“Arbeit Macht Frei” – Auschwitz gate

“Arbeit macht frei” the most important symbol created by the Germans of the system of mass extermination, whose victims were Jews and Poles. To this day, the inscription is above the gate of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, arousing interest among tourists from all over the world. The history of the inscription itself is mainly contained in German Protestantism. The Nazis decided to rewrite the sentence for their own purposes, because it is a variation of the words that appeared in the Gospel of John – “The truth makes free”. In the 19th century, Lorenz Diefenbach changed the word “truth” into “work”. (from German Wahrheit in Arbeit), use the slogan in their studies on social relations. The reference not only led to the widely held idea of forced labour to achieve the goals of the nation and the state, but also to a sharp expression used in concentration and labour camps. The best example of this is the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp complex. Situated above the camp gate, the inscription is an example of the additional two-facedness of the Nazis, who made fun of prisoners in this way. For sentenced and imprisoned prisoners in Auschwitz-Birkenau, the road to freedom was usually death.


The slogan “Arbeit macht frei” was also used in other camps such as Dachau, Gross-Rosen or Sachsenhausen. The inscription created in Oświęcim is the greatest example of macabre Nazi rhetoric. The inscription was made by a prisoner, smith Jan Liwacz. After the liberation of the camp by the Red Army, the Soviets wanted to take it to the Soviet Union. Thanks to the perceptiveness of former prisoner Eugeniusz Nosal, the inscription was recovered and hidden, and then used in the project to create the Museum in Oświęcim. The original inscription can still be seen above the camp gate. Unfortunately, it has been the subject of unhealthy interest from visitors several times. The inscription was stolen and cut in December 2009, but thanks to the police, it was recovered and restored in the same month. During the absence of the original, a replica of the inscription was hung over the camp gate. Behind the theft was a Swedish neo-Nazi Anders Hogstrom, according to sources provided by the police.

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