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Auschwitz Memorial Condemns Presence of Nazi Slogan at US Anti-Lockdown Rally
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=54215"><span class="small">Jedidajah Otte, Guardian UK</span></a>   
Sunday, 03 May 2020 08:38

Otte writes: "The organization that runs the Auschwitz memorial has condemned the appearance at a US anti-lockdown rally of a picket sign bearing a Nazi slogan displayed above the entrance of the concentration camp."

People hold signs during a protest against coronavirus lockdown measures in Chicago, Illinois. (photo: Kamil Krzaczyński/AFP/Getty Images)
People hold signs during a protest against coronavirus lockdown measures in Chicago, Illinois. (photo: Kamil Krzaczyński/AFP/Getty Images)


Auschwitz Memorial Condemns Presence of Nazi Slogan at US Anti-Lockdown Rally

By Jedidajah Otte, Guardian UK

03 May 20


‘Arbeit macht frei’ on sign at Illinois demonstration against state’s coronavirus measures

he organisation that runs the Auschwitz memorial has condemned the appearance at a US anti-lockdown rally of a picket sign bearing a Nazi slogan displayed above the entrance of the concentration camp.

A demonstrator attending a rally in Illinois, where hundreds of people protested against the state’s lockdown and social distancing measures, was photographed carrying a sign bearing the words “Arbeit macht frei, JB”.

The German phrase translates as “work sets you free”, with JB referring to the Illinois governor, JB Pritzker, who is of Jewish descent.

The font of both instances of the letter “B” on the picket sign bore a striking resemblance to the shape of the letter “B” on the sign above the gates of Auschwitz, the largest of the German Nazi concentration camps and extermination centres, where more than 1.1 million men, women and children were murdered.

Another demonstrator at the same rally was reportedly seen holding up a picket sign bearing a swastika and the words: “Heil, Pritzker.”

The official Auschwitz memorial Twitter account condemned the gesture, writing: “‘Arbeit macht frei’ was a false, cynical illusion the SS gave to prisoners of Auschwitz. Those words became one of the icons of human hatred. It’s painful to see this symbol instrumentalised and used again to spread hate. It’s a symptom of moral and intellectual degeneration.”

Holocaust survivors often describe the slogan as a reminder of the many ways in which the Nazis tried to give their prisoners false hope, with the inscription suggesting to the people arriving at the camps that hard work would eventually secure their release, when their deaths were already certain.

The long, curving iron sign spanning the gates of Auschwitz is perhaps the best known version of the slogan. It was stolen by thieves from the death camp’s memorial site in Poland in 2009, but recovered by police and returned a month later.

Pritzker, a Democrat, has repeatedly emphasised the need for an extensive test-and-trace programme across the state before lockdown measures can be lifted, and ordered all Illinois residents to shelter in place from 21 March.

He subsequently extended the order until at least 31 May, a decision that could be overruled by the courts after the Republican lawmaker Darren Bailey filed a lawsuit alleging Pritzker did not have the legal authority to extend it beyond 30 days.

David Harris, CEO of the American Jewish Committee, said in a tweet: “Those words – Work Sets You Free – were a savage Nazi hoax for slave labor and gas chambers. JB in the sign refers to state’s Jewish governor. Shameful. Shocking. Sickening.”

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