by Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
A “GANEF”* AT AUSCHWITZ
*In Yiddish, a “ganef” is a thief. It also means scoundral and rascal.
“I would like to make a toast to lying, stealing, cheating and drinking. If you’re going to lie, lie for a friend. If you’re going to steal, steal a heart. If you’re going to cheat, cheat death. And if you’re going to drink, drink with me.” Anonymous Toast
Dec. 2009 The “Arbet Macht Frei” (Work Sets You Free) sign was stolen from Auschwitz.
This sign appeared above the gate of the former camp. It was cut into at least three pieces so that it could fit into a car. The perpetrators were arrested hundreds of miles north of the concentration camp memorial, near the city of Gdansk. The sign had been hidden in “der vald” (the forest).
The theft of such a symbolic object is an attack on the memory of the Holocaust. Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, called the sign “the defining symbol of the Holocaust.”
2011: Polish police arrested a Frenchman for stealing a piece of barbed wire in remembrance of his family members who died there.
2012: Barbed wire stolen from Auschwitz
It is common/usual (“geveyntlekh”) for visitors with links to family members who died at the infamous prison camp to want to have a piece of history to remember those who died there. However, it’s “a shande un a kharpe” (a shame and a disgrace) to steal.
Tourists and entrepreneurs have also been smuggling pieces in U. S. parks. Alisa Blackwood reports that pieces of petrified wood have been smuggled out of Petrified Forest National Park, east of Holbrook, Arizona, since before the park was established. In one year, the park lost an estimated 12 tons of petrified wood.
At Lake Mead National Recreation Area, theft of Joshua trees and barrel cactuses got so bad that park managers placed tracking devices in some of the better specimens. One year a Tucson nursery was busted for trying to steal saguaros out of Saguaro National Park.
And at the Coronado National Memorial, near Hereford, Arizona, people steal rocks out of drainages.
The bottom line: