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Auschwitz camp's stolen sign recovered in three pieces
Polish police arrest five men after nationwide search for symbol of suffering endured by millions at Nazi death camp
Polish police said last night that they had recovered the infamous bronze sign to the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz after it was stolen on Friday. They said it had been cut into three pieces, each containing one of the words Arbeit Macht Frei (work sets you free).
Five men, aged between 25 and 39, were detained in northern Poland and taken yesterday for questioning to the southern city of Krakow, about 40 miles from Auschwitz.
A state of emergency involving tightened border controls and a nationwide search was declared in Poland last week after the theft of the sign, which was cast by camp prisoners and stands as a symbol of the suffering millions endured at the death camp.
The discovery on Friday morning that the sign had been wrenched from the top of the camp's entrance gate sparked an international outcry.
Avner Shalev, president of the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Israel, called the theft "an attack on the remembrance of the Holocaust", while Jarek Mensfelt, from the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum, said it was a "desecration".
Police suspected that a gang was responsible because the theft was carefully carried out, with the perpetrators avoiding attracting the attention of night watchmen or CCTV cameras. Sniffer dogs led police to believe that the sign was removed through a hole in the camp fence before being loaded into a van.
More than one million people, mostly Jews, died at Auschwitz, which was liberated by Soviet troops 65 years ago, on 27 January 1945.
About 500 acres of the former death camp was turned into a museum after the war's end and tens of thousands of visitors from around the world now visit the site.