Friday, December 18, 2009

This is really uncool

Somebody stole the "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign from Auschwitz museum on the site of the former Nazi death camp in southern Poland last night.

The 5-meter-long (16-foot-long), 40-kilogram (90-pound) iron sign at the Holocaust memorial site in southern Poland was unscrewed on one side and torn off on the other, police spokeswoman Katarzyna Padlo said.

The theft from the entrance to the camp — where more than 1 million people, mostly Jews, died during World War II — brought immediate condemnation worldwide.

"The theft of such a symbolic object is an attack on the memory of the Holocaust, and an escalation from those elements that would like to return us to darker days," Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev said in a statement from Jerusalem.

"I call on all enlightened forces in the world who fight against anti-Semitism, racism,
xenophobia and the hatred of the other, to join together to combat these trends."

The sign disappeared from the Auschwitz memorial between 3:30 a.m. and 5 a.m., Padlo said.

Police deployed 50 investigators and a search dog to the Auschwitz grounds, where barracks, watchtowers and ruins of gas chambers still stand as testament to the atrocities inflicted by Nazi Germany.

Makes you wonder what anybody's gonna do with that thing, but I guess that's not the point.

There's nothing new or original to say about the Holocaust, so I'm not going to try. But I've been to Oswiecim and walked under that sign -- "work makes you free" displayed prominently at the entrance to a concentration came where exactly nothing makes you free is perhaps history's sickest joke -- and it's a pretty horrifying thing to imagine. (Others, I'm sure, have experienced similar sensations in Rwanda and Congo and elsewhere.)

Not much to do with COIN or security or anything else, sorry.


  1. I too have walked under that sign, and taught a course on genocide prevention at a nearby research center. As Gulliver points out, Rwanda's Ntarama Church has much the same impact. The theft of that sign, the desecration of the memory - its bizarre and revolting.

  2. They've found it:

    No word yet on why etc. Just that it was cut into three pieces.

  3. Lil did beat me to it ...

    The fact that the sign was cut into pieces imO indicates that the thieves were in it for the money, planning so sell it as scrap metal ...
    The curse of high metal prices ... (as for the upside, I do own some mining stocks ;-) )

  4. Updated reports say the guys weren't neo-nazis but had several theft convictions between them (plus a general criminal history). Officials are still figuring it out.