Polish police have recovered the famous sign that hung over Auschwitz’s main gate. The sign had been stolen in the early hours of Friday.
The sign reads “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work will set you free”) and is a well-known symbol of the horrors of the Holocaust. About one million Jews, Gypsies, and political prisoners were killed in the concentration camp during the Nazi regime.
Police have arrested five men and found the sign cut into three pieces and hidden in a house. They are still investigating a motive.
The Auschwitz museum will now fix the sign and it will be back up in time for the 65th anniversary of the camp’s liberation by the Soviet army on January 27.
Poland’s grimmest monument has lost its most famous icon.
The sign at the entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp, “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work will set you free”) was stolen in the early hours of this morning.
The Polish government and Jewish groups have condemned the theft. There are no known suspects at this time and the motive is also unknown. Some Jewish groups have blamed unnamed neo-Nazi groups but none have claimed responsibility. And while there is a large and lucrative black market for stolen historical objects, such a recognizable piece would be very difficult to sell, although thefts of famous artifacts have been commissioned before.
The sign stood at the entrance to Auschwitz, one of the most notorious concentration camps set up during the Nazi regime. Located in occupied Poland, its executions, forced labor, and gas chambers sent about one million people to their deaths. Most of the victims were Jews, but Gypsies, political prisoners, and others were also killed.
The main question at the moment is how the thieves managed to cut down a sixteen-foot long iron sign and haul it away without any of the patrols of security cameras noticing them.
Visiting places with dark pasts isn’t as odd as it sounds — in fact, it ‘s quite common. Lonely Planet picks up on this travel trend in their 2007 Bluelist, which examines the general popularity of tombs, graves, and memorials as destinations. Furthermore, the authors point out that Ground Zero and Auschwitz have become modern-day pilgrimage sites. “Dark Travel,” as it’s been coined, is incredibly popular.
USA Today recommends a few more non-cheery holiday stops in its article 10 Great Places to Absorb the Reality of Slavery. The article suggests that we should “celebrate freedom by remembering slavery,” which is not bad advice. Without understanding slavery, how can we truly understand what it means to be “free”?
Sights include the Harriet Tubman Home and the Civil War and Underground Railroad Museum, as well as the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site.