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article imageOp-Ed: Auschwitz 'Arbeit Macht Frei' sign stolen

By Paul Wallis     Dec 18, 2009 in Crime
The concentration camp’s sign, which means “Work makes free” literally translated, may not be everybody’s idea of a collector’s item, but it’s been stolen.
The sign was simply unscrewed and removed. All the thieves had to do was cut through some barbed wire. Security obviously wasn’t good. Apparently it hadn’t occurred to anyone that the camp might be souvenir heaven for the neo-Nazi merchandising industry that turns over quite a few million every year in Europe, the US, the UK and Russia.
Police are now examining surveillance camera footage, but there’s some doubt about whether it will be useful. A replica has been hung in its place, although it’s a matter of opinion whether the ability to create a replica at such short notice is a good sign or not.
The concentration camps preserved as memorials have been acting as places for symbolism of a very different kind from that which was intended. Swastikas, graffiti, and the rest of the neo-Nazi shopping list have been showing up regularly around the sites. A couple of barracks at Sachenhausen were burned down, nobody was ever charged.
The actual enforcement of bans on Nazi memorabilia has to be considered nominal. If you conduct a brief search, you can find as much Nazi material as you could fit into a concentration camp with ease. There’s even Nazi porn. Commerce seems to be making a killing where history has apparently failed to make a point.
The sign’s theft represents open slather for the black market dealers. It can also be seen as a test for the world's ability to handle one of the world's oldest crimes, the theft of historical artifacts. This thing would be as difficult to sell as the Mona Lisa, even on the black market. The other very disturbing thing about the theft of the Auschwitz sign is that it would be worth a fortune. Who’s got that sort of money, and is prepared to pay for something like that, a monument to an obscenity? How would they ship it? Looks like the thieves are pretty sure they can deliver.
Auschwitz Concentration Camp: A fragment of the  Arbeit macht Frei  gate.
Auschwitz Concentration Camp: A fragment of the "Arbeit macht Frei" gate.
Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum / Photo by Paweł Sawicki
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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