Israeli Couple Confess to Auschwitz Artifact Theft

Posted June 25th, 2011 at 4:30 pm (UTC-5)
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An Israeli couple have confessed to stealing historic artifacts from the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp in Poland and settled for a suspended prison sentence and a fine.

Polish Prosecutor Mariusz Slomka said Saturday the couple — a 60-year-old man and his 57-year-old wife — are free to go back to Israel.

The couple were arrested late Friday at Krakow airport after border guards found several artifacts in their luggage. They included spoons, knives and scissors. The couple said they took the items while visiting the death camp.

More than 1 million people, mostly Jews, perished at the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex, operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland from 1939 to 1945. It was one of six Nazi death camps set up in Poland.

The theft was one of several such incidents at the site in southern Poland. In the most notorious case, a Swedish man and five Poles were convicted of stealing the infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign — an enduring symbol of the Holocaust. The Swede was sentenced to 32 months in prison, while his Polish accomplices received varying prison terms.

The five-meter metal sign disappeared in December 2009 from Auschwitz's front gates. Police recovered the sign several days after it went missing. It had been cut into three pieces.

A replica now stands in its place. The repaired sign is expected to become part of an exhibit at the Auschwitz museum.