The head of Rome’s Jewish community, whose grandparents were killed
at Auschwitz, visited the former Nazi death camp to commemorate the 70th
anniversary of its liberation.
He ended up spending the night at the police station after triggering an alarm.
Pacifici and four other Italians stayed behind following ceremonies on
Wednesday after receiving permission to shoot footage of the site for an
Italian broadcast. The gates were closed and they had an appointment to
be let out by guards at 11:30 p.m.
The entranceway to the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz Birkenau, in
Oswiecim, southern Poland.”Arbeit Macht Frei” ( translated to “Work Sets
You Free”). Photo / AP
Finishing early, they went to
the main gate to leave but found the guards had not yet arrived. They
thought they could get out from the visitor’s center and got in by
pushing through the window. When they opened a door to leave, the alarm
Security guards came rushing in and asked to see their
identification documents. They refused, prompting the guards to call
police, who took them to the station for questioning, police spokesman
Mariusz Sokolowski said.
There they were held from 11 p.m. until shortly after 5 a.m. until finally being released.
treated us like real criminals,” said Fabio Perugia, the spokesman for
the Rome Jewish community, who was one of the five questioned.
said security guards at Auschwitz should have been more attentive to
the needs of the Italians, but that the Italians also should have used
their phones to call for help when they realized they were trapped
Pacifici tweeted throughout the ordeal, saying that their “only crime … was to try to leave by a window!!!!”
police and museum officials said normal security procedures had to be
followed. The visitor’s center contains a post office, a shop, a
donation box and an ATM, with money on site.
Sokolowski said the
questioning took several hours because the Italian consulate was called
and all the documentation was translated into Italian. He said the group
was taken to a police station simply so that the bureaucratic
procedures could be carried out in a more comfortable place.
at the site has been tightened in recent years after a number of
attacks by vandals. The most dramatic occurred in 2009 when Swedish
neo-Nazis stole the infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign over the main gate
and cut it into pieces. The sign was retrieved and repaired and a
replica was put in its place.