Neo-Nazi arrested of Auschwitz sign theft

AFP, Australia/February 13, 2010

Swedish police have arrested former neo-Nazi leader Anders Hoegstroem over the theft of the "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign from the former Auschwitz death camp, a prosecutor says.

The arrest took place "during the afternoon in Stockholm, at his home", prosecutor Agneta Hilding Qvarnstroem said.

"He is currently held at the police station and he has asked for a lawyer, which we are trying to get him," she said.

Ms Hilding Qvarnstroem would not detail the charges against Mr Hoegstroem.

She said the Stockholm court would decide whether to extradite him.

The prosecutor yesterday had instructed Swedish police to arrest Mr Hoegstroem, 34.

Poland issued a European arrest warrant for Mr Hoegstroem on February 2, after Sweden provided additional information on the suspect's place of birth, parents' names and residence.

Polish justice authorities indicted Mr Hoegstroem in January for his alleged involvement in the December 18 theft of the sign from the gate of the notorious camp set up in occupied Poland by Nazi Germany during World War II.

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Mr Hoegstroem has told Swedish media he was supposed to act as an intermediary to pick up the sign and sell it to a buyer, but in the end he wound up informing Polish police about the people behind the plot.

The sign was recovered by Polish police two days after the theft and five Polish men were arrested and charged.

The five-metre metal inscription - which means "Work Will Set You Free" in German - was returned by investigators to the Auschwitz museum on January 21.

The sign has long symbolised the horror of the camp where some 1.1 million people - one million of them Jews - fell victim to Nazi German genocide from 1940 to 1945.

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