Auschwitz gate sign recovered, but damaged

Auschwitz gate sign recovered, but damaged


They said on Monday that it appeared to have been taken by common criminals seeking profit.

Five men were arrested late on Sunday after the damaged “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Sets You Free) sign was found near one of their homes in a snowy forest outside Czernikowo, a village near the northern Polish city of Torun, on the other side of the country from the memorial site.

The brazen pre-dawn Friday theft of one of the Holocaust’s most chilling symbols sparked outrage from around the world. Polish leaders launched an intensive search for the 5-metre sign that spanned the main gate of the camp in southern Poland where more than one million people, mostly Jews, were killed during World War II.
The men’s arrest on Sunday came after more than 100 tips, said Andrzej Rokita, the chief police investigator in the case.

Police said it was too soon to say what the motive for the theft was, but they are investigating whether the Nazi memorabilia market may have played a part. The suspects do not have known neo-Nazi or other far-right links, Rokita said.
“Robbery and material gain are considered one of the main possible motives, but whether that was done on someone’s order will be determined in the process of the investigation,” added deputy investigator Marek Wozniczka.

The suspects have not been identified publicly, but Rokita said they were between the age group of 20 and 39, and that their past offenses were “either against property or against health and life,” implying that at least one of them has a record for violent crime.
Four of the five men are believed to have carried out the theft, removing the 30 to 40-kg steel sign from above the Auschwitz gate in the town of Oswiecim.
“It seems they cut the sign up already in Oswiecim, to make transport easier,” Rokita said at a news conference in Krakow. It was “hidden in the woods near the home of one of them.”

Wozniczka said the suspects will all be charged with theft of an object of special cultural value and could face up to 10 years in prison.

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