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‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ Gate Thought to Be Stolen From Dachau Is Found

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A gate found in Norway that was believed to have been taken from the Dachau concentration camp in southern Germany in 2014. Credit Bavarian Police, via European Pressphoto Agency

OSLO — A wrought-iron gate bearing a notorious Nazi slogan and believed to have been stolen from the Dachau concentration camp in southern Germany has been found in a suburb of Bergen, Norway, police officials in the two countries said on Friday.

The gate, bearing the phrase “Arbeit Macht Frei,” or “Work Sets You Free,” was one of the most photographed symbols of the camp. It was stolen in November 2014 in what German authorities believed was an organized crime. An anonymous tipster alerted the Norwegian police to the presence of the gate.

Margrethe Myrmehl Gudbrandsen, a police spokeswoman in Norway, said the tip had come in this week, but she declined to give further information. She did not provide any details about the exact location of the discovery.

The Bavarian police, who investigated the theft, said they were working with their Norwegian counterparts to determine whether the gate that was found was, indeed, the one from Dachau. The Norwegian authorities had left the announcement of the discovery to the Germans out of deference for its symbolism, Ms. Gudbrandsen said.

“We understand this gate is an important monument for Germany,” she said.

The gate was made by prisoners in a workshop of the Dachau camp shortly after it opened. Prisoners who entered the camp passed through it, and it served as a barrier between their internment and the outside world.

Survivors of the camp, where the Nazis imprisoned about 200,000 people over 12 years, welcomed the discovery. Jean-Michel Thomas, president of the Comité International de Dachau, an organization of former camp prisoners, described the theft as a “desecration of this important memorial site.”

An estimated 41,500 people met their deaths at Dachau before it was liberated by American troops in the final days of World War II in Europe in May 1945. Immediately after the liberation, the original gate was removed. A replica was put in its place in 1965, when the camp reopened as a memorial site, and hung there until it was stolen two years ago.

Gabriele Hammermann, director of the memorial site, said she expected that the gate would be returned once the authorities had completed their investigation. “Of course, after being restored, it will again be presented to the public,” she said.

A sign bearing the same slogan that hung over the entry to Auschwitz was stolen in 2009. It was recovered after just a few days, and in December 2010, a Swedish neo-Nazi and two Polish accomplices were jailed for their part in the theft.

Dachau is the most-visited former concentration camp in Germany, with an estimated 800,000 visitors a year. Most are schoolchildren from Bavaria and elsewhere in Germany, but it also attracts Americans and Europeans whose ancestors were among the Nazi’s political opponents and minority groups incarcerated there.

Source: NYT > World

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