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Poland: Auschwitz 'Arbeit Macht Frei' sign stolen

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Poland: Auschwitz 'Arbeit Macht Frei' sign stolen

� The Nazis' infamous iron sign declaring "Arbeit Macht Frei" � German for "Work Sets You Free" � was stolen Friday from the entrance of the former Auschwitz death camp, Polish police said.

The 5-meter-long (16-foot-long), 40-kilogram (90-pound) iron sign at the Holocaust memorial site in southern Poland was unscrewed on one side and torn off on the other, police spokeswoman Katarzyna Padlo said.

The theft from the entrance to the camp � where more than 1 million people, mostly Jews, died during World War II � brought condemnation worldwide.

"The theft of such a symbolic object is an attack on the memory of the Holocaust, and an escalation from those elements that would like to return us to darker days," Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev said in a statement from Jerusalem.

"I call on all enlightened forces in the world who fight against anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia and the hatred of the other, to join together to combat these trends."

The sign disappeared from the Auschwitz memorial between 3:30 a.m. and 5 a.m., Padlo said.

Police deployed 50 police, including 20 detectives, and a search dog to the Auschwitz grounds, where barracks, watchtowers and ruins of gas chambers stand as testament to the atrocities of Nazi Germany.

Police said they were reviewing footage from a surveillance camera that overlooks the entrance gate and the road beyond, but declined to say whether the crime was recorded.

Auschwitz museum spokesman Jaroslaw Mensfelt said it might have been too dark for the camera to have captured images.

He said the thieves apparently carried the sign 300 meters (yards) to an opening in a concrete wall. That opening had been left intentionally to preserve a poplar tree dating back to the time of the war.

Four metal bars that had blocked the opening were cut. Tire tracks and footprints in the snow led from the wall opening to the nearby road, where police presume the sign was loaded on to a vehicle.

Poland's chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, said he had trouble imagining who would steal the sign.

"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," Schudrich said.

He said the theft could have been committed by neo-Nazi extremists, or even people scheming to sell the sign of the black market.

"There's a market for everything," he said, adding that it was "like stealing a Picasso. Even a hot Picasso you could try to move after 10 years � but not this."

An exact replica of the sign, produced when the original received restoration work years ago, was quickly hung in its place

Entry #935

Comments

1.
JAP69Comment by JAP69 - December 18, 2009, 1:23 pm
When I was stationed in Germany for my tour of duty I took a walkabout thru the Dachau camp. It was quite a depressing experience to see what the inmates endured. It made me more focused on what my military duties were to help prevent that from happening again.

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