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Auschwitz sign stolen: 'Arbeit Macht Frei' slogan sat over German Nazi death camp entrance in Poland
Thieves in Poland stole a famous Nazi sign from the gates of the Auschwitz concentration camp that reads "Work Will Set You Free," authorities said Friday.
The sign at the death camp's entrance became a symbol of the horrors of the Holocaust, implying that hard work was the way imprisoned Jews could get out of the camp. More than a million people died at Auschwitz, most of whom were condemned to gas chambers.
The theft - which police said may have been ordered by a private collector or a group of individuals - sparked widespread outrage.
"A worldwide symbol of the cynicism of Hitler's executioners and the martyrdom of their victims has been stolen. This act deserves the strongest possible condemnation," said Polish President Lech Kaczynski.
An Israeli deputy prime minister called the theft "an abominable act" and a holocaust memorial group said it was "a declaration of war."
The brazen thieves took the huge 16-foot metal sign before dawn on Friday, authorities said. Police said the sign was unscrewed on one side and yanked from the other. Authorities suspect several people were involved because of the size and height of the sign.
A police dog team was working to track the thieves while detectives combed through video surveillance footage from the site.
"All leads are being considered, but we are focusing on a theft ordered by a private collector or a group of individuals," police spokeswoman Malgorzata Jurecka said Friday.
Police offered a $1,700 reward for information leading to the sign's recovery.
The theft came one day after the German government donated $88 million to preserve the site.