Page last updated at 16:05 GMT, Thursday, 21 January 2010

Auschwitz sign Arbeit Macht Frei is returned

File photo of Arbeit macht frei sign at entrance to Auschwitz
Hundreds of thousands of people passed under the sign to death

The infamous Arbeit Macht Frei sign at the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Poland - stolen last month and quickly recovered - has been returned.

Police handed the damaged wrought iron sign to officials at the camp's museum and they will now try to restore it.

The museum said it was not yet clear if the sign, which thieves cut into three pieces, will be put back in place.

Five Polish men have been charged over the theft, and prosecutors are also pursuing a suspected Swedish neo-Nazi.

The museum placed a copy of the sign - which means "Work sets you free" - over the gate immediately after the theft.


The repairs mean the original will not be back in place for ceremonies on 27 January marking the 65th anniversary of the camp's liberation by Soviet troops.

Made by Polish political prisoners in 1940
Letter 'B' may have been put upside-down as act of defiance
Locals say Red Army liberators were bribed to leave it in Poland

"We are very relieved that this profaned and vandalised sign will return to its place," Jaroslaw Mensfelt, a spokesman for the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, told Reuters news agency.

"But as to the question of whether it will return to the gate or not, this will be decided by a number of criteria."

The museum said its management would decide, along with the International Auschwitz Committee, whether to put the sign back above the gate.

The five-metre (16-ft) sign was recovered in northern Poland two days after it was stolen from the camp on 18 December.

Made by prisoners under German orders, it remains an enduring symbol of the Holocaust.

More than a million people - 90% of them Jews - were murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz during World War II.

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Philadelphia Inquirer Stolen Nazi sign taken to Auschwitz museum - 4 hrs ago Stolen Auschwitz sign returned to museum - 20 hrs ago
Al Jazeera Auschwitz death camp sign returned - 25 hrs ago
Washington PostStolen Auschwitz sign returns to museum - 28 hrs ago
ABC Online Stolen sign returned to Auschwitz - 29 hrs ago
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