New developments in the investigation into the disappearance of the entrance sign at the Auschwitz death camp in Poland suggest that the theft was part of a larger far-right terrorist plot in Sweden.
The sign -- which famously read "Arbeicht Macht Frei" ("Work Sets You Free") -- was mysteriously stolen from the entrance to Auschwitz (now a museum) in the early hours of Dec. 18. The Polish government declared a state of emergency, closed its borders and launched a national-level search for the perpetrators of the crime.The theft was initially assumed to be the work of neo-Nazis, although a number of conspiracy theories also surfaced.
Just before Christmas, Polish police arrested five men in connection with the theft, after recovering the sign (which had been cut into three pieces). Early reports labeled these men as "ordinary criminals," dismissing the idea that they were "far-right sympathizers." The thieves returned to Auschwitz with the police to demonstrate how easy it had been to breach security (although they made the fateful error of dropping the "i" in "Frei" on their way out, ultimately leading to their capture). It seemed to be the work of a bunch of common thugs, out for financial gain.
It now appears that while the thieves were not themselves neo-Nazi sympathizers, their sponsors were. Apparently, the theft was inspired by a far-right neo-Nazi group in Sweden that planned to sell the sign to a collector of Nazi memorabilia, the proceeds of which would then be used to finance a string of terrorist attacks in Sweden.
The Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet has revealed that there is a neo-Nazi group in Sweden -- the financial arm of which has been specializing in this sort of "art" robbery -- which it then uses to help fund its military arm. The militants are believed to have Russian weapons, explosives and machine guns and an assault group of five people to carry out attacks.