About a dozen people in their 20s gathered beside the entrance to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum on Friday afternoon, slaughtered a sheep, stripped naked and chained themselves together while a fireworks device was set off in the nearby parking lot.
At one point, the people draped a banner reading “Love” over the entrance gate to the former Nazi concentration camp with its infamous scrollwork bearing the three German words “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work Makes You Free”).
On Friday evening, the authorities were still trying to figure out who the people were and their intentions.
One local media report said the people had filmed themselves with a drone, while others said they were protesting the conflict in eastern Ukraine, though their staged demonstration’s relation to it was unexplained.
Officials at the memorial and museum — on the sites of the two camps where more than 1 million people died during World War II — said they had been caught off guard and had no idea what was intended by the display.
Oswiecim district police spokesperson Malgorzata Jurecka late on Friday said that 11 people were detained — six Poles, four Belarussians and one German.
“At the moment, we are gathering and securing all the evidence connected with this case to determine the exact involvement of the individuals in this dramatic incident,” she said. “It was macabre.”
Museum officials take a dim view of groups using the site as a backdrop for political statements.
“Using the symbol of Auschwitz for any kind of manifestations or happenings is outrageous and unacceptable,” the museum said in a statement.
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