Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Auschwitz sign theft: illicit antiquities trade funding Swedish neo-Nazi terrorism

Searching for updates on the Auschwitz sign theft, I found a New York Daily News report that the sign was stolen to be used as a source of Swedish neo-Nazi terrorism funding.

Neo-Nazi illicit antiquities trade

Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp's "Arbeit Macht Frei [Work Makes You Free]" sign was stolen, but found soon afterwards. When the police stated that the thieves were not neo-Nazis, I noted that 'the police know nothing about the contractors who ordered the theft; they could still be neo-Nazis'.

Polish police were confident that the sign was stolen for a "mad collector" of "Nazi memorabilia"; but now it appears that the sign was stolen for neo-Nazis to sell to a right-wing collector.

The New York Daily News relayed the (London) Times report of an Aftonbladet article that Swedish neo-Nazis had stolen the sign to fund terrorist attacks, though neither the Times nor the New York Daily News linked to their source articles.

The ultimate source for both was presumably Staffan Lindberg's Aftonbladet report that 'the stolen Auschwitz sign' - literally, plate - 'would get millions - for Nazi attacks in Sweden [[d]en stulna Auschwitz-skylten skulle ge miljoner - till nazistiska attentat i Sverige]'.

I'm afraid I don't speak Swedish, so this is basically the Google translation, but Lindberg relayed a Swedish neo-Nazi leader's information that,
the sign would be transported to Sweden. And then sold to a collector who was prepared to pay several million....

According to Aftonbladet's information the money would go to fund an outright political attack before the election in Sweden next year.

A group of extremists planned to strike at the parliament, the Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt's home. MPs would be shot from the gallery.(1)
Arms and antiquities trade

In another Aftonbladet article, Richard Aschberg, Jill Sjölund and Erik Nises said that 'the [Nazi] group already have access to automatic weapons, explosives and older, but serviceable, rocket launchers from Russia [har [Nazisterna] gruppen redan tillgång till automatvapen, sprängämnen och äldre, men funktionsdugliga, raketgevär från Ryssland]'.

I'm afraid the grammar doesn't translate easily, but '[t]he group will also have previously completed several art and antique thefts in Sweden [Gruppen ska tidigare också ha genomfört flera konst- och antikstölder i Sverige]'; and, intriguingly, some other thefts also had 'links to Poland [kopplingar till Polen]'.

Aschberg, Sjölund and Nises warned that 'arts theft would finance the purchase of weapons [Konstkupper skulle finansiera köp av vapen]'. In this case, '[t]he stolen sign from the extermination camp at Auschwitz would finance Nazi attacks in Sweden [[d]en stulna skylten från förintelselägret Auschwitz skulle finansiera nazistiska attentat i Sverige]':
The hitherto secret group is divided into two branches, Aftonbladet learned. One which has the task of raising money. And a militant arm of five people who would carry out attacks....

The former Nazi leader revealed to Aftonbladet that he had contact with a buyer for the Auschwitz sign belonging to the branch that is for funding....

- One should not overlook the fact that it may be a means of funding terrorist activities, says [former director of the National Criminal Investigation Department Tommy] Lindstrom who draws parallels to the Nazi group White Aryan Resistance, who committed several bank robberies in the 90s to finance their terrorist activities.(2)
It's not clear whether the police are just being cautious, or whether they genuinely don't know if the neo-Nazis are responsible, or if the neo-Nazis are stealing antiquities to fund terrorism; but it is a plausible explanation. And it is yet another warning that the illicit antiquities trade funds political violence.
  1. [S]kylten skulle transporteras till Sverige. För att därefter säljas till en samlare som var beredd att betala flera miljoner....

    Enligt uppgift till Aftonbladet skulle pengarna gå till att finansiera regelrätta politiska attentat inför valet i Sverige nästa år.

    En grupp extremister planerade att slå till mot riksdagen, UD och statsminister Fredrik Reinfeldts bostad. Riksdagsledamöterna skulle beskjutas från åhörarläktaren.
  2. Den hittills hemliga gruppen är indelad i två grenar, erfar Aftonbladet. En som har till uppgift att skaffa pengar. Och en militant gren med fem personer som skulle utföra attackerna....

    Den före detta nazist­ledaren som avslöjat för Aftonbladet att han haft kontakt med en köpare till Auschwitz-skylten tillhör den gren som står för ­finansieringen....

    – Man ska inte blunda för att det kan vara ett sätt att finansiera terrorverksamhet, säger [före detta chef för Rikskriminalen Tommy] Lindström som drar paralleller till nazistgruppen Vitt ariskt motstånd, som begick flera bankrån under 90-talet för att finansiera sin terrorverksamhet.
Aschberg, R, Sjölund, J and Nises, E. 2009: "Nazisterna har ryska raketgevär [the Nazis have Russian rocket launchers]". Aftonbladet, 25 December. Tillgängliga på:

Lindberg, S. 2009: "Säpo: Hotet är allvarligt - Auschwitz-stöld skulle finansiera attentat mot regeringen [SAPO: The threat is serious - Auschwitz theft to fund attacks against the government]". [Also titled: "Måltavla för nazisterna [targeted by Nazis".] Aftonbladet, 24 December. Tillgängliga på:

Oscarsson, M and Booth, J. 2009: "Auschwitz sign 'stolen to fund Swedish terror attacks'". The Times, 24th December. Available at:

Sherman, W. 2009: "Swedish neo-Nazis stole Auschwitz death camp sign to fund terror plot, informant tells newspaper". New York Daily News, 25th December. Available at:

[If Aftonbladet mind me having reproduced so much of their article(s), please tell me and I will remove them; but it's an important article, and the English-language community benefit from having access to foreign-language information, particularly about terrorism, the illicit antiquities trade, etc.]

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