WARSAW, Poland (AP) — An Italian tourist accused of stealing a piece of barbed wire from the Nazi death camp Auschwitz as a free souvenir could face up to three years in jail, after the wire was spotted when it was put through an X-ray machine at Krakow airport in Poland.
Bertoldo Lori, 40, and his wife were stopped by border guards at 9 a.m. Sunday March 30 as they attempted to board a flight to Rome. The wire was identified in his luggage during check-in for their flights.
The name of Lori’s wife was not immediately available.
Border control spokesperson Captain Katarzyna Walczak said, “In his luggage we found approximately 40 centimeters of rusted barbed wire wrapped in clothing.”
“He admitted that the wire had come from the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, and that he had taken it to keep as a souvenir. But he insisted he had found it lying on the ground, rather than taken it from a fence,” Walczak said.
The couple was released by Polish border control and allowed to continue on their journey. Polish prosecutors must now decide whether to charge the pair.
Theft from the Auschwitz camp has become a growing problem in recent years. In 2009 thieves even stole the iron sign bearing the Nazi slogan “Arbeit Macht Frei” that spanned the main entrance to the camp.
The five-meter, 40-kilogram sign with the German words for “Work Sets You Free” was taken even though it is hung prominently across a gate at the main entrance to the former Nazi death camp in southern Poland.
A spokesman for the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, Bartosz Bartyzel, called the wire theft a “desecration” and said it was shocking that the tragic history of the site itself does not stop the thieves.
“Every item within the camp, whether it be a nut, screw, bolt or piece of wire is of cultural value and is part of the story here,” Bartyzel said.