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December 24: The Stolen Sign

December 23, 2013
Arbeit-macht-freiThe London Times reported on this date in 2009 that a Swedish neo-Nazi and four Polish accomplices who had on December 18th stolen the infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign (“Work Sets You Free”) from the gate to Auschwitz in Poland had intended to sell it for millions of dollars to finance an attack on the home of Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and on the Swedish Foreign Ministry. Polish authorities recovered the 16-foot sign, in three pieces, and made arrests two days after the theft. The sign was reassembled and now sits in the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, while a replica was placed over the concentration camp gate. The phrase, which was set up over the gates of several Nazi concentration camps, was the title of a 1873 novel by Lorenz Diefenbach, a German pastor, librarian, and philologist who was associated with the German nationalist movement. “A sign at the gate read: ‘Stop, high voltage!’ Above the gate another sign read ‘Auschwitz’, and below it, ‘Arbeit Macht Frei.’ We knew it wasn’t meant to be a promise, not even a pledge. The truth was that we were here to work until we died.” —Benjamin Jacobs, The Dentist of Auschwitz