Friday, December 18, 2009
The Auschwitz sign is irreplaceable
By now you’ve probably heard the sign over the gate at Auschwitz, the infamous “arbeit macht frei” — “work sets you free,” was stolen this morning, sometime before dawn.
You may wonder what would someone do with this. There is actually a market for Nazi memorabilia. Though you could never sell the sign on eBay. They have a policy regarding objectionable items.
Auschwitz has become both symbol and shorthand for the Holocaust. And that sign - with its twisted and false message that work will bring one freedom rather than suffering and certain death - is immediately recognizable as its nameplate. There are no copies or reproductions at the site; visitors must see only what was real. In that way they will be bear witness to the very objects and structures which in turn remain the mute eyewitness to what happened there.
That is why the act is so despicable. It shows a lack of respect, a lack of compassion, a lack of understanding. I lost much of my family to the Nazis and the act is the same as desecrating a graveyard.