British teens fined by Polish court for stealing Auschwitz artifacts

(JTA) – Two British teens who tried to steal items from the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum appeared in a Polish court and were fined.

The teens, both 19 and from Hertfordshire in England, were 17 in June 2015 when the incident occurred.

Museum guards stopped them while they were on a trip with the private Perse School in Cambridge. The teens were found to have hidden in their bags fragments of a hair clipper, glass from the barracks and buttons taken from the area of the former Birkenau camp called “Canada,” where during the war stood warehouses filled with items looted from Jews.

The teens initially pleaded guilty and were levied a fine as punishment. They were allowed to return to Cambridge.

Later, the teens’ attorneys withdrew their admission of guilt, saying they were not aware that the items had special cultural significance.

They initially were charged with stealing goods of special importance to the well-being of culture, which carries a 10-year jail sentence. But after experts told the court that the items were of no special cultural significance the charges were reduced to damaging a site of historical importance.

In court Krakow in southern Poland on Wednesday, the judge levied a fine of about $500 on each teen and ordered them each to donate more than $1,500 to the Memorial Foundation for the victims of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

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