Trail of Auschwitz sign theft said to lead to Britain
A collector of Nazi memorabilia living in Great Britain is said to be behind the December theft of the “Arbet macht frei” (“Work will set you free”) sign from the former concentration camp at Auschwitz. The British daily The Daily Mirror reported the news yesterday on its website. Previous media reports claimed the instigator of the theft lives in Sweden.
The sign disappeared from over the gate of the former concentration camp during the early morning hours of 18 December 2009. Police found the sign several days later in the municipality of Czernikowo not far from Toruń in the Kuyavian-Pomeranian voivodeship. Polish police have arrested five Britons in connection with the theft. However, The Daily Mirror reports "they played secondary roles in the operation to secretly transport the sign across Europe and into Britain."
The paper says the sign was intended for a British collector of Nazi memorabilia. It was to reach him through a neo-Nazi group in Sweden.
"The collector wanted it as a trophy and used his neo-Nazi contacts to make it known he was prepared to pay a great deal of money for it,” an anonymous source in Sweden told the paper. The sign was to have been hidden in a particular vault in Stockholm, where the collector would retrieve it. Money from the sale was intended to finance neo-Nazi attacks on government targets in Sweden.
The plan, however, was scuttled after the robbers panicked during the rapid police action in Poland prompted by worldwide condemnation of the theft. The gang is said to have fled from the Baltic seaport of Gdańsk.
The sign was then found in the forest under a pile of branches and snow near the home of one of the arrested suspects. The Daily Mirror says it was found thanks to a tip from an anonymous intermediary in Stockholm.
The Auschwitz concentration camp, which was established and run by Nazi Germany during the Second World War, was responsible for the deaths of 1.1 million Jews, 140 000 political prisoners from Poland, 20 000 Roma, 10 000 Soviet prisoners of war and thousands of other prisoners of various nationalities.
The sign, which is said to have a black market value of between EUR 10 000 – 30 000, will be repaired and reinstalled over the entrance to the former camp, now a memorial.