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Pupils fined for Auschwitz theft

Published 23/06/2015

Two British teenagers have been arrested on suspicion of theft at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp
Two British teenagers have been arrested on suspicion of theft at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp

Two pupils at one of the country's leading independent schools have been given suspended sentences for stealing items that belonged to prisoners at Auschwitz.

The 17-year-old boys from the £15,000-per-year Perse School in Cambridge admitted taking the items of historical importance when they w ere on a history trip to Poland. They were released this afternoon.

A spokesman for the school said that they were fined 1,000 zloty (about £170) and given a one-year probation, suspended for three years.

He added: "The boys, neither of whom is yet 18, picked up the fragments in the Canada section of the camp.

"They co-operated fully with the authorities and admitted taking the items. They are deeply sorry for the offence they have caused."

They are understood to be free to return home.

Polish police said the teenagers were spotted acting suspiciously at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum yesterday and a body search revealed they had picked up fragments of hair clippers, spoons, some buttons and two pieces of glass.

The Holocaust Educational Trust's chief executive Karen Pollock said the incident was "shocking" and showed "gross disregard to the memory of the Holocaust".

She added: "Every single artefact found at Auschwitz-Birkenau tells a story of the more than a million people who were ruthlessly murdered by the Nazis there and this incident serves to show why our work is crucial now more than ever."

Ed Elliott, the school's headmaster, said: "There will be a full and thorough investigation into what occurred.

"I want to hear directly from the boys as to what led them to take these items. I want to ensure that all necessary lessons are learnt.

"The opportunity to be able to visit Holocaust sites carries with it the duty to treat those sites with the utmost respect and sensitivity.

"We remain committed to educating all of our pupils about the horrors of the Holocaust so that they can learn from the lessons of the past."

The Perse School, founded in 1615, is one of the country's top private schools and counts David Gilmour from Pink Floyd among its alumni.

Visitors have tried to steal artefacts as souvenirs from the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum in the past.

In 2010, a Swedish man was jailed for organising the theft of the Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Makes You Free) sign from the entry gate of Auschwitz.

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