I’m an NPR junkie. It’s on in my car all day and I often listen on-line at work. The reporting is thorough, but I appreciate the unique stories that they cover. As I was driving in to work this morning, I listened with a mixture of emotions to a story out of Poland. The condensed version goes like this:
Five men stole the sign that hung above the entry gate at the Auschwitz death camp in Poland.
The sign translates into “Work Makes You Free” – which was supposed to reassure those entering these gates that, with hard work, their freedom could be attained. More than four million men, women, and children died inside these gates. It is hallowed ground. And five men saw a profit in that sign, so they stole it, cut it into three pieces (one word each), and made plans to sell it off.
I’m trying to wrap my mind around this idea. I’m trying to understand what could motivate someone – well, five someones – into thinking that this was a brilliant plan. Did they think no one would notice? Did they think that in selling off the pieces, no one would wonder where they came from? This is nothing less than the desecration of a sacred site in my eyes. What type of person conceives of a plan to desecrate a grave and profit by it?
I know – it happens all the time. In the Western United States, white men have been plundering the burial sites of Ancestral Natives for generations. Recently in Southern Utah, a group of men and women were found guilty of stealing artifacts from public and Native-owned lands and selling them for personal gain. These folks I can almost understand. Native artifacts are interesting and mysterious. They carry the history of lost peoples and spiritual connections between these ancient cultures and the places where they lived.
But these guys in Poland border on evil in my book. Evil. I’m ranting a bit – not that this is anything new – but how could anyone – ANYONE – think that taking that they had a right to take that sign? How could anyone think that their needs outweighed the value of leaving that historical artifact intact? The hurt in my heart is stunning. We are losing our veterans and the survivors of that horrible moment in history. It has been almost 70 years since the camps were liberated and the truth of the Nazi’s “Final Solution” became clear to the world. Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Treblinka
these sites must be preserved, remembered, and venerated so that future generations will not allow this type of thing to occur again.
I’m not certain what the appropriate punishment for the five thieves might be. Perhaps time volunteering at the Auschwitz museum would help them to better understand the gravity of their choices. Then again, a lesson such as that may be lost on a mind that can conceive of this as a way to make money.
Color me disbelieving.