Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Five arrested as police recover Auschwitz 'Arbeit Macht Frei' sign

Polish police have found the 'Arbeit Macht Frei' sign that was stolen on Friday from the gate of the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz gate.

Police spokeswoman Katarzyna Padlo said this morning that police also detained five men and were planning to question them.

Ms Padlo said the sign, which symbolises to the world the atrocities and cruelty of Nazi Germany, has been cut into three pieces.

Ms Padlo told The Associated Press that the sign was found last night in northern Poland, the other end of the country from the southern Polish town where the Auschwitz memorial museum is located and where it disappeared before dawn on Friday.

Ms Padlo said the five men they had arrested were between the ages of 25 and 39.

Police refused to divulge any details of the circumstances in which the sign was found or to speculate on the motive of the perpetrators.

The theft set off an international outcry at the disappearance of one of the most chilling and best known symbols of the Holocaust. State authorities made finding it a priority and appealed to all Poles for assistance.

Museum authorities welcomed the news with huge relief despite the damage done to the sign.

Spokesman Pawel Sawicki said conservation experts will have to determine how best to repair it and added that the museum authorities hope to restore it to its place as soon as possible.

More than one million people, mostly Jews, but also Gypsies, Poles and others, died in the gas chambers or from starvation and disease while performing forced labour at Auschwitz, which Nazi Germany built in occupied Poland during the Second World War.

The camp was liberated by the Soviet army on January 27, 1945.

Earlier on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the sign was "of the deepest historical importance to the Jewish people and the whole world, and is a tombstone for more than a million Jews".

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