Saturday, December 19, 2009

Auschwitz sign stolen

Dec 18, 2009
Auschwitz sign stolen
The sign was removed by being unscrewed on one side and pulled off on the other. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

WARSAW - THE infamous iron sign bearing the Nazis' cynical slogan 'Arbeit Macht Frei' that spanned the main entrance to the former Auschwitz death camp was stolen before dawn on Friday, Polish police said.

The sign - with the German words for 'Work Sets You Free' - is believed to have been stolen from the gates of the Auschwitz memorial between 3:30 am and 5 am, when museum guards noticed it was missing and alerted authorities, police spokesman Katarzyna Padlo said.

The wide iron sign - across a gate at the main entrance to the former Nazi death camp in southern Poland where more than 1 million people died during World War II - was removed by being unscrewed on one side and pulled off on the other, Ms Padlo said.

Police have launched an intensive hunt, with criminal investigators and search dogs sent to the grounds of the vast former death camp, whose barracks, watchtowers and ruins of gas chambers still stand as testament to the atrocities inflicted by Nazi Germany on Jews, Gypsies and others.

Between 1940-45, more than 1 million people, mostly Jews, were killed or died of starvation and disease while carrying out forced labour 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 abroad and Polish students, with more than 1 million visitors per year. -- AP.