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The infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign stolen last December from Auschwitz and broken into three pieces has been returned to the museum at the site of the Nazi death camp.

Police, who had quickly recovered the damaged sign after its theft, gave it to museum officials at a brief Jan. 21 ceremony in Krakow. It was then taken to the museum 50 miles away, where conservation experts examined the three dark steel pieces of the sign, whose cynical Nazi slogan means “Work Sets You Free.”

Thieves had cut up the sign at the site of the death camp the night of their heist to make it easier to transport in their getaway car.

Five Polish suspects have confessed to stealing it on Dec. 18. However, officials earlier this week were still seeking a suspected neo-Nazi from Sweden who is believed to have ordered the theft, possibly for a collector of Nazi memorabilia, prosecutors said.

Auschwitz spokesman Pawel Sawicki said officials must still decide whether to eventually put back the original sign or leave up the replica now in its place.

See related articles posted December 19, 2009 and January 9, 2010.


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