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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.

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CRIME

Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

A driver in Passau has been hit with a €5,000 fine because he was caught by traffic police giving the middle finger.

Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

The district court of Passau sentenced the 53-year-old motorist to the fine after he was caught making the rude gesture in the direction of the speedometer last August on the A3 near the Donautal Ost service area, reported German media. 

The man was not caught speeding, however. According to traffic police who were in the speed camera vehicle at the time, another driver who had overtaken the 53-year-old was over the speed limit. 

When analysing the photo, the officers discovered the slower driver’s middle finger gesture and filed a criminal complaint.

The driver initially filed an objection against a penalty order, and the case dragged on for several months. However, he then accepted the complaint. He was sentenced to 50 ‘unit fines’ of €100 on two counts of insulting behaviour, amounting to €5,000.

READ ALSO: The German rules of the road that are hard to get your head around

In a letter to police, the man said he regretted the incident and apologised. 

Police said it was “not a petty offence”, and that the sentence could have been “even more drastic”.

People who give insults while driving can face a prison sentences of up to a year.

“Depending on the nature and manner of the incident or in the case of persons with a previous conviction, even a custodial sentence without parole may be considered for an insult,” police in Passau said. 

What does the law say?

Showing the middle finger to another road user in road traffic is an offence in Germany under Section 185 of the Criminal Code (StGB). It’s punishable by a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine.

People can file a complaint if someone shows them the middle finger in road traffic, but it usually only has a chance of success if witnesses can prove that it happened.

As well as the middle finger, it can also be an offence to verbally insult someone. 

READ ALSO: The German road signs that confuse foreigners

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