Three in Sweden sought for Auschwitz sign theft

Prosecutors in Poland said on Wednesday they are interested in questioning three Swedish residents about the theft of the iconic "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign from the former Auschwitz Nazi death camp.

Three in Sweden sought for Auschwitz sign theft

“We want to confirm the identity of these individuals, about whom we have partial details. We want them to be questioned by Polish investigators in Poland,” prosecutor Artur Wrona told reporters.

“The evidence gathered is solid enough to charge one of them, and possibly another. The third would be questioned as a witness,” he added.

Poland sent Sweden a formal request on December 31 for aid in its probe of the theft, which sent shockwaves around the world.

Investigators declined to confirm reports by the Polish news channel TVN24 that the individuals are two Swedes and a Swedish-resident Serb.

The theft was discovered on December 18 at the former World War II death camp in southern Poland, which is now a state-run museum and memorial.

Police recovered the five-metre metal sign — which means “Work Will Set You Free” in German — two days later in northern Poland and arrested five Polish men. The sign had been cut into three pieces.

Charged with theft and damage, the men face up to 10 years in prison.

Aged 20 to 39, they have criminal records for theft or violence. But none appeared to be neo-Nazis although they may have been working for foreign neo-Nazis, police said.

Swedish media have claimed the theft’s mastermind planned to sell the sign to finance far-right terrorist attacks against Sweden’s parliament and the home of Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt. On December 24, Swedish intelligence service Säpo announced it was probing a plot to attack both targets.

And earlier in the week high profile Swedish defence lawyer Peter Althin said he expects to represent a Swedish citizen reported by Aftonbladet to have been planning to sell the sign to a wealthy British Nazi before ditching the plot and informing Interpol.

Althin would not confirm that his prospective client had confessed to involvement in the crime, only that he would represent the man should the prosecutor choose to press charges.

“I won’t get into it any more for the moment, except to say that I have, in Sweden, met the man who has been written about,” Althin told news agency TT on Tuesday.

According to British newspaper reports, a Swedish right-wing extremist group agreed to help a wealthy UK-based collector and Nazi sympathizer acquire the sign in exchange for “huge money”.

The cynical sign above Auschwitz’s gateway has long symbolized the horror of the camp, created by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland in 1940 and in operation until Soviet troops liberated it in 1945.

Around 1.1 million mainly Jewish prisoners from across Europe died at the camp, mostly in its notorious gas chambers. Among the other victims were non-Jewish Poles, Roma and captured Soviet soldiers.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Austrian rapper arrested over neo-Nazi songs

Austrian authorities said Tuesday they have arrested a rapper accused of broadcasting neo-Nazi songs, one of which was used by the man behind a deadly anti-Semitic attack in Germany.

Austrian rapper arrested over neo-Nazi songs
Austrian police officers patrol at the house where Adolf Hitler was born during the anti-Nazi protest in Braunau Am Inn, Austria on April 18, 2015. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

“The suspect has been arrested on orders of the Vienna prosecutors” and transferred to prison after a search of his home, said an interior ministry statement.

Police seized a mixing desk, hard discs, weapons, a military flag from the Third Reich era and other Nazi objects during their search.

Austrian intelligence officers had been trying for months to unmask the rapper, who went by the pseudonym Mr Bond and had been posting to neo-Nazi forums since 2016.

The suspect, who comes from the southern region of Carinthia, has been detained for allegedly producing and broadcasting Nazi ideas and incitement to hatred.

“The words of his songs glorify National Socialism (Nazism) and are anti-Semitic, racist and xenophobic,” said the interior ministry statement.

One of his tracks was used as the sound track during the October 2019 attack outside a synagogue in the eastern German city of Halle.

In posts to online forums based in the United States, the rapper compared the man behind the 2019 Christchurch shootings that killed 51 people at a New Zealand mosque to a saint, and translated his racist manifesto into German.

Last September, an investigation by Austrian daily Der Standard and Germany's public broadcaster ARD said that the musician had been calling on members of neo-Nazi online forums and chat groups to carry out terrorist attacks for several years.

They also reported that his music was used as the soundtrack to the live-streamed attack in Halle, when a man shot dead two people after a failed attempt to storm the synagogue.

During his trial last year for the attack, 28-year-old Stephan Balliet said he had picked the music as a “commentary on the act”. In December, a German court jailed him for life.

“The fight against far-right extremism is our historical responsibility,” Austria's Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said Tuesday.

Promoting Nazi ideology is a criminal offence in Austria, which was the birth place of Adolph Hitler.