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Auschwitz sign thieves convicted
Three men jailed over stealing sign from Auschwitz concentration camp
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2010 07:58 GMT
The men were sentenced to terms between 18 to 30 months in prison [AFP]

Three men have been jailed for stealing the 'Arbeit Macht Frei' sign from the entrance to the Auscwitz concentration camp last year.

The men were sentenced by a Polish court to terms of between 18 to 30 months on Thursday.

The sign, which reads "Work Sets You Free", was stolen and cut into pieces last December.

Officials described the men as "petty thieves" who intended to sell the sign to an undisclosed buyer.

The court identified them only as Radoslaw M, Lukasz M, and Pawel S, in keeping with Polish privacy laws.

Television footage from the court showed each man in turn expressing regret and acknowledging that stealing the sign was not a good idea.

The theft occurred in the night between December 17 and December 18, and the thieves left traces in the snow and then cut the sign into three pieces to make it easier to transport.

They also left behind the last letter "i" in the snow.

Acting on tips, police tracked down the  sign in a snow-covered forest near the thieves' home on the other side of Poland, less than three days after it was stolen.

Suspect extradition

A Swedish man named Anders Hogstrom, is also a suspect and is detained in Sweden and due to be extradited to Poland. Two other Polish suspects remain imprisoned and under investigation.

Media reports have suggested that a British collector of Nazi memorabilia commissioned the theft, but police prosecutors have not confirmed that.

The slogan on the Auschwitz sign has come to be a potent symbol of Nazi Germany's atrocities during World War II and the Holocaust.

Between 1940 and 1945 more than one million people were killed in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau or died of starvation or disease while forced to perform hard physical labour at the camp.

Source:
Agencies
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