11 arrested for desecrating Auschwitz

Polish police detain 11 men and women who slaughtered a sheep and took their clothes off at Auschwitz.

Ben Ariel, Canada ,

Auschwitz entrance
Auschwitz entrance

11 men and women in their twenties were detained by Polish police on Friday, after they slaughtered a sheep and took their clothes off at the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The individuals aged 20 to 27, whose identities and motives are unknown, then chained themselves together in front of the camp's infamous "Arbeit macht frei" ("Work makes you free") gate, the museum said in a statement quoted by AFP.

Local media said the 14 draped a white banner with the red text "love" over the infamous gate. They also used a drone to film the incident.

Museum guards at the site immediately intervened, and police said all those involved have been detained. They include Poles and foreigners.

"The individuals have been transferred to a police station for questioning. A large group of police officers are at the scene," local police spokeswoman Malgorzata Jurecka told AFP.

She noted that police plan to inform prosecutors of the incident, adding that the people involved "will likely be charged with desecrating a monument or other historical site".

"We're shocked and outraged by this attempt to use this memorial site for a protest and which mars the memory of thousands of victims. It's a reprehensible act," museum spokesman Bartosz Bartyzel told AFP.

"This is the first time something like this has happened at Auschwitz," added museum director Piotr Cywinski. "I have no idea what their motives were.”

Rabbi Michael Schudrich, the Chief Rabbi of Poland, told AFP that the actions of those involved were wrong, regardless of the group's motives.

"Any use of Auschwitz for political statements, even using Auschwitz for moral statements, is not how Auschwitz should be remembered," he said.

"The Germans used Auschwitz to try to eliminate the Jewish people. Any happenings are a desecration of the memory of all those killed at Auschwitz, Jews, Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, Roma and others," added Rabbi Schudrich.

Auschwitz has been targeted by thieves and vandals in the past. Earlier this year, two Belgians were put on trial for stealing parts of an electric fence from the former Nazi death camp.

The two 50-year-olds, identified only as Yann P.-B. and William H., were detained last July as they tried to remove three porcelain electrical isolators.

Last year, two British teenagers were caught stealing from Auschwitz while on a school trip.

In the most dramatic theft, the ominous "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work Makes You Free) sign was stolen from the former death camp's historic gate in 2009. It was found days later, cut into pieces.

The Poles who stole it and the Swedish man who instigated them were sentenced to prison, and the sign was later restored.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)