Three men who stole Auschwitz sign jailed

Two brothers and another man are jailed for stealing the 'Arbeit Macht Frei' sign which hung over the gates of Auschwitz

By Jessica Elgot, March 18, 2010
Auschwitz: The sign thieves have been jailed

Auschwitz: The sign thieves have been jailed

Three men who stole and vandalised the “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign from Auschwitz have been jailed after pleading guilty to the theft.

The three men, two of them brothers, were named only as Radoslaw M, Lukasz M and Pawel S. They were sentenced to between 18 and 30 months at the court in Krakow.

Police arrested five men when they recovered the 16-foot wrought-iron sign, which had been cut into three pieces. The two other men are awaiting trial.

Police believe that the men did not have any political or racial motive, and that they conducted the robbery at the behest of a Swedish buyer Anders Hoegstroem.

There have also been reports that a British collector of Nazi memorabilia may have been involved in the theft but this has not been confirmed by police.

Mr Hoegstroem, 34, is being held in custody in Sweden, awaiting extradition to Poland.

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

Swedish newspapers have reported 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 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. The replica which currently hangs above the gate could be made permanent.

Last updated: 4:40pm, March 18 2010