After Theft of Sign, Poland Earmarks More Money for Auschwitz Security

Five suspects arrested face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of stealing and dismantling sign.

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 400,000 zlotys ($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 (200 hectares).

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.

A still unidentified resident of Sweden is suspected of being the middle man in the brazen theft of the infamous Arbeit Macht Frei ("Work Sets You Free") sign from the Auschwitz concentration camp last Friday.

Artur Wrona, the chief prosecutor in Krakow, says evidence indicates the crime was commissioned by a person living outside Poland. Polish media, without citing sources, reported suspicions focusing on someone in Sweden, but Wrona refused to confirm or deny the reports.

In Stockholm, a Swedish police official said they've not been contacted about any links.

While Polish police are working with Interpol, there is still no information on the motive, whether it was political or a collector wanted the sign.

Moving the infamous sign out of Poland would not have been difficult, as there are no border checks within the European Union.

Three men who police say have confessed have reenacted the crime for investigators. They reportedly are petty criminals who had been hired by a construction contractor for theft.

When police found the sign on Sunday, it had been cut into three pieces and hidden under snow in the woods. Five suspects were detained in northern Poland.

All five suspects face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of stealing and dismantling the sign. Prosecutor Piotr Kosmaty said the three who had confessed showed investigators how they unscrewed 30-kg. sign from the gateposts and tore it up.

Kosmaty said later the reenactment gave police some insights, but he did not elaborate. He said the other two suspects denied involvement and even being at Auschwitz.

In Krakow, police displayed the three parts of the broken sign for journalists. Some of the steel pipe that formed its outline was bent and the letter "i" was missing from the word "Frei" - it was left behind during the theft and was recovered at the scene.

Police forensics expert Lidia Puchacz said that cutting and sawing tools used in the theft were found at the home of one of the suspects.

Krakow police spokesman Dariusz Nowak said the 115,000 zlotys ($40,000) reward for helping find the sign may be paid out to several people.

For now, an exact replica of the sign hangs in its place.