/ 18 December 2009

Israel outraged over Auschwitz theft

Israel on Friday condemned as a "declaration of war" the theft of the "Arbeit macht frei" sign from the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Poland.

The head of Jerusalem’s Holocaust memorial condemned on Friday as a “declaration of war” the theft of the “Arbeit macht frei” sign from the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Poland.

“This act constitutes a true declaration of war. We don’t know the identity of the perpetrators but I assume they are neo-Nazis,” Avner Shalev said in a statement.

“These people want to bring Europe back 70 years to the dark years of death and destruction,” he added.

“I am certain the Polish government will do everything possible to track down those criminals and put them on trial,” he said, urging “the enlightened world to work together against anti-Semitism and racism in all its forms”.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ygal Palmor called the theft “the act of a deranged person”.

An Israeli minister, for his part, branded the theft “an abominable act that amounts to profanation”.

“This act demonstrates once again hatred and violence against Jews,” said Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom, who is one of Israel’s two vice-prime ministers.

In Poland, museum staff and police said thieves had stolen the infamous “Arbeit macht frei” (Work will set you free) gate sign from Nazi Germany’s World War II death camp earlier on Friday.

The theft of the metal sign — which was forged by prisoners on Nazi orders, and was one of the most sinister examples of their propaganda — sent shockwaves across Poland. — AFP