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Polish police have launched an investigation after pairs of shoes belonging to Holocaust victims were stolen from the Majdanek death camp.

Museum authorities at the camp reported a thief, or thieves, had removed eight pairs of shoes from a display at the former Nazi facility, which claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people during its years of operation in German-occupied Poland.

Museums on the sites of Nazi camps now issue frequent complaints of numerous acts of vandalism and theft.

In July, a German teacher was arrested in Poland for stealing items from Auschwitz, but the most notable incident occurred in 2009 when three thieves stole the notorious “Arbeit Mact Frei” sign from the gates of the same camp.

The Majdanek museum said somebody, most probably a visitor as there was no sign of forced entry into the barrack housing the permanent exhibition, had cut through a metal mesh protecting the exhibits and removed six pairs of adult shoes and two children’s pairs.

Its gas chambers consumed the lives of at least some 78,000 people, the vast majority of them Jewish, but some historians argue this figure is far too conservative.

“The shoe exhibit has a strong emotional impact, and it is in this barrack, Number 52a, that visitors realise just how many people died during Reinhard,” said Agnieszka Kowalczyk-Nowak, a Majdanek museum spokeswoman.

“In this barrack we only have the shoes of the victims, and that shows the massive nature of the crime.

“It is difficult to place a material value on the stolen items, but their real worth is their historical value,” she added.


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