WARSAW — A Polish court on Wednesday jailed the organizers of an anti-war stunt that saw a dozen people strip naked last year at the former German Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau before one of them slaughtered a lamb.
The court in the southern city of Oswiecim found Belarussians Adam B. and Mikita V. guilty of desecrating a memorial site and of animal cruelty and handed them prison sentences of a year and a half and 14 months respectively.
“Auschwitz is a memorial site, a symbol of martyrdom and a cemetery for thousands of human beings,” said prosecutor Mariusz Slomka.
“We must send a clear signal… that these kinds of stunts should never be repeated.”
Most of the 10 other defendants, aged 20 to 27, were sentenced to community service while one received a fine of 10,000 zloty ($3,000).
The group carried out the unprecedented stunt in March 2017 in front of the camp’s infamous “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work makes you free”) gate, where they draped a white banner with the word love written in red.
“These people desecrated one of the most tragic places in the world… by shamelessly trying to use it to propagate vague ideas that never really were explained and injuring the millions of people whose loved ones died there,” museum director Piotr Cywinski said, quoted by the Polish news agency PAP.
“The court punished us for a work of art, it’s unfair,” Mikita V said for his part after the verdict was read.
The group had said last year that they had acted for a good cause, to protest against war, adding that the slaughtered lamb was a “symbol of an innocent being who suffers for nothing.”
Nazi Germany built the Auschwitz death camp after occupying Poland during World War II.
The Holocaust site has become a symbol of Nazi Germany’s genocide of six million European Jews, one million of whom were killed at the camp between 1940 to 1945.
More than 100,000 non-Jews also died at the death camp, according to the museum. An estimated 232,000 of the victims were children.