Poland: Stolen Auschwitz Sign Returned to Museum
Polish police have just returned the stolen sign from former Auschwitz death camp to the museum authorities. It had been taken to the Krakow forensic lab after being recovered by the police.
The Auschwitz Museum conservation staff immediately inspected the „Arbeit Macht Frei“ („Work makes you free“) sign.
[Jolanta Banas, Auschwitz Museum Conservation Dpt.]:
„The sign is seriously damaged. It will definitely be a long and consuming process, it will take us a lot of time.”
The former Polish concentration camp sign was stolen late December by five men, which triggered great outrage among the Jewish community. Museum officials have not confirmed whether the sign will be returned to its original place on top of the main gate, where a copy now hangs.
[Piotr Cywinski, Auschwitz Museum Director]:
„The recovery of the original was of huge importance. People come here to see something real, something factual, something that actually happened. And this is one of those fundamental symbols of this heritage site.“
Auschwitz survivor Tadeusz Smerczynki explains how the sign is a powerful reminder of the Holocaust.
[Tadeusz Smerczynki, Auschwitz Survivor]:
„For all of those who every day walked past it and saw it…the former prisoners of the main camp in Oswiecim, Auschwitz… this was embedded deep in their memories and it remained a symbol of that time for us, the time of cynicism, brutality and crime.“
Meanwhile in Katowice, the head of the Jewish community hopes people will think twice now before trying to buy such historic symbols.
[Wlodzimierz Katc, Katowice Jewish Community]:
“The common outrage, as far as we could only imagine, in Poland and the whole world, may convince all those who would want it, that symbols like this are not to be bought and sold.“
Some 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, died at the Auschwitz concentration camp during Nazi Germany’s WWII.