Enormous relief that the “Arbeit macht frei” sign has been found and will be available for display again at the Museum of Auschwitz for the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the death camp in Jan 2009…..

The “Arbeit macht frei” sign stolen from Auschwitz in southern Poland has been found in the north and five men are being questioned by police.
The five suspects, aged in their 20s and 30s, were not members of a neo-Nazi group, Krakow police said.
The metal sign from the main gate, which symbolises for many the atrocities of Nazi Germany, had been cut into three pieces, they added.
A major search was launched after the sign was stolen before dawn on Friday.
Andrzej Rokita, the local police chief in Krakow – where the men were being questioned – said the theft had been financially motivated, and it remained unclear whether it was carried out to order.
“From the information we have, none of the five belong to a neo-Nazi group nor hold such ideas,” Andrzej Rokita said of the suspects.
‘Enormous relief’
The sign’s theft had caused outrage in Israel and among Polish politicians.
Polish police unload part of the infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign that was stolen last week
The sign has been cut into three pieces, police say
More than a million people – 90% of them Jews – were murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz during World War II.
Pawel Sawicki, a spokesman for Auschwitz museum, said the recovery of the sign was an “enormous relief”.
“We are extremely grateful to the police who have done fantastic work,” he told AFP news agency.
“This symbol, probably one of the most important of the past century, can be put back in its place.”
The museum is preparing to celebrate the 65th anniversary of Auschwitz-Birkenau’s liberation by Soviet troops on 27 January.
Scrap metal yards searched
Police had stepped up security checks at airports and border crossings and searched scrap metal yards over the weekend in their hunt for the 5m (16ft) sign, which translates as “Work sets you free”.
The sign has been restored since the camp was liberated in 1945
“We have arrested five men aged from 20 to 39 in the north of Poland,” said Krakow police spokesman Dariusz Nowak.
“They were picked up shortly before midnight and the sign was found in a house,” he added without giving further details.
The wrought-iron sign was half-unscrewed, half-torn off from above the death camp’s gate between 0330 and 0500 on Friday.
Investigators said at least two people would have been needed to steal the 40kg (90lb) sign.
Auschwitz museum spokesman Jaroslaw Mensfelt said the thieves had apparently carried the sign 300m (328 yards) to an opening in a concrete wall. The opening was left intentionally to preserve a poplar tree dating back to the time of World War II.
Four metal bars that blocked the opening had been cut and footprints in the snow led from the wall opening to the nearby road, where police presume the sign was loaded on to a vehicle.
POLISH police are interrogating a gang of five professional thieves to find out whether a foreign collector commissioned them to steal the “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign from the entrance to Auschwitz concentration camp.
The wrought iron sign – which means “Work sets you free” – was recovered 72 hours after being stolen from the camp where more than a million Jews were killed by the Nazis during the Second World War.
Its cynical wording raised the possibility that it had been taken for ideological reasons or at the behest of a far-right mastermind.
Five men, aged between 20 and 39, from the Torun area of northern Poland, have been arrested for the theft. Andrzej Rokita, the deputy commander of Cracow police, described them as nonpolitical. All had previous convictions for theft or assault.
“We can say that none of the five are members of a neo-Nazi group,” Mr Rokita said. One suspect owns a construction company; the others are unemployed.
They are being interrogated in Cracow, the city responsible for the nearby Auschwitz camp museum. If charges are pressed, they could face up to ten years in jail for the “theft of a cultural treasure of particular significance”.
The slogan was split into three by the thieves, wrapped in cloth and initially hidden in woodland before being transferred to a builder’s yard owned by the oldest gang member.
Museum authorities are urging the police to release the three words so that they can re-erect the sign before the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the death camp next month. In the meantime, a replica has been placed over the entrance.
“Robbery and material gain are being considered as one of the main possible motives,” Marek Wozniczka,the deputy state prosecutor, said.
However, the apparent financial motivation has raised the critical question that has been dogging the investigation since the sign disappeared in the early hours of Friday morning: who would have bought it?
Police believe that it was destined to be smuggled out of the country. Two of the gang were captured in Gdynia, a busy container port on the Baltic Sea from where ships leave for US ports such as Savannah, Houston, Baltimore and Charleston. Most Third Reich memorabilia internet sites are run out of the US and it is possible that the sign was destined to be sold there.
Splitting the 5m, 40kg sign into three parts made it not only easier to hide, but also to smuggle abroad. The freight schedules out of Gydnia harbour show that vessels also head to the English ports of Felixstowe and Hull, as well as to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, the Middle East and China.
The decisive tip-off came in one of 120 calls to a police hotline over the weekend. The museum had offered a pounds 23,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of the sign. The caller gave enough information for all five suspects to be rounded up within three hours.


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