OSWIECIM, Poland – Poland's culture minister has promised the Auschwitz museum money to step up security after the infamous "Arbeit Macht Frei" ("Work Sets You Free") sign was stolen from the site of the former Nazi death camp.
Bogdan Zdrojewski on Wednesday earmarked $137,000 for improving external security at the memorial site in southern Poland. It is made up of two camps, Auschwitz and Birkenau, and sprawls nearly 500 acres.
He said guards who failed to prevent the theft, which police say, was done on commission from abroad, last week have been suspended and other museum employees could face consequences.
Police found the sign that symbolizes Nazi Germany's atrocities cut into three piece Sunday and arrested five suspects.
When the sign disappeared, police deployed 50 police, including 20 detectives, and a search dog to the Auschwitz grounds, where barracks, watchtowers and ruins of gas chambers stand as testament to the atrocities of Nazi Germany.
Police said they were reviewing footage from a surveillance camera that overlooks the entrance gate and the road beyond, but declined to say whether the crime was recorded.
Auschwitz museum spokesman Jaroslaw Mensfelt said it might have been too dark for the camera to have captured images.
He said the thieves apparently carried the sign 300 meters to an opening in a concrete wall. That opening had been left intentionally to preserve a poplar tree dating back to the time of the war.
Four metal bars that had blocked the opening were cut. Footprints in the snow led from the wall opening to the nearby road, where police presume the sign was loaded on to a vehicle.
Poland's chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, said he had trouble imagining who would steal the sign.
"If they are pranksters, they'd have to be sick pranksters, or someone with a political agenda. But whoever has done it has desecrated world memory," Schudrich said.