By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
WARSCHAU (Worthy News) – A Dutch tourist has been detained in Poland for giving the Nazi salute at the gate of the former Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, local police say.
The 29-year-old woman was arrested on Sunday and charged with “promoting Nazism,” police said in a statement.
She allegedly made a Nazi salute while posing for photos taken by her husband in front of the famous gate carrying the German inscription “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work Sets You Free”).
Prosecutors said they issued the unidentified woman a fine after she confessed, calling her actions “a bad joke.”
However, “We cannot dismiss this as a bad joke,” stressed Michael Schudrich, chief rabbi of Poland. The exact amount of the fine wasn’t published. Yet, “Even a symbolic fine is a message for others,” Schudrich added.
The woman’s arrest comes after several other anti-semitic incidents had the famed former death camp.
Last year nine windowless wooden barracks that each housed hundreds of prisoners at a time were marked with anti-Jewish phrases and Holocaust-denying slogans, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum said.
And on a cold December night in 2009, the infamous iron sign Arbeit Macht Frei over the gate was stolen. Police found it three days later cut into pieces in a forest on the other side of Poland. It was eventually welded back together and restored almost to its previous condition, conservation workers said.
A Swedish man with neo-Nazi ties, Anders Hogstrom, was found guilty of instigating the theft and jailed in his homeland. Five Poles also were convicted of involvement and imprisoned.
And in 2017, a Polish court handed an American teenager a suspended one-year prison sentence for etching his name on an Auschwitz barrack.
Identified only as Raphael A., the 17-year-old rabbinical school student was detained after an employee saw him use a rock to scrawl his name inside one of the barracks.
The student explained that he had seen several other words etched on the wall.
Auschwitz-Birkenau, situated on 472 acres, is located about 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of Krakow in a suburb of Oswiecim, a small city in southern Poland.
More than 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, were murdered at the former death camp by the Nazis and their henchmen.
In all, about 6 million European Jews died during the Holocaust.
Auschwitz was initially constructed as a labor camp for Polish prisoners in 1940. But soon, it was used to incarcerate — and kill — Jews and others the Nazis didn’t like, such as Gypsies, Soviet prisoners of war, homosexuals, and conscientious objectors.
Birkenau was built in October 1941 and was the site of the gas chambers and crematoria.
When families from across Europe reached Auschwitz in cramped, windowless cattle trains, the Nazis selected those they could still use as forced laborers.
Older adults, many women and especially children and babies, were gassed to death soon after arrival.
On January 27, 1945, the Soviet Red Army liberated the Auschwitz death camp in German-occupied Poland.
Today, the site of Auschwitz-Birkenau endures as the leading symbol of the terror of the Holocaust.
Its iconic status is such that every year it registers a record number of visitors — 2.3 million last year alone.
Polish government officials have discouraged expressions such as “Polish death camps” to refer to the camps Nazi Germany operated in occupied Poland during World War II.
If you are interested in articles produced by Worthy News, please check out our FREE sydication service available to churches or online Christian ministries. To find out more, visit Worthy Plugins.