US citizen charged with theft of item from Auschwitz

37-year-old man charged with attempted theft of metal part of rail tracks where prisoners were unloaded.

Ben Ariel ,


An American visitor to the former Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp attempted to steal a metal part of the historic rail tracks where prisoners were unloaded, officials said Sunday, according to The Associated Press.

The 37-year-old man has been charged with attempted theft of an item of cultural importance, according to Malgorzata Jurecka, a police spokeswoman in the southern Polish town of Oswiecim. The crime can be punished with up to 10 years in prison.

Jurecka said the man admitted his guilt but has been released as he awaits further steps.

Pawel Sawicki, a spokesman for the Auschwitz-Birkenau state museum, said the memorial museum’s security team became aware that the man was trying to remove the metal element on the historic rail tracks and then alerted police.

The memorial site has faced multiple attempts of theft and vandalism in recent years. Last July, two Hungarian tourists admitted to trying to steal bricks from the ruins of a crematorium at the site of the former Nazi death camp.

The tourists were each fined 1,500 zloty ($400, 350 euros) and handed a suspended sentence of one year in jail.

Last January, a Polish court jailed the organizers of a stunt that saw a dozen people take off their clothes at the death camp, before one of them slaughtered a lamb.

In December of 2017, a Polish court gave a suspended one-year sentence to a 17-year-old American who was caught scratching his name into the barracks at Auschwitz.

In 2016, two British teenagers were caught stealing from Auschwitz while on a school trip.

In the most dramatic theft, the "Arbeit Macht Frei" 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.