22:30 GMT16 January 2021
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    The death camp, established by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War 2, was the largest industrial-scale concentration and extermination camp in human history; over 1.1 million people, including some 960,000 European Jews, were killed at the camp between 1940 and 1945.

    A 37-year-old American man could face up to 10 years in prison after being charged with trying to steal a piece of the train tracks at the former Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp; the item is considered to be 'of cultural importance', Poland's PAP news agency reported, citing police.

    A police spokesperson from the town of Oswiecim told the news agency that the man had admitted his guilt and been released from custody, pending trial. Police detained the man after other visitors told staff about his attempt to remove part of the train track.

    The Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp has faced vandalism attempts repeatedly in recent years. Last year, two Hungarian tourists were detained and fined for trying to steal bricks from the site. The tourists claimed they "didn't realise" they were doing anything wrong. In a separate incident, an Israeli teenager was fined after being caught urinating on a memorial dedicated to Holocaust victims. In 2015, two boys from the UK were handed a year's suspended sentence ech for stealing buttons, a comb and other belongings taken during prisoners' processing before their extermination.

    Probably the most infamous incident occurred in 2009, when the site's ominous 'Arbeit macht frei' ('Work sets you free') sign was stolen and found cut to pieces. The thieves were handed prison sentences ranging from 18-30 months.

    Auschwitz-Birkenau was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. The camp is a widely-recognised symbol of the Holocaust; over one million Jews, Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, resistance fighters, Romani peoples, and homosexuals were systematically murdered at the site. Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army on 27 January 1945 during the final months of the war. Its horrors were revealed to the world at the Nuremberg trials in 1946 and 1947.

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    Tags:
    theft, concentration camp, Auschwitz, Poland
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