Two Canadians held for Auschwitz rail-spike theft
Polish authorities detained two Canadians who allegedly stole spikes from a railway line that shipped Jews to the Nazi German death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, museum staff told AFP on Monday.
"Security guards detained two Canadians in their twenties shortly before noon on Saturday in possession of two spikes that held down the rails," said Bartosz Bartyzel, a spokesman for the museum at the World War II camp.
"The two men were handed over to the police," Bartyzel said.
"For us, this is a case of desecration of a place of memorial. These items are priceless," he said.
The railway was built by the Nazis to transport hundreds of thousands of Jews directly into the camp they set up in occupied Poland.
The railhead lay close to the notorious gas chambers of Birkenau, a purpose-built part of the vast camp complex which the Nazis opened in 1942 to step up their "Final Solution", or genocide of Jews.
"The two men were interviewed by the police in the presence of a sworn French-language translator and then released.
"Prosecutors have launched an investigation," said Pawel Kufel, police spokesman in Oswiecim, the Polish town where the site is located.
A total of 1.1 million people perished at Auschwitz-Birkenau, according to figures from the museum. It operated from 1940 until the eve of the Nazis' 1945 defeat.
One million were Jews from Poland and across Nazi-occupied Europe. The camp is an enduring symbol of the Holocaust.
The other victims included some 75,000 non-Jewish Poles, 21,000 Roma, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war and up to 15,000 others including resistance members from different occupied nations.
© 2010 AFP