Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Auschwitz sign: mad, foreign, Nazi memorabilia collectors?

Now, Polish police are confident that Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp's "Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Makes You Free)" sign was stolen for a 'mad collector' of 'Nazi memorabilia'.

Yesterday, Matthew Day reported police suspicion that the sign 'may', 'could' have been stolen for a 'mad collector' who was 'determined to own one the symbols of Nazi terror'.

Today, Tony Paterson first reported that 'Police and Holocaust experts' had 'said' that 'Nazi memorabilia collectors' were responsible.

But Paterson then explained (with my emphasis) that the police were simply 'following leads that suggested the theft could have been commissioned by Nazi memorabilia hunters'.

Whatever the motive, Polish police certainly believed it was a 'foreign collector' (and for some, a 'mad collector'). According to Roger Boyes,
Police believe that it was destined to be smuggled out of the country. Two of the gang were captured in Gdynia, a busy container port.... Most Third Reich memorabilia internet sites are run out of the US [United States] and it is possible that the sign was destined to be sold there.
Art theft

Alison Stein Wellner offered 'mere speculation' about the crime as an 'art theft' by a collector of '"outsider art", art produced by people who are institutionalized', 'industrial design', or 'Art Moderne'.

But an institutionalised art collector who ordered the theft of the "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign would better fit the description of a "mad collector", an art collector who ought to be institutionalised.


Before, I had cautioned that 'the theft must have been planned before the German donation, so the fact of the German donation should not influence our interpretation of the crime'.

Yet, when Roger Boyes explained the Museum authorities' wish for the police to return the sign, he noted that 'the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the death camp [is] next month'.

Thus, there was a known, significant memorial day, which Holocaust deniers or neo-Nazis could have planned to ruin by stealing the sign.


Happily, the Daily Telegraph has now reclassified this as a 'Europe / Poland' story (rather than a 'Middle East / Israel' one).

Boyes, R. 2009: "Crazed collector may be responsible for theft of Auschwitz sign". The Times, 22nd December. Available at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article6963855.ece

Day, M. 2009: "Police: Auschwitz sign stolen for 'mad collector'". The Daily Telegraph, 21st December. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/poland/6859774/Police-Auschwitz-sign-stolen-for-mad-collector.html

Paterson, T. 2009: "Auschwitz sign was 'stolen for trophy hunters'". The Independent, 22nd December. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/auschwitz-sign-was-stolen-for-trophy-hunters-1847235.html

Wellner, A S. 2009: "The Auschwitz Sign Theft: An Alternate Theory of the Crime". The Huffington Post [weblog], 19th December. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alison-stein-wellner/the-auschwitz-sign-theft_b_398130.html

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