Suspects re-enact Auschwitz theft for police

Auschwitz sign theft re-

Polish Police Auschwitz Sign  (photo credit: )
Polish Police Auschwitz Sign
(photo credit: )
Investigators said Tuesday the brazen theft of the infamous "Arbeit Macht Frei" ("Work Sets You Free") sign was commissioned by a foreigner outside of Poland. In a bid to learn more about the escapade, three men who police said confessed to taking the sign from the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz re-enacted the event for investigators. Artur Wrona, the chief prosecutor in Krakow, said that based on the evidence gathered since Friday, the crime was commissioned by a "person living outside Poland." Polish media have reported, without citing any sources, that someone in Sweden could be under suspicion, but Wrona refused to confirm or deny the reports. In Stockholm, a Swedish police official said they've not been contacted about any links. "There has been no requests made by the Polish police to the Swedish police yet," Superintendent Bertil Olofsson of the Swedish National Criminal Police said. "And so we can't confirm this speculation." Krakow police spokesman Dariusz Nowak said earlier that "indeed it looks like someone is behind it." Nowak said foreign police have been notified and were working on the case but refused to elaborate. Krakow is 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the Auschwitz museum. Police found the sign Sunday - cut into three pieces and hidden under snow in the woods - and arrested five suspects in northern Poland. Officials said three of the five men have confessed to Friday's pre-dawn theft of the sign, which is a symbol of Nazi Germany atrocities during World War II. All five suspects face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of stealing and dismantling the sign, which is a symbol of World War II and the Holocaust and has historic value for Poland. Prosecutor Piotr Kosmaty said the three who had confessed were taken back to Auschwitz to show investigators how they unscrewed and tore the sign, which weighs 66 pounds (30 kilograms), and is 16 feet (five meters) long, from the gateposts. Kosmaty said later that the re-enactment gave police some insights, but did not elaborate. He said the two other men had denied any involvement and, further, denied being at Auschwitz. In Krakow, police displayed the broken sign for journalists. It was cut into three parts, with each part bearing one of the words. Some of the steel pipe that formed its outline was bent and the letter "i'' was missing from the word "Frei" because it had been left behind during the theft. It was recovered at the scene. Police forensics expert Lidia Puchacz said that cutting and sawing tools used in the theft were found at the home of one of the suspects. She said experts will be analyzing the sign "millimeter by millimeter" for clues as to how it was cut up and by whom. Krakow police spokesman Dariusz Nowak said the 115,000 zlotys ($40,000) reward for helping find the sign may be paid out to a number of people. Prosecutors will decide when the sign could be returned to the museum and whether it will be back in time for the Jan. 27 ceremonies to mark Auschwitz's liberation by Soviet troops in 1945. For now, an exact replica of the sign hangs in its place. After occupying Poland in 1939, the Nazis established the Auschwitz I camp, which initially housed German political prisoners and Polish prisoners. The sign was made in 1940 and placed above the main gate there. Two years later, hundreds of thousands of Jews began arriving by cattle trains to the wooden barracks of nearby Birkenau, also called Auschwitz II, where they were systematically killed in gas chambers.