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British teens detained over Auschwitz artifact theft

Polish police have arrested two British teenagers on suspicion of stealing artifacts from the Auschwitz concentration camp. The teens were part of a school group visiting from Cambridge.

Guards said they had noticed the two 17-year-olds acting suspiciously on Monday near a building where Nazi guards had kept prisoners' confiscated belongings. When they were searched it was found they had buttons, fragments of glass and parts of a razor on them.

A statement from the Perse School said the students had "attempted to keep some items of historical importance which they had found on the ground."

"They have apologized unreservedly for the offense they have given, and expressed real remorse for their action," it read.

The boys have been interrogated by regional police through an interpreter, with spokesman Mateusz Ciarka saying prosecutors will likely decide whether or not to lay charges against the pair later in the day. If they are found guilty they could face up to 10 years in prison.

In the past, Polish courts have handed out suspended prison terms and large fines.

The

former death camp, now museum

, has seen similar incidents in the past. In 2009 several people removed the famous "Arbeit Macht Frei," or "Work will set you free" sign from the gates at the camp's entrance, with the ringleader of the theft eventually being

sentenced to more than two years in prison

. As a result the sign now on display is a replica.

More than a million people visit the site each year, where more than a million people including Jews, Roma, homosexuals and resistance fighters died during World War II. This year marked the 70th anniversary of the camp's liberation by Allied forces.

an/cmk (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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