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article imageNeo-Nazi pleads guilty to theft of Auschwitz sign

By Kim I. Hartman     Nov 26, 2010 in World
Krakowa - A Swedish neo-Nazi leader accused of ordering the theft of the Auschwitz death camp entrance sign will serve 32 months in prison in his home country of Sweden under a plea bargain, Polish prosecutors say.
Anders Hoegstroem, the mastermind behind the theft, risked up to 10 years behind bars if convicted in Poland, he wisely chose to admit his role before the case reached court, said a spokesman for the prosecutors' office in the city of Krakow.
"After having pleaded not guilty during the investigation, Hoegstroem finally admitted his guilt," prosecutor Robert Parys said, reports the Australian Broadcasting Company.
The theft of the sign last December left Holocaust survivors and others outraged. Many viewed it as a desecration of the memory of the more than one million people killed at the camp in occupied Poland during the second world war.
A massive police hunt resulted in the discovery three days after the theft of the sign in a snow covered forest.
The sign which reads "Arbeit macht frei" ("Work sets you free") in German -- was carelessly wrenched from the concentration camp's gates last December. The "i" in "frei" was left lying in the snow outside Auschwitz. The thieves intended to smuggle the 16-foot metal banner out of the country and sawed the sign into three pieces to make it easier to transport and then abandoned it in the woods, said AOL news.
The wrought-iron banner sat above the prisoners' entrance to the camp. It's motto was meant to distract new arrivals from their grim fate. They soon realized the unspeakable cynicism it embodied. Between 1939 and 1945, some 1.1 million people -- mostly Jews, but also Polish-Catholics, Gypsies and homosexuals -- were killed in the death camp's gas chambers, shot by guards or simply left to die of cold or starvation.
Police detained five Polish men and Hogstrom. Prosecutor Janusz Hnatko said the Polish suspects were motivated by financial gain, each earning 5,000-10,000 zlotys ($2500) for their roles in the crime, reported the Guardian UK.
Hoegstroem founded the National Socialist Front, a Swedish neo-Nazi movement he ran for five years before quitting. He told Swedish media he was to act as an intermediary to pick up the sign and sell it to a buyer, adding however that he informed Polish police about the people behind the plot.
In the same plea agreement, two Pole Another Pole, identified as Andrzej S, would get two years and four months and Marcin A to two years and six months, both on incitement to theft and damaging the sign, according to the Guardian report.
Three of the Poles confessed to lesser roles earlier this year and are already serving sentences ranging in length from six months to 2½ years.
More about Auschwitz, Neo-nazi, Neo nazi, Sign, Theft
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