Polish court jails three men for Auschwitz sign theft

BBC News/March 18, 2010

A Polish court has convicted three men for stealing the infamous "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign from the former Auschwitz death camp last December.

The trio, two of whom are brothers, were given jail sentences ranging from 18 months to two-and-a-half years.

The court in Krakow said the men had admitted the theft, and so the case did not have to go to trial.

Two other Poles remain in custody over the theft of the 5m (16ft) wrought-iron sign, which was quickly recovered.

It had been half-unscrewed, half-torn from above the memorial site's gate and cut into three pieces to ease the thieves' getaway.

The three convicted on Thursday were named as Radoslaw M, Lukasz M and Pawel S.

The authorities in Stockholm said last week that a Swedish former neo-Nazi, who allegedly instigated the theft, will be extradited to Poland to face trial.

The sign - which translates as "Work sets you free" - symbolises for many the atrocities of Nazi Germany.

A replica now sits on top of the entrance, while the original is being repaired.

Its theft caused outrage in Israel, Poland and around the world.

More than a million people - 90% of them Jews - were murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz in occupied Poland during World War II.

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