Theft of a symbol — the main gate sign at Auschwitz

We continue to look at the way in which people ascribe power to symbols, giving them meaning far beyond their basic physical attributes (see here, here, here, and here).

This morning, it was reported that the iron sign bearing the Nazi slogan “Arbeit Macht Frei” over the front gate of the Auschwitz concentration camp has been stolen.

Both the Poles and the Israelis are outraged, with Avner Shalev, chairman of Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and Museum in  Jerusalem even calling it a declaration of war:

“The theft of such a symbolic object is an attack on the memory of the Holocaust, and an escalation from those elements that would like to return us to darker days.”

 And this from the Israeli Vice Premier Silvan Shalom:

 “The despicable act is another proof of the growing violence and hatred. The significance of the place and the sign is deep. Stealing it is akin to desecration of a holy site,” added Shalom.

This symbol is not, however, a work of art, but a piece of iron and can easily be replicated. The symbolic power of this sign is contained in its presence, not its originality. It matters little if it is original or not, so stop bleating and just replace it.

Much more interesting out of all this is finding photos of the gate from different eras — comparing the two we can see how much the young tree in the black-and-white photo above has grown in the last 50 years. It’s really doing quite well, don’t you think?

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One Response

  1. God it just goes on and on doesn’t it ? See Extra’s with Kate Winsdale (?)

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