Arbeit macht frei

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"Arbeit macht frei" (German pronunciation: [ˈaɐ̯baɪt ˈmaxt ˈfʁaɪ]; literally "work makes free") is a German phrase that can be translated as "work will make you free," "work liberates"[1] or "work makes one free".[2][3] The slogan is well-known for being placed at the entrances to a number of Nazi concentration camps, including most famously Auschwitz I, where it was made by prisoners with metalwork skills and erected by order of the Nazis in June 1940.

The expression comes from the title of an 1873 novel by German philologist Lorenz Diefenbach, in which gamblers and fraudsters find the path to virtue through labour.[2][4] The phrase was also used, in French ["le travail rend libre!"] by Auguste Forel a Swiss myrmecologist, neuroanatomist and psychiatrist, in the 1920, 2nd Edition, of his "Fourmis de la Suisse".[5] In 1922, the Deutsche Schulverein of Vienna, an ethnic nationalist "protective" organization of Germans within the Austrian empire, printed membership stamps with the phrase Arbeit macht frei. The phrase was adopted in 1928 by the Weimar government as a slogan extolling the effects of their desired policy of large-scale public works programmes to end unemployment. It was continued in this usage by the NSDAP (Nazi Party) when it came to power in 1933.

The sign over Auschwitz was stolen in December 2009 and then recovered by authorities in three separate pieces. The person behind the theft, a former Neo-Nazi leader, pleaded guilty on 30 December 2010 [6] and will serve his term in Sweden, and one of the other people involved in the theft is said to have apologised for the action. As a result of the theft and desecration of the sign, the original sign over the Auschwitz entrance has now been permanently replaced with a replica, and the original sign, which has been repaired but will never look the same, is now in the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum among other Auschwitz artifacts.

Contents

Use by the Nazis

The slogan "Arbeit macht frei" was placed at the entrances to a number of Nazi concentration camps. Although it was common practice in Germany to post inscriptions of this sort at entrances to institutional properties and large estates,[citation needed] the slogan's use in this instance was ordered by SS General Theodor Eicke, inspector of concentration camps and second commandant of Dachau Concentration Camp.

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