Poland Tightens Border In Hunt For Auschwitz Sign
Polish authorities stepped up security checks at airports and border crossings and searched scrap metal yards Saturday as the search intensified for the infamous Nazi sign stolen from the Auschwitz death camp memorial.
The brazen pre-dawn theft Friday of one of the Holocaust’s most chilling and notorious symbols sparked outrage from around the world, and Polish leaders have declared recovering the 16-foot sign a national priority.
The sign bearing the German words “Arbeit Macht Frei” – “work makes you free” – spanned the main entrance to the Auschwitz death camp, where more than 1 million people, mostly Jews, were killed during World War II.
Police deployed 50 officers, including 20 detectives, and a search dog to the Auschwitz grounds, where barracks, watchtowers and rows of barbed wire stand as testament to the atrocities of Nazi Germany.
Spokeswoman Katarzyna Padlo said police had questioned all security guards at the site and searched local scrap metal businesses, while Dariusz Nowak, a police spokesman in Krakow, said investigators were working around the clock on the case.
The director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial museum, visibly shaken by the dramatic theft, told The Associated Press he believes the theft was carried out by professionals.
British historian Andrew Roberts said the sign would generate huge interest on the burgeoning market for Nazi memorabilia.
Security guards patrol the 940-acresite around the clock, but due to its vast size they only pass by any one area at intervals. Cywinski said that gave thieves between 20 to 30 minutes to remove the sign and carry it off.
Museum spokesman Pawel Sawicki said the sign is made of hollow steel pipes and is believed to weigh only around65 to 90 pounds.
Sawicki said the entire Auschwitz staff was deeply shaken by the theft. He defended security at the camp but said no one could have ever imagined thieves seizing the gate’s sign.
An exact replica of the sign, produced when the original underwent restoration work years ago, was quickly hung in its place Friday.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish human rights group, urged Poland to intensify its investigation and bring the thieves to justice.
“The fact is that the ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ sign has become the defining symbol of the Holocaust, because everyone knew that this was not a place where work makes you free, but it was the place where millions of men, women, and children were brought for one purpose only – to be murdered,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, the centre’s founder and dean.
(Source: Edmonton Sun)