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Dutch tourist fined over Nazi salute at Auschwitz

<i>Artur Widak/NurPhoto/Reuters</i><br/>The woman was posing for photos in front of this gate at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Artur Widak/NurPhoto/Reuters
The woman was posing for photos in front of this gate at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

By Jack Guy and Antonia Mortensen, CNN

A Dutch tourist was detained by police and fined in Poland after making a Nazi salute at the gate of the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The 29-year-old woman was arrested on Sunday and charged with promoting Nazism, according to a statement from local police published Monday.

She made a Nazi salute while posing for photos taken by her husband in front of the famous gate carrying the inscription “Arbeit Macht Frei,” said police.

Guards from the Auschwitz Museum reported the woman and she was arrested and taken into custody. Her husband, 30, was questioned as a witness, and the woman pleaded guilty to promoting Nazism, police added.

The woman told police that making the salute was “only an ill-considered joke,” a police spokesperson told CNN Monday, confirming the female tourist had been fined by the District Prosecutor in Krakow. CNN has approached the District Prosecutor’s office for clarity on what exactly the fine entails.

Under Polish law she could have faced a prison term of up to two years, according to the police statement.

The Nazi salute is “associated with terrible human suffering and filled with contempt and hatred,” a spokesperson for the Auschwitz Museum told CNN in a statement Monday.

“While it should not be present at all in the public space, using it at the site of the former camp is unacceptable. It is disrespectful to all victims of the camp,” reads the statement.

“We hope that the immediate reaction of the security of the Memorial will be a warning to all people who will be considering of using the site of the Memorial as a stage for such shameful manifestations,” it continued.

Michael Schudrich, chief rabbi of Poland, said the museum was right to call the police.

“The very least we can do to honor the memory of all those killed by the German Nazi regime is to have zero tolerance for facism, hate and xenophobia,” Schudrich told CNN. “And we cannot dismiss this as a bad joke. Even a symbolic fine is a message for others.”

Auschwitz-Birkenau, established in Nazi-occupied Poland, was the largest concentration camp run by Hitler’s regime. More than 1.1 million men, women and children were systematically murdered there, many in the camp’s gas chambers. Some 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

The camp complex has been turned into a museum and memorial site which is open to visitors.

In October, anti-Semitic graffiti was found sprayed on wooden barracks at the site in both English and German. Staff from the museum denounced the incident as “an outrageous attack” on the memorial site.

And in August 2020 the Auschwitz Memorial criticized a trend on TikTok in which young people portrayed themselves as victims of the Holocaust, saying the videos can be “hurtful and offensive.”

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