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MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU FORMER GERMAN NAZI
CONCENTRATION AND EXTERMINATION CAMP

News

"Arbeit macht frei" sign stolen — 100,000 PLN reward

18-12-2009

On Friday night unknown culprits have stolen the historic sign with the infamous phrase “Arbeit macht frei” which was hung over the gate of the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz I.

For information which will help to find the stolen sign "Arbeit macht frei" the Director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum with approval of Minister of Culture and National Heritage Bogdan Zdrojewski promises a reward of 100,000 zlotys (around $34,000). Anyone having any important information is asked to contact the Police in Poland immediately.

Everything happened at night between two standard museum security guard patrols. The thieves managed to get into the site of the Museum vandalizing the fence from the direction of Sola River.

At the time being the investigation is being carried by the Police. Until the investigation is finished the Museum does not provide any details.

Museum is opened for visitors. Currently over the entrance hangs the copy of the original “Arbeit macht frei” sign.

The board of the International Auschwitz Council expresses its deepest indignation at the theft of the inscription "Arbeit macht frei" placed above the entrance to Auschwitz I. Tens of thousands of political prisoners in the first transports through this gate. With time, the mocking expression grew into a symbol of the evil of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Suffice it to recall that the popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI passed under this sign to commemorate the victims.

Therefore, this theft is much more than just a robbery. This is the authentic desecration of a burial ground of more than one million children, women and men. It is a desecration of the memory of those victims and it is difficult to find word which would describe this inhuman act.

In this painful moment the board of International Auschwitz Council expresses its solidarity with the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and supports its efforts to recover the original sign. The Council also believes that the Polish authorities will make every effort so that the symbol of martyrdom and the Holocaust will be returned to the only proper place for it.

On behalf of the Bureau of the International Auschwitz Council

Władysław Bartoszewski (Chairman)
Marek Zajac (Secretary)