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Auschwitz theft

December 30, 2009

Members of Sweden's neo-Nazi scene were behind the theft of the "Arbeit macht frei" sign from the Auschwitz concentration camp, according to media reports. Poland has requested help from Stockholm in its investigation.

The "Arbeit macht frei" sign at the gate to Auschwitz
The Auschwitz sign - a collector's item for neo-Nazis?Image: picture alliance/dpa

Polish authorities have formally asked Sweden to help track down those behind the theft of the "Arbeit macht frei" ("work will set you free") sign at the former Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz.

The infamous sign was stolen on December 17 but shortly afterwards it was recovered and five suspects were arrested.

So far, authorities have failed to establish who ordered the theft to be carried out. Polish state prosecutors have confirmed that they are looking for "a man living outside Poland, not holding Polish citizenship."

On Tuesday, officials in Warsaw confirmed that Poland was to formally seek the request of Sweden in investigating the theft, confirming that Polish authorities suspect a Swedish link in the crime.

Sweden investigates planned neo-Nazi attacks

Polish public television reported that Swedish neo-Nazis were behind the theft while Stockholm's Aftonbladet newspaper wrote that a local neo-Nazi group had intended to sell the sign and then use the money for terrorist attacks against Swedish government institutions.

A spokesperson for Sweden's secret police did not confirm those allegations but said that investigations were under way to curb attacks on the country's parliament, foreign ministry and the private apartment of Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.

The sign was forged by a Polish prisoner at Auschwitz during the Second World War. Its theft sparked widespread outrage, particularly from Israel and Jewish groups.

Some 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, died at Auschwitz during Nazi Germany's occupation of Poland. Museum authorities say they hope to have the sign restored by January to mark the 65th anniversary of the camp's liberation by the Soviet Red Army.

Editor: Susan Houlton