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Tourist Steals Barbed Wire From Auschwitz

Italian man arrested at Krakow airport faces up to five years in jail

Stephanie Butnick
April 01, 2014
Entrance to Auschwitz. (JACEK BEDNARCZYK/AFP/Getty Images)
Entrance to Auschwitz. (JACEK BEDNARCZYK/AFP/Getty Images)

An Italian tourist was arrested at Krakow’s John Paul II International Airport this weekend for attempting to smuggle a bizarre souvenir out of Poland in his suitcase: a piece of barbed wire from Auschwitz. JTA reports that border guards discovered the “rusty piece of wire,” which was about 16 inches long, and that the man faces a prison sentence ranging anywhere from three months to five years.

“During interrogation, the man said that he took the wire as a souvenir while visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, lifted it from the ground and took it with him,” Katarzyna Walczak, a spokeswoman for the Silesian-Malopolska Border Guard, said in a statement.

It’s a perplexing story, especially since judging from my visit several years ago, the grounds appear to be maintained by museum staff, and it seems unlikely that barbed wire is falling down all over the place. It’s also a thoroughly creepy memento—and part of an historical site, no less—that raises a host of questions about the person who decided to tote it home with him.

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.