DACHAU, Germany -- The wrought iron gate to the Nazis’ Dachau concentration camp, which prompted an international outcry when it was stolen more than two years ago, has been returned to the German memorial site.
The gate, bearing the slogan “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work sets you free”), was located in Norway’s western Bergen area after authorities received an anonymous tip late last year.
“We had almost given up hope and a replica had been made and installed at the original place,” Gabriele Hammermann, the head of the memorial site, said as the gate was returned Wednesday.
The theft of the gate “was one of the worst attacks on the Dachau camp memorial,” she said, adding that it remains very important to survivors that authorities continue the investigation into who stole the gate.
The theft in November 2014 was viewed by many as a desecration, as the cynical inscription has become a central symbol for the ordeal of the Nazi prisoners who had to walk past the gate every day on their way to slave labor work.
Israel’s Yad Vashem memorial labeled the theft as “an offensive attack on the memory of the Holocaust.”
The gate was found under a tarpaulin at a parking lot in Ytre Arna, a settlement north of Bergen, Norway’s second-largest city.
The gate will not be returned to its original position, where the replica now stands, but will become part of the permanent exhibition, where it will be kept inside an air-conditioned glass cabinet equipped with an alarm system.
Measuring 75 by 37 inches, the gate originally was set into a larger gate at the camp’s entrance. It will first be shown to the public on April 30, the anniversary of the liberation 72 years ago by American forces.
The concentration camp near Munich was established by the Nazis in 1933. More than 200,000 people from across Europe were held at Dachau, and more than 40,000 prisoners died there.
It was the second time in recent years that a Nazi camp gate was targeted by thieves.
In December 2009, the “Arbeit macht frei” sign that spanned the main gate of the Auschwitz death camp, built by the Nazis in occupied Poland, was stolen. Police found it three days later cut into pieces in a forest on the other side of Poland.
A Swedish man with a neo-Nazi past was found guilty of instigating that theft and was jailed in his homeland. Five Poles also were convicted of involvement and imprisoned.