Auschwitz thief expresses regret, says wanted sentimental reminder
An Israeli who stole items from the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland has identified himself and resigned from his high-ranking city hall job, DPA reported.
However, he insists he is not a thief, rather a person looking for items that carried sentimental value.
Motti Poslushni, 60, and his wife Dominique, 57, were caught on Friday by Polish custom officials at Cracow Airport, who found nine personal items from former Auschwitz-Birkenau prisoners in the couple's bag. Items included several knives, a pair of scissors, and some porcelain bottle stoppers.
In accelerated legal proceedings, a Polish judge sentenced them to 18 months jail time on probation and ordered them to pay a fine, after which the couple returned to Israel.
The incident caused outrage both in Poland and in Israel. The couple's identity had been under a gag order.
Poslushni, said to be the son of a Holocaust survivor, said Tuesday he and his wife took the items as a "souvenir" because of their "sentimental" value.
He said they were not expensive silverware stolen from a display at the former Nazi death camp, but rusty pieces of metal found in the mud in a part of the camp with the remnants of former barracks.
But he expressed regret and said their decision to take the pieces had been a "mistake in judgement."
He said he had submitted his resignation to the mayor of Herzliyya, an upscale town north of Tel Aviv, where he had served as deputy director general in the town hall, as well as the head of the City Renewal Department.
"I need some time for myself, to calm down a little from this affair, and to try and clear my name as the 'Thief of Auschwitz,' which is a terrible thing," he told Israel Radio.
"We wanted to take a reminder from this place which affected us so much, something at the sentimental level," he said of the camp.
The Auschwitz memorial site has seen several cases of theft in the past. Last summer, two teachers from Canada stole two screws from the infamous Jewish ramp, on which victims underwent selection after disembarking from the transport trains, and where they were told to turn either right for forced labour, or left to the gas chambers.
Nazi Germany founded the camp in occupied Poland in 1940. By the end of World War II in 1945, more than 1 million people, mostly Jews, were murdered there.