the Auschwitz site every year, but
the barracks and other structures are in a state of
disrepair and Polish authorities have been struggling to
find the funds to carry out conservation work. This week,
Germany pledged ¤60m to an endowment that will fund
long-term preservation work &endash; half the amount that
Auschwitz memorial museum officials say is
Note of December 21, 2009.
To the great relief of world's collective
conscience, on December 20, 2009, the
Polish Police recovered the stolen
gate sign that was found cut in three and
apprehended five (5) criminals
responsible for the vandalism and theft.
death penalty needs to be imposed on those
criminals as their theft and vandalism is a
crime against humanity.