- Title: JERUSALEM: Holocaust survivors "shocked and angered" by Auschwitz sign theft
- Date: 19th December 2009
- Summary: VARIOUS OF FLUG READING WEBSITE HEADLINES REPORTING THEFT
- Embargoed: 3rd January 2010 09:22
- Topics: Crime / Law Enforcement,International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVA6Y330YX0AS066D7G6UFRNQ6IH
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: Holocaust survivors spokesman condemns theft of infamous metal sign which hung over the entrance of the Auschwitz death camp.
Israeli Holocaust survivors were "shocked and angered" at news that the notorious metal sign hanging at the entrance to the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz had been stolen on Friday (December 18).
Head of the International Auschwitz Organisation of Holocaust survivors, Noah Flug said the stolen sign was an important symbol and reminder of the past.
"They want to deny the Holocaust and the Shoa (Hebrew for Holocaust)," Flug said. "Auschwitz is a symbol, you can see there what happened," he added.
The wording of the sign "Arbeit macht frei" ("Work makes you free") became a symbol of the Nazis' efforts to deceive their victims into a false sense of security before murdering them.
Flug himself was a prisoner in the Auschwitz camp.
"I think this symbol is very important also when we, that have been there prisoners, shall not be more, Auschwitz is a symbol you can see there what happened," he said.
Some 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, perished in the Nazi death camp located in southern Poland during World War Two. Prisoners arriving at the camp used to enter via a relatively small iron gate topped by the German-language motto.
In a written statement, Israeli Holocaust museum of Yad Vashem director Avner Shalev condemned the incident.
The statement read, "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. 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."
More than 200 hectares (500 acres) of the former death camp became a museum after the war ended.
The museum's spokesman, Jaroslaw Mensfelt said numerous cameras were installed at the site and local police were now analysing the film. He said no further details regarding the theft were available.
Yad Vashem, of the Holocaust remembrance centre in Jerusalem, called the theft "an attack on the memory of the Holocaust".
Auschwitz prisoners died of diseases, sub-zero temperatures, starvation and in medical experiments as well as being gassed.
Hundreds of thousands of people visit the museum every year, but ticket sales are not enough to maintain the open-air site with its 155 buildings -- including the gas chambers -- 300 ruined facilities and hundreds of thousands of personal items.
Earlier this year Poland appealed for international donations to help preserve the site. Britain and Germany, among others, have offered financial help.
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