Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Swedish Connection

Auschwitz sign: the 'Swedish connection'

Police are refusing to confirm reports of a possible international link to the theft of the metal sign that hung over Auschwitz.

Five men are currently being questioned by detectives but Polish media have speculated, without citing any sources, that a Swedish collector might have been involved in the crime.

"The question of the mysterious Swede has appeared. I cannot confirm or deny this" police spokesman Dariusz Nowak told a news conference.

"Of course the five suspects didn't steal it to have it in their collection. So it looks more and more that somebody else is behind this."

The recovered metal sign was shown to journalists in Krakow. It has been broken into three pieces and parts of it are twisted out of shape.

The suspects, aged between 20 and 39, had previous convictions for various crimes including robbery and physical assault. Today, three of the detained men were taken back to the camp to explain how the crime was carried out.

Freddie Knoller is one of the few people left alive to have experienced the horrors of Auschwitz.

In 1943, he was taken to the concentration camp and saw the steel sign at the main main gate that reads "Arbeit Macht Frei" - Work Sets You Free.

He was was 22 when he first entered the camp, "When we first the sign we thought, if we worked hard, we would come out alive. But the work really killed us." Mr Knoller, 88, now lives in North London.

Some 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, died at the death camp during Nazi Germany's occupation of Poland in World War Two. Arriving prisoners entered via a small iron gate topped by the sign.

"I'm very happy it has been found", said Mr Knoller. "It should go back to where it was because it's a symbol that reminds the world of the Holocaust."

Via UK Channel 4

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