A right-wing extremist Swedish group allegedly aided a wealthy British art collector and noted Nazi sympathiser to steal the notorious “Arbeit Macht Frei” entrance sign from the concentration camp of Auschwitz.
British newspaper The Sunday Mirror revealed that the payment offered was substantial. “The collector wanted it as a trophy – and used his neo-Nazi contacts to put word out he was prepared to pay huge money for it,” said a Swedish based source of the newspaper.
The five-metre wide iconic sign, which translates as “Work sets you free”, was stolen on 18th December, prompting Jewish groups to condemn the act – with some even suggesting it was a declaration of war. The sign has long evoked memories of the genocide that saw over a million lives taken in the death camp.
Five men are presently still being held in Poland in relation to the theft. The news this week that Swedish nationals may have aided in the robbery comes just one week after Swedish officials were asked for assistance by their Polish judicial counterparts, as reported in The Local.
“Arrangements had been made to hide the sign in a cellar in Stockholm, waiting for the British man to collect. The plan was to use the British guy’s money to fund neo-Nazi hate attacks in Sweden,” claimed the newspaper source.
Rumours of Swedish involvement began to surface in the days after the theft when media reported that politically-motivated attacks against parliament, the Prime Minister and Foreign Ministry were all being planned by extremist groups.
The sign was recovered on 21st December, when Polish police arrested the five men. It had been separated into three pieces after its removal from the camp, which has been operating as a memorial to the Holocaust since 1947.