Gate Bearing Nazi Slogan Stolen From Dachau Memorial Site

A gate bearing the infamous Nazi slogan “Work sets you free” has been stolen from the memorial site commemorating the thousands of people who were imprisoned or killed at the concentration camp in Dachau, near Munich.

The discovery was made by security personnel yesterday morning, according to a statement by local police. The thieves probably used a vehicle to make their getaway after climbing the main entrance to reach the wrought-iron gate, police said.

Dachau concentration camp was opened in 1933, a few weeks after Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party seized power in Germany. It was used as a model for camps the Nazis used to hold, torture and kill political prisoners in a system that also exploited slave labor and exterminated Jews. The terror intensified after Heinrich Himmler, the chief of Munich’s police, became the head of police for all of Germany in 1936.

In the 12 years that Dachau was in operation, more than 200,000 people from all over Europe were imprisoned there and 41,500 were murdered, according to the memorial’s website. U.S. troops liberated the survivors in 1945. Located some 20 kilometers (12 miles) northwest of Munich, the memorial site was established in 1965.

The theft marks the first major desecration of the historic site, Max Mannheimer, a camp survivor and the vice-president of the International Dachau Committee, said in a statement. “I didn’t think destruction of such a degree was possible,” he said.

Communist prisoner Karl Roeder was forced to carve the gate’s inscription in 1936 under the orders of Hitler’s SS security squadron. It was removed after World War II and reconstructed as part of the memorial.

In 2009, a similar sign was stolen from a gate at the Nazi death camp site at Auschwitz in southern Poland. It was later recovered by Polish police.

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