Belarussians Who Stripped Naked at Auschwitz and Slaughtered Sheep Sentenced to Jail

The 2017 'artistic performance' in which demonstrators chained themselves to the 'Arbeit Macht Frei' gate was meant to protest wars in Ukraine and Syria

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FILE Photo: Auschwitz concentration camp.
FILE Photo: Auschwitz concentration camp. Credit: Kacper Pempel/Reuters

A Polish court has sentenced two Belarusian men to prison for a 2017 stunt in which they and other young adults stripped naked at Auschwitz and chained themselves together to the main gate as one of them slaughtered a sheep.

The District Court in Krakow on Tuesday confirmed that the man who killed the sheep, Adam Bialiatski, was sentenced to a year in prison for animal cruelty and desecrating a site of memory, while a second man, Mikita Valadzko, was given eight months. Nine other participants were ordered to pay fines. The verdicts are final.

Bialiatski, who plunged a knife into the sheep multiple times, is the son of a prominent human rights activist in Belarus, Ales Bialiatski. He and Valadzko called their actions at the former Nazi death camp an "artistic performance" aimed at protesting the wars in Ukraine and Syria.

"Our Ukrainian brothers and sisters are still dying," Bialiatski told The Associated Press in an interview last year. "We thought if we do this performance art in a place like Auschwitz, we will attract attention to the war."

During their performance in March 2017, they unfurled a banner that said "Love" at the gate with the notorious Nazi inscription "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work Sets You Free.) A group that included six Poles, four Belarusians and one German were chained together in the freezing cold and chanted a prayer: "I love all people, I love our planet, I have no enemies!"

The men were initially convicted last year. In that ruling, Judge Bozena Holecka said an autopsy of the sheep showed that it was stabbed 15 times and that no creature, human or animal, should ever lose its life in such a place.

Nazi German forces killed an estimated 1.1 million people, the majority of them Jews, at the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex in occupied Poland.