The Original Arbeit macht frei Inscription is Back in Place at the Auschwitz Gate
May 23, Bielsko-Biała (PAP-Polish Press Agency) – The historically original inscription reading "Arbeit macht frei" returned to its place over the main gate of the Auschwitz I-Main Camp on Tuesday morning. A copy had been in place since January. Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum head preservation officer Rafał Pióro told PAP that the original was reinstalled in time for the visit by Pope Benedict XVI.
Pióro said that conservationists had spent the last few months examining the state of the original ironwork inscription. It turned out to be affected by surface deterioration, and was reinstalled after provisional preservation measures were taken. The authentic Arbeit macht frei motto will remain in place over the main gate until fall, when it will be taken back to the workshop for a thoroughgoing restoration.
The main gate to the Auschwitz I-Main Camp was the only one in the whole Auschwitz complex to be built by Polish political prisoners under German orders. These were prisoners deported from Wiśnicz in one of the early transports, in late 1940 or early 1941.
The gate was erected at the same time as the installation of the permanent camp perimeter fencing, on reinforced concrete posts and under high voltage, in place of the earlier, provisional fencing consisting of barbed wire strung on wooden posts.
The motto above the gate, Arbeit macht frei (Work Sets You Free), is one of the symbols of the camp. It was made by prisoners in the metalworking labor detail headed by Jan Liwacz (camp number 1010). The prisoners deliberately reversed the letter "B" as a camouflaged mark of disobedience.
The copy installed last January was made in the Museum's technical workshops. It became necessary to make the copy when it emerged that work on the original would require months to complete.
The Arbeit macht frei slogan was used not only in Auschwitz. The same motto greeted people arriving at concentration camps in Germany proper.
Prisoner kommandos, or labor details, marched out through the gate in rows of five each morning, under the supervision of their capos. When they returned to camp, the prisoners carried their fellow prisoners who had collapsed from exhaustion or illness, as well as those who had been worked to death or been murdered during the day. (PAP)