A Czech man has sparked belated condemnation for decorating his garden gate with a replica of the "Arbeit macht frei" sign from Nazi Germany's Auschwitz death camp, local media reported Wednesday.
"This borders on promoting fascism," the website of the largest Czech broadsheet daily DNES quoted Ladislav Sitko, deputy mayor of Rychvald, as saying.
"It's a disgrace to the people who were tortured to death at Auschwitz, and it's a tragedy that this is not a crime in the Czech Republic," said Sitko, whose town lies about 350 kilometres (219 miles) east of the capital Prague.
Neighbours reportedly said the owner of the house was friendly but that the sign was tasteless, while police said they could not do anything because it was displayed on private land.
DNES failed to find the man at home, but his wife said he was a historian and collector interested in World War II.
"The sign has been here for five years and no one has ever minded it. Now it's become an affair and we look like criminals," she was quoted as saying.
The private TV channel Prima quoted the man's son as saying that "if there were more people like (Adolf) Hitler, the country wouldn't be such a mess."
Today's Czech Republic was occupied and carved up by Hitler's regime, making such comment particularly shocking.
The original sign, which in German means "Work Shall Set You Free", formed an arch over the gate to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp set up by the occupying Nazis in southern Poland.
Between 1940 and 1945 the Germans killed some 1.1 million people -- overwhelmingly Jews -- at the camp and it has become an enduring symbol of the Holocaust.
The original sign spanning about five metres (16 feet) was stolen in December 2009 and discovered days later cut up into three pieces, after a plot involving Swedish neo-Nazis.
It has been replaced with a replica, while the re-welded original is on display at the Auschwitz museum.
© 2011 AFP
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