'Arbeit macht frei' sign stolen from Auschwitz
AUSCHWITZ, Poland (WJC)–The iron sign bearing the infamous Nazi slogan “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work sets you free”) that spanned the main entrance to the former Auschwitz death camp was stolen in the early hours of Friday, Polish police said.
The sign was removed by being unscrewed on one side and pulled off on the other, according to a spokeswoman. Police have launched an intensive hunt and a criminal investigation.
Noach Flug, president of the International Auschwitz Committee and chairman of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, called on Polish authorities “to exert an especially concentrated effort into catching the perpetrators and bringing them to justice.” He said: “This is an object that is a symbol of historic value that must be returned immediately.
Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, said the thieves were guilty of desecrating a site of immense importance. “If they are pranksters, they’d have to be sick pranksters, or someone with a political agenda. But whoever has done it has desecrated world memory,” he said, adding: “Auschwitz has to stand intact because without it, we are without the world’s greatest physical reminder of what we are capable of doing to each other.”
The slogan “Arbeit macht frei” was also used at the entrances to other Nazi concentration camps, including Dachau and Sachsenhausen. Between 1940 and 1945, over 1 million people, mostly Jews, were murdered or died of starvation and disease while carrying out forced labor at the camp, which the Nazis built in occupied Poland. Today, the site is one of the main draws in the region for visitors from Poland and abroad.
The barracks and other structures are in a state of massive disrepair and Polish authorities have been struggling to find funds to carry out conservation work.
This week, the German government pledged € 60 million (US$ 85 million) to a new endowment that will fund long-term preservation work. The sum is half the amount of the estimated costs for preservation measures. The German government said that Auschwitz had to be maintained as a monument to condemn the Holocaust and Nazi reign of terror.
Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress
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