Frenchman arrested with Auschwitz wire freed

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A Frenchman arrested in possession of two pieces of barbed wire from the German-era Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in southern Poland was freed Saturday, officials said.

The man in his fifties was detained Friday after a scanner detected the wire in his hand luggage during a security check at the airport in Krakow, 60 kilometres (37 miles) from the site of the camp.

"He admitted having taken the pieces as a souvenir of his visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau," airport spokesman Marcin Pulit told AFP.

However local prosecutor Mariusz Slomka told the PAP news agency that the barbed wire had been found to be fragments left over from renovation works and had not been cut from the fence surrounding the camp.

The man's identity was not revealed.

Staff at the Polish state-run memorial and museum at the site confirmed that the incident was no longer being treated as theft.

Auschwitz-Birkenau has become an enduring symbol of the Holocaust, Nazi Germany's wartime campaign of genocide against Europe's Jews.

A year after invading Poland in 1939, the Nazis opened what was to become a vast complex on the edge of the southern town of Oswiecim -- Auschwitz in German.

They later expanded it to the nearby village of Brzezinka, or Birkenau.

Of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust, one million were murdered at the site, mostly in its notorious gas chambers, along with tens of thousands of others including Poles, Roma and Soviet prisoners of war.

© 2011 AFP

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