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US man faces up to 10 years in prison for stealing rail tracks from Auschwitz death camp

US man faces up to 10 years in prison for stealing rail tracks from Auschwitz death camp
US man faces up to 10 years in prison for stealing rail tracks from Auschwitz death camp

The infamous Auschwitz death camp, which has long since become a magnet for souvenir hunters, saw another attack on its relics – this time perpetrated by an American citizen, who attempted to steal a piece of railway tracks.

The 37-year-old American tourist who was on a visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp was caught red-handed as he attempted to walk away with a part of the rail tracks that witnessed Holocaust victims being brought there in cattle cars. The man was caught in the act by the site's security guards, who then promptly notified the police.

A spokesperson for the Oswiecim town police, where the former death camp is located, said that the failed thief admitted his ill intent and has been released pending charges over an attempt to steal an item of cultural importance, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The notorious site has been turned into a museum, and is struggling to protect its many historic artifacts from rampant pilfering by tourists. In the past few years, the camp has sustained a number of attempts by its visitors to take away a memento, with various degrees of success. The list of items is rather long and expands every year.

In July last year, two Hungarian tourists were charged with an attempt to steal bricks from the former crematorium, where Jews and other POWs burned to death during the WWII. The pair were caught red handed and prevented from taking the bricks out in a bag.

A year earlier, an Israeli student was more lucky in passing through security, and managed to take a number of items, such as a metal screw, small bowls and even a sign warning visitors against stealing, to Israel, where she proudly displayed them at a college graduation exhibition.Also on rt.com Israeli student could face charges over theft of items from Auschwitz

In 2015, two British teenagers were arrested after the guards spotted them picking up buttons, fragments of a spoon and a rusted hair clipper from the ground at the camp.

Arguably the most high-profile souvenir heist took place in 2009 when five men stole the "Arbeit Macht Frei" ("Work sets you free") sign hanging over the camp's gate. The perpetrators cut the sign into three pieces with one word on each before it was recovered and the gang members were arrested.

About 1.1 million people perished in the camp during the war, most of them Jews. In total, around 11 million people were killed in Nazi concentration and death camps during World War II, 6 million of them Jews.

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