|A suspect was guarded yesterday at the site during a reenactment of the theft. (Jarek Praszkiewicz/AP)|
Theft of Nazi sign believed orchestrated outside Poland
Investigators criticize Auschwitz security system
WARSAW - A foreigner outside of Poland commissioned the theft of the infamous Auschwitz sign “Arbeit Macht Frei’’ (“Work Sets You Free’’) and detectives may expand their investigation beyond the country’s borders, officials said.
In a bid to learn more about the escapade, the investigators held a reenactment yesterday of the theft by the three men who confessed to taking the sign from the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.
Based on the evidence gathered since the theft Friday, the crime was commissioned by a “person living outside Poland’’ and police were seeking help from Interpol and others as they investigate, said Artur Wrona, the chief prosecutor in Krakow.
Polish media have reported, without citing any sources, that someone in Sweden could be under suspicion, but Wrona did not confirm or deny the claims. In Stockholm, a Swedish police official said they have not been contacted about any links.
Wrona said the investigation so far had exposed “glaring negligence’’ in the security system at the Auschwitz museum that let the burglars act “undisturbed.’’
He said they drove to the then-closed museum in a sports car after dark Thursday but found they needed tools to take down the sign so they went to a shop and bought them.
When they returned, it was just after midnight and there were no guards about as they unbolted one side and ripped the other off the opposite gate post, officials said. Police said the sign was cut into three pieces with a saw so it could fit in the getaway car.
Only one camera overlooks the gate, and it remained unclear whether it recorded the theft.
Museum spokesman Jaroslaw Mensfelt said that for more than 60 years of the museum’s existence, the security system had seemed to be sufficient, but that it is now undergoing scrutiny. “Any upgrades that might be made must mean that no one will ever think of another theft,’’ he said.
Working from tips, police found the sign Sunday - hidden under snow in the woods - and arrested five suspects in northern Poland. Prosecutors said three of the five men have confessed. All five suspects face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of stealing and dismantling the sign.
Prosecutor Piotr Kosmaty said the reenactment of the crime gave investigators “valuable material.’’ The three suspects who had confessed were taken back to Auschwitz to show investigators how they unscrewed and tore the sign, which weighs 66 pounds and is 16 feet long, from the gateposts.