Mindless British Teens Caught Stealing Artifacts From Auschwitz

The parents called their actions "stupid" and "disrespectful."

2014-7-3-auschwitz-theft
The entrance to Auschwitz II, Birkenau.
Photo: David Bañuls/Flickr.

Two British teenagers were held by Police in Poland after they were caught stealing artifacts from the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz on Tuesday during a school trip.

Authorities were alerted after guards noticed them “digging in the ground” near warehouse number five, known as Canada, where the Nazis stored items taken from prisoners. The boys were found carrying a razor, a piece of a spoon, buttons and two pieces of glass.

The pair admitted the theft at Malopolska police station where they were taken in for questioning. They were later released after being handed down suspended sentences and a 1,000zł fine ($425).

The boys got away with a slap on the wrist seeing as the maximum punishment for misappropriation of goods of special cultural importance carries a 10 year prison sentence.

The teens faced prison time after stealing artifacts from the site. Photo: The Daily Mail

The teens faced prison time after stealing artifacts from the site.
Photo: The Daily Mail

“When you’re young you sometimes do things without thinking them through,” one of the boy’s parents told the Daily Mail.

“We are very much aware of the seriousness of the situation and know that it is not a trivial matter. He knows that what he did was stupid and disrespectful and is very sorry for any offense that he has caused the Polish community,” they said.

They added “It is quite possible that he has been affected by the enormity of what he has seen and experienced and this may have clouded his judgment.”

Headmaster of the Perse School, Ed Elliot, emphasized that “the opportunity to be able to visit Holocaust sites carries with it the duty to treat those sites with the utmost respect and sensitivity,” and went on the promise a “full and thorough investigation” into the incident.

Visitors pictured at the former concentration camp in 2005. Photo: AFP

Visitors pictured at the former concentration camp in 2005.
Photo: AFP

Meanwhile Karen Pollock, chief executive of Britain’s Holocaust Educational Trust, said “This is absolutely shocking and shows gross disregard to the memory of the Holocaust.”

She stressed, “Every single artifact found at Auschwitz-Birkenau tells a story of the more than a million people who were ruthlessly murdered by the Nazis.”

In a similar incident in July last year a German schoolteacher was also caught trying to steal artifacts from the former concentration camp.

The most infamous theft happened in 2009 when a group led by Swedish neo-Nazi Anders Hoegstroem stole the former death camp’s cast-iron“Arbeit macht frei” sign. The Swede was eventually caught and imprisoned for two and a half years.


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