Polish police say the theft of the 'Arbeit Macht Frei' ('Work Sets You Free') sign stolen on Friday from the former death camp at Auschwitz was not the work of neo-Nazis.
They say the five men, aged between 20 and 39, who were arrested on Sunday for stealing the sign intended to demand a ransom for it. The sign itself, which is made of cast iron and weighs at least 40 kilos, was found sawn into three pieces in northern Poland.
Located near the Polish town of Oświęcim and the nearby village of Brzezinka, Auschwitz-Birkenau (the German names for the town and village) was the biggest of the Nazi's concentration and death camps. Over one million people, most of them Jews, were murdered there during the Second World War.
The theft sparked shocked reactions all over the world. The Speaker of the Polish Senate, Bogdan Borusewicz, called it “saddening and painful.” The president of Israel, Shimon Peres expressed "the deepest shock of Israel’s citizens and the Jewish community across the world.” He said the "sign holds deep historical meaning for both Jews and non-Jews alike."
Photo of the 'Arbeit Macht Frei' sign by robonline (flickr)