December 21st, 2009

Central Council condemns desecration of Auschwitz memorial

Auschwitz/Berlin – The Central Council of Jews in Germany has expressed its dismay at the theft of the "Arbeit macht frei" sign over the entrance to the former Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Poland. Unknown persons stole the infamous sign at the concentration camp's gate on the night of December 17-18. In an interview with the Agence France Presse (afp) news agency, the Central Council's Vice-President, Dieter Graumann, described the theft as "tasteless and shocking". At the same time, he warned against rash judgements. "We are shocked and distressed by this incident. However, it would be premature to speak of a politically motivated crime. Theoretically, the thieves could be drunken teenagers," Graumann told Cologne's daily Express. Polish, Israeli, and German politicians have expressed their shock over the theft and strongly condemned it. A €1,200 reward has been offered for information leading to the capture of the thieves. The entrance gate is the most famous and most photographed symbol of the main camp of Auschwitz. The majority of more than 1.1 million victims were killed at the Birkenau extermination camp situated three kilometres from the main camp. In 1976, the entire Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp complex was put on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. (19.12.2009)