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British teens released after pleading guilty to Auschwitz theft

Two British teenagers arrested on suspicion of stealing artifacts from Auschwitz concentration camp have been released. The school pupils were reportedly fined 1,000 zlotys (240 euros) after pleading guilty.

According to a spokesperson for The Perse School in Cambridge, which the two boys attend, the pupils also received a year's probation, suspended for three years, before they were released by Polish authorities on Tuesday.

"They are deeply sorry for the offence they have caused," the spokesperson said, with headmaster Ed Elliott also promising a "full and thorough investigation."

"I want to hear directly from the boys as to what led them to take these items. The opportunity to be able to visit Holocaust sites carries with it the duty to treat those sites with the utmost respect and sensitivity," Elliot said.

Suspicious behavior

The two 17-year-olds were on a school field trip to Auschwitz when they

were detained by guards on Monday

. Staff noticed the boys acting suspiciously near a building where Nazi guards had kept prisoners' confiscated belongings.

When they were later searched, the students were found to be hiding buttons, fragments of glass and parts of a razor.

Regional police spokesman Mariusz Ciarka said the pair could have received up to 10 years in prison for stealing objects of historical value.

Recurring artifact thefts

Tuesday's theft was not the first occasion that someone had tried to smuggle items out of the former Nazi death camp.

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 1.1 million people including Jews, Roma, homosexuals and resistance fighters died between 1941 and 1945. It was the largest camp established by the Nazis during the Second World War. January 27 of this year marked the

70th anniversary

of the camp's liberation by Allied Forces.

ksb/bw (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)

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