Daily Israel Report

Auschwitz Museum Hit By Theft, Vandalism

Museum officials left scrambling to cope with visitors scrawling their names, taking 'souvenirs' from death camp.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 5/6/2014, 4:15 PM

Visitors at the museum of the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz
Visitors at the museum of the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz
Reuters

Administrators of the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum have been left up in arms, the Telegraph reported Monday, from a wave of theft and vandalism at the site of the Holocaust's most infamous death camp. 

Visitors have been leaving graffiti on the bunkers, officials say, and often take "souvenirs" - bits of barbed wire or railroad spikes - to remember their visit to the site. 

“It’s not always young people,” Piotr Cywinski, director of the Auschwitz museum said. “Sometimes even teachers and foreign tourists take things.”

Antoni Dudek, a leading Polish historian and a board member of the watchdog Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance, expressed outrage over the crimes. 

"This is shocking," Dudek said. “This isn’t really vandalism because vandalism is something you do to a bus stop. This is barbarism.”

Vandalism is difficult to apprehend, the museum's officials said, because of its sheer size. Auschwitz-Birkenau includes 150 buildings and over 2,000,000 square meters (494 acres) of property, making offenders difficult to catch. 

The option of installing closed-caption televisions all over the camp has been discussed - but has also been met with opposition, according to the daily.

“How would you feel if you visited Asuchwitz-Birkenau barracks and noticed that there were two cameras monitoring every item,” Malogorzata Omilanowska, Poland's Deputy Culture Minister, asked. “How would we be able to maintain the authenticity of the camp?”