Swedish man arrested for theft of Auschwitz sign

By Jessica Elgot, February 11, 2010

Swedish police have arrested the man wanted in connection with the theft of the ‘Arbeit Macht Frei” sign at Auschwitz in December.

Swedish Prosecutor Agnetha Hilding Qvarnstrom said the police had arrested Anders Hoegstroem, 34, in Stockholm on a European arrest warrant issued by Poland.

Swedish investigators will question Mr Hoegstroem before deciding whether to extradite him to Poland.

A court in Krakow issued the warrant for Swede Anders Hoegstroem, who, it is claimed, was the mastermind of the theft of the sign, which infamously read “Work Sets You Free” above the Nazi death camp.

Five Polish men aged in their 20s and 30s were arrested by police when they recovered the 16-foot wrought-iron sign cut into three pieces.

Police believed that the men did not have any political or racial motive, and that they conducted the robbery at the behest of others.

Mr Hoegstroem founded and led the Swedish neo-Nazi group National Socialist Front in the 1990s, but quit the group and has spoken out against the extreme right.

Swedish newspapers have reportd conflicting interviews with Mr Hoegstroem, one where he apparently confesses to the crime and another where he claims he was the one who tried to stop the theft.

The European arrest warrant means that member states of the EU, which includes Sweden, must hand over Mr Hoegstroem to the Polish police.

The original sign is in the process of being repaired but Auschwitz museum officials believe it may be too frail to withstand the severe weather conditions of northern Poland, and the replica which currently hangs above the gate could be made permanent.

Last updated: 12:47pm, February 12 2010