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Thefts from Nazi Death Camps Continue

A spate of thefts from Nazi death camps the past two years continues, and this time the culprits are none other than Israelis.

By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 6/26/2011, 11:44 AM / Last Update: 6/26/2011, 12:14 PM

A spate of thefts from Nazi death camps the past two years continues, and this time the culprits are none other than Israelis, who confessed and agreed to pay a contribution to the Auschwitz memorial site.

Following the theft of the Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work Sets You Free) sign from Auschwitz main gate in 2009, and a theft last year of screws from the railroad tracks leading to Birkenau, Polish airport authorities discovered nine stolen items in the luggage of an Israeli couple.

The thieves' names were not released, but they were described as a 60-year-old man and a 47-year-old woman, who were found with spoons, a pair of scissors and other items taken from the site of the former Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

They originally claimed they found the items but later confessed that they stole then, an offense that carries a sentence of up to ten years in prison. 

The couple was given a suspended two-year jail sentence after cooperating with police, after they showed the police where they committed the theft – the area used by Nazis to store possessions of prisoners in the death camp.  Approximately 1 million Jews were exterminated there, among 6 million who were murdered by the Nazi regime.

The Israeli couple accepted the suspended sentence, agreed to pay towards preserving the site and will be allowed to return to Israel, according to authorities.

A French tourist last month was found at the Krakow airport with barbed from a fence around the memorial site but was released because it was not part of the original fence. Another case still pending concerns two Canadian teachers who took screws from the railway track.

Six people, one from Sweden and five from Poland, were convicted and jailed last year for stealing the Arbeit Macht Frei sign, which since has been restored.