Poland detains two teenage British boys suspected of stealing items from Auschwitz

Two British boys were detained by Polish police on Monday, June 22, 2015, on suspicion of stealing artefacts that belonged to former prisoners at Auschwitz concentration camp.
Two British boys were detained by Polish police on Monday, June 22, 2015, on suspicion of stealing artefacts that belonged to former prisoners at Auschwitz concentration camp. PHOTO: REUTERS

KRAKOW, Poland (Reuters) - The Polish police said on Tuesday they had detained two British teenage boys at the site of the former Auschwitz death camp on suspicion of stealing artefacts that belonged to prisoners held there during World War II.

The two, both aged 17, were spotted on Monday afternoon acting suspiciously near a building where Nazi German guards had stored prisoners' confiscated belongings, said a spokesman for the museum which now operates on the site of the camp.

A body search revealed items which may have been stolen from the building, including a fragment of a razor, a piece of spoon, a number of buttons and two pieces of glass.

The two have already been interrogated through an interpreter, a spokesman for the regional police said, and are awaiting further decisions on their detention. If found guilty, they could face up to 10 years in prison, the police said.

Auschwitz, located near the city of Krakow in southern Poland, has become a poignant symbol of the Nazi German Holocaust that claimed six million Jewish lives across Europe.

Around 1.5 million people, mainly European Jews, were gassed, shot, hanged or burned at Auschwitz during the war.

Museum curators say some visitors try to pilfer artefacts as souvenirs. In 2010, a Swedish man was jailed for orchestrating the theft of the infamous "Arbeit macht frei" sign from the entry gate of the Auschwitz site.