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German Teacher Caught Trying to Steal Relics from Auschwitz

German teacher attempts to steal victims' items from Auschwitz-Birkenau museum in latest case of death camp-linked theft.
By AFP
First Publish: 7/2/2014, 9:27 PM / Last Update: 7/2/2014, 9:36 PM

Auschwitz
Auschwitz
Thinkstock

A German teacher was detained at the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz in southern Poland for trying to smuggle out prisoner possessions, the site's museum said on Wednesday.

Museum guards caught the man late on Tuesday in possession of a dozen items including a fork, part of a pair of scissors and porcelain fragments. He had dug them up from an area where warehouses full of inmate's possessions stood during World War II, the museum said.

"The man is a teacher in Berlin and said he wanted to show the objects to his students, who are doing a project on the Holocaust," town prosecutor Mariusz Slomka told AFP.

The 47-year-old was released after pleading guilty to theft, accepting a suspended prison sentence and agreeing to pay a fine, Slomka added.

It is not the first time someone has tried to steal an Auschwitz souvenir.

Several people have tried to make off with barbed wire while one particularly brazen gang walked out with the camp's infamous "Arbeit macht frei" ("Work makes you free") sign in 2009, sparking a global outcry.

The mastermind of that theft, Swedish neo-Nazi Anders Hoegstroem, was jailed for two-and-a-half years.

The metal sign was eventually recovered cut up into three pieces, leading museum officials to display a replica above the entrance.

Auschwitz-Birkenau has become a symbol of Nazi Germany's genocide of European Jews, one million of whom were killed at the camp from 1940 to 1945.

More than 100,000 others including non-Jewish Poles, Roma, Soviet prisoners of war and anti-Nazi resistance fighters also died there, according to the museum.