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Auschwitz Theft Arrests: Teens Detained for Pocketing 'Items of Historical Importance'

Polish police said they detained two British teens at the site of the former Auschwitz death camp on suspicion of stealing WWII artifacts.
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/ Source: Reuters

Polish police said on Tuesday they had detained two British teenagers at the site of the former Auschwitz death camp on suspicion of stealing artifacts that belonged to prisoners held there during World War II.

The two, both 17-year-old males, were visiting the site of the camp as part of a history trip with their school. They were spotted on Monday afternoon acting suspiciously near a building where Nazi German guards had stored prisoners' confiscated belongings, said a spokesman for a museum that now operates on the site of the camp.

According to a statement from their school, the teens "attempted to keep some items of historical importance which they had found on the ground." A body search revealed items which may have been stolen from the site, including a fragment of a razor, a piece of spoon, a number of buttons and two pieces of glass.

"We understand they have explained that they picked up the items without thinking, and they have apologized unreservedly for the offense they have given, and expressed real remorse for their action," the Perse School's spokesman said.

The two have already been interrogated through an interpreter, a spokesman for the regional police said, and are awaiting further decisions on their detention. If found guilty, they could face up to 10 years in prison, police said.

Museum curators say some visitors try to pilfer artifacts as souvenirs. In 2010, a Swedish man was jailed for orchestrating the theft of the infamous "Arbeit macht frei" (Work sets you free) sign from the entry gate of the Auschwitz site.

Around 1.5 million people, mainly European Jews, were gassed, shot, hanged or burned at Auschwitz during the war.