SHARE
COPY LINK

CRIME

Foreign collector behind Auschwitz theft

A foreign memorabilia collector ordered last week's theft of the notorious Arbeit macht frei sign from Auschwitz concentration camp, Polish police said Tuesday.

Foreign collector behind Auschwitz theft
Photo: DPA

Several Polish media sources cited involvement of a Swedish citizen, who reportedly offered the thieves between €10,000 and €30,000 to commit the crime.

However, police spokesman Dariusz Nowak would neither confirm nor deny the Swedish connection, according to news agency Reuters.

Police arrested five Polish men, at least some of whom had criminal records for robbery and assault, on Sunday night and established they had no neo-Nazi connections, as had initially been feared.

“The question of the mysterious Swede has appeared … I cannot confirm or deny this … Of course they (the five suspects) didn’t steal it to have it in their collection. So it looks more and more that somebody else is behind this,” Nowak said.

He said that “in all likelihood” the sign was stolen-to-order for a collector who “lives outside Poland and doesn’t have Polish citizenship.”

“We have been cooperating with… all international agencies and institutions around the world… It is possible that a person could be detained (on a European warrant),” Nowak said.

On Tuesday morning, the state prosecutor inspected the site of the crime accompanied by three of the suspects, each of whom has admitted to the crime.

Their two alleged accomplices are denying involvement.

The men, aged between 20 and 39, were arrested in northern Poland with the gate, which was cut up into three pieces.

The cynical statement on the sign, which means ”Work shall set you free,” has come to symbolise the tragic fate of the 1.1 million Jews murdered at Auschwitz during the Second World War.

It was crafted by Polish prisoners at the camp in 1940 under order of their German captors. The phrase was also used by the Nazis at other concentration camps.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

GERMANY AND ISRAEL

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.

SHOW COMMENTS