Jewish man trapped in Auschwitz after Holocaust memorial

Italian Riccardo Pacifici and TV crew locked in death camp and then questioned by police

 Journalists speak to an Auschwitz survivor at the notorious “Arbeit Macht Frei” entrance gate at the former concentration camp, which is now a museum in Oswiecim, Poland. Photograph:  Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

Journalists speak to an Auschwitz survivor at the notorious “Arbeit Macht Frei” entrance gate at the former concentration camp, which is now a museum in Oswiecim, Poland. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

 

The top Jewish leader in Rome, some of whose family members died in Auschwitz, has spoken of his shock at being trapped in the visitors’ centre of the Nazi death camp on Holocaust Memorial Day and then being questioned by Polish police.

Riccardo Pacifici and a television crew had been filming until 11pm for a piece to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the camp’s liberation when they realised that the guards who were meant to let them out had not arrived and that the camp had closed.

They escaped by climbing out of a window, but then faced hours of questioning by Polish police after setting off an alarm. Italian diplomats intervened, ending what Mr Pacifici called a “surreal” episode.

“For me, I have lost part of my family here. My grandparents died here. It was shocking,” he told the Italian newspaper La Stampa.

‘Stunning farce’

Mr Pacifici and others were held for so long because the police were looking for interpreters to question them.

“We were not afraid but we were stunned by this farce, in which even the Polish police don’t know what to do,” he said on Twitter. In a separate tweet he labelled the saga “a disgrace”.

Although he called the incident an accident, he said it also revealed flaws in the site’s security system.

The infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work sets you free) sign that greeted victims as they entered the concentration camp, where more than a million people were murdered during the second world war, was stolen in 2009 but then recovered a few days later.

Mr Pacifici tweeted about his experience on Thursday, thanking the acting Italian president, Pietro Grasso, who had called him on the telephone, for showing his solidarity after his terrible experience at Auschwitz.

Guardian Service