British teenagers ‘stole from Auschwitz’

Arbeit Macht Frei - work sets you free- is written above the gates to Auschwitz.
Arbeit Macht Frei - work sets you free- is written above the gates to Auschwitz.
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Two British teenagers on a school trip who were suspected of stealing items that belonged to prisoners at Auschwitz are likely to be fined and released in the next 48 hours, Polish police said.

The 17-year-old boys were spotted acting suspiciously on Monday afternoon at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in southern Poland, and are being held at the police headquarters in Oswiecim

The offence is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, but last night a police spokesman said they may go home “today or tomorrow” after paying a fine.

The pair were found with a fragment of hair clippers, spoons, some buttons and two pieces of glass after they were apprehended in warehouse number five - known as Canada - where the belongings of the Auschwitz arrivals were seized during the Holocaust.

Polish police said they were arrested for carrying out activities related to the misappropriation of objects that represent special cultural importance, to the detriment of the museum.

A spokeswoman at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office said: “We are in contact with the Polish authorities and stand ready to provide consular assistance.”

The Holocaust Educational Trust’s chief executive, Karen Pollock, said: “This is absolutely shocking and shows gross disregard to the memory of the Holocaust. Every single artefact found at Auschwitz-Birkenau tells a story of the more than a million people who were ruthlessly murdered by the Nazis there and this incident serves to show why our work is crucial now more than ever.

“We have a duty to educate the next generation to prevent ignorance and hate, and in over 15 years of organising for thousands of British teenagers to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau, we have never known of such an incident.”