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German Teacher Caught Stealing From Auschwitz

Arrested for taking 10 items he wanted to bring back to his classroom

by
Stephanie Butnick
July 03, 2014
Entrance gates to the former Auschwitz concentration camp. (JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Entrance gates to the former Auschwitz concentration camp. (JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

People really like taking stuff from Auschwitz. In April, an Italian tourist was arrested for trying to smuggle 16 inches of barbed wire from the former Nazi concentration camp, and last month, administrators at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, which operates on the site, reported a rise in visitors taking “souvenirs” like railway spikes and other small items from the grounds. (School groups are apparently also carving their names into walls in the former barracks.)

The latest case of theft from Auschwitz allegedly comes in the name of education. A German teacher was arrested at the former concentration camp with 10 stolen items on his person, including a fork, shards of pottery, and a piece of a scissor, taken from where a warehouse once stood, JTA reports. His defense? He wanted to use them in his classroom.

The 47-year-old teacher on Tuesday admitted to taking the items from an area where the death camp inmates’ possessions had been stored during World War II. He said he wanted to show the items to his students, who are studying the Holocaust.

He avoided facing up to 10 years in prison for stealing culturally significant items, and will instead receive a suspended jail sentence and a fine. His students, however, definitely learned a valuable lesson—if not the one their teacher intended.

Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.

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