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Police focus on neo-Nazis and collectors in Auschwitz case

DDP/DPA/The Local · 20 Dec 2009, 17:04

Published: 20 Dec 2009 17:04 GMT+01:00

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Nor could they determine how the thieves had removed and transported the bulky metal sign.

Krakow police spokesman, Mariusz Sokolowski, said several dozen officers were involved in the case and were focussing on two main hypotheses: that the sign was stolen either by neo-Nazis or to be sold to a memorabilia collector.

However, they were not ruling the possibility it was stolen as an act of revenge on behalf of former inmates of the camp.

Another police spokesman Dariusz Nowak told Polish television station TVPInfo that investigators had received about 80 leads from the public, but were yet to make a breakthrough.

They had shared details with international police organisations including Interpol and Europol, Nowak said. Poland’s domestic intelligence agency was also involved.

The sign, which translates as “Work Shall Set You Free,” stood above the gates the notorious camp where an estimated 1.1 million Jews and other victims of the Nazis were murdered. The camp is now a memorial site and museum.

The sign was dismantled and removed unnoticed on Friday morning.

Security at the memorial came under scrutiny in the past two days, with Polish Culture Minister Bogdan Zdrojewski demanding to know why it had taken several hours before police were informed.

Story continues below…

Four guards on duty at the time of the theft had been questioned but this had provided no solid leads, police said.

Museum director Piotr Cywinski admitted the entrance was watched only by an internet camera that did not record images. The picture quality wasn’t even very good, he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Polish authorities to express his shock at the theft, according to Polish news agency PAP.

DDP/DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

17:32 December 20, 2009 by cleavage
"it was stolen as an act of revenge on behalf of former inmates of the camp"

What? I don't understand why stealing the sign would be an act of revenge.
17:34 December 20, 2009 by pepsionice
In the end, I'm betting on an inside job and some disgruntled worker who took it.
19:15 December 20, 2009 by wxman
Places like this absolutely need to stay intact and visited by as many as can make it. Tearing them down is like pretending this never happened, and only benefits those who haven't learned from history or who want to repeat it. On the other hand, it's going to be difficult fencing-off that sign since whoever buys it will never be able to display it.
21:00 December 20, 2009 by Bayern Munich7
Probably some rich collector wanted to add this to his collection and paid thieves to remove it. Memorabilia collectors go to any lengths to add to their collections
22:06 December 20, 2009 by Mike in NYC
Pronouncements issuing from Jewish media and politicos have been nothing short of manic. US outlets, OTOH, don't seem all that interested. Maybe they smell a hoax?

When this story first broke, I thought they were referring to the entrance plaque with the thrice-amended death counts.
23:01 December 20, 2009 by wood artist
Personally I think every human being ought to visit a camp, and in some ways I'm almost tempted to say it ought to be mandatory. Two years ago I visited Buchenwald, and I know I left a much different person. Yes, I'd read all the stories and seen the films and all that, but standing in a room with the ovens makes you realize a whole lot of things you only slightly knew.

Sure, there were some "kids" there who saw the whole thing as a lark, and although I regret that, I guess I understand it. The same was true for the group I saw in Babelplatz starting through the window at the empty room of bookshelves.

While I can understand the idea or argument to take them down, it would be a travesty for all time if it ever happened. I'm more than willing to forgive, and I understand that few Germans alive today had any responsibility for anything that happened then, but, to me, it's not about Germany or Germans. There is a huge difference between forgiving and forgetting, and all of humanity is never more than a few inches away from allowing the same thing to happen again. Dafur is only one example, and there are many more available.

Keep them standing...so people can understand and fathom the truth.
23:20 December 20, 2009 by Mike in NYC
If the camps are going to be preserved -- at inflated cost, no doubt -- not to mention Holocaust museums in twenty US cities and "Holocaust education" as mandatory public school curriculum, then equal time should be given to the Armenian, Ukrainian, Cambodian and Rwandan genocides. Of course, we all know why one particular episode is given special treatment.
01:28 December 21, 2009 by -GD-
Considering that these events usually follow some bad publicity, such as arrest warrants for war criminals, it is far more likely that a jewish group is responsible. Like swastikas on synagogs, this seems to be self-inflicted to perpetuate their eternal victimhood.
01:39 December 21, 2009 by sc123
dear Chocky, it does do good keeping it there so the people see the horrors that these poor people went through, history repeats itself
23:52 December 21, 2009 by wenddiver
I wish the Holocaust was unique, but I am afraid the history of Europe is one large celebration of the joys of pilining your neighbor up in mounds of dead or pushing them in ditches after shooting.

Of course too many of the hills in the world are man made mounds.
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