Sign stolen from site of Auschwitz
Sign stolen from site of Auschwitz Israel news photo

Polish police Monday recovered the Nazi “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work Will Set You Free”) sign that had been hung at the entrance to the site of the Auschwitz death camp. Five men, ages 20 to 39, were arrested after the police found the 16-foot-long metal sign cut into three pieces in a house.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, said the sign was "the defining symbol of the Holocaust, because everyone knew that this was not a place where work makes you free, but it was the place where millions of men, women, and children were brought for one purpose only -- to be murdered."

Nazis tortured and murdered more than one million Jews, via starvation and in gas chambers, at Auschwitz.

Auschwitz museum spokesman Pawel Sawicki said that the sign will be restored and put back in its place “as quickly as possible.” He told the French news agency AFP, “This symbol probably [is] one of the most important of the past century."

The Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps were liberated 65 years ago next month. Polish officials and Jewish leaders around the world condemned the theft of the sign, which President Shimon Peres said “holds deep historical meaning for both Jews and non-Jews alike."