Swedish national and founder of Sweden’s National Socialist Front party Anders Högström has been sentenced to two years and eight months in prison by a Polish court for masterminding last year’s theft and dismemberment of the infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign at the entrance to Auschwitz.
Högström, who claimed to have abandoned his neo-Nazi ways over a decade ago, received the sentence as part of plea agreement that allows him to serve his time in a Swedish prison rather than a Polish one. If what I’ve seen on Wallander is at all accurate, I suspect that’s a pretty sweet exchange.
The exact nature of his involvement in the plot is still nebulous. When he was extradited from Sweden, he said he had played the middle man, simply arranging the transportation of the sign from one location to another. He also claimed that he had turned himself in once he discovered the proceeds from the sale of this ultimate symbol of Nazi genocide were going to be used to disrupt the upcoming elections.
Poland convicted him of masterminding the theft after prosecutors failed to turn up any evidence which supported Hogstrom’s claims that he was acting as a middle man in a plot to steal the sign for financial and possibly political gain.
Swedish police arrested him early in 2010. Hogstrom also claimed that rather than being arrested, he had turned himself into the Swedish authorities after he realised that proceeds from the sign’s sale was meant for a political campaign to disrupt Swedish general election in September which saw huge gains by the right-wing Sweden Democrat party. No evidence has emerged to support his claim that there was a political element to the theft
Polish prosecutors said Hogstrom had admitted his guilt at the last minute. The most likely cause for Hogstrom’s change of heart appears to have been the settlement reached with prosecutors which allows him to return to Sweden to serve his sentence.
But whether the motives behind the sign’s theft were political or linked in any way to the election gains by Sweden’s anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats, remains a mystery. Robert Parys, the Polish prosecutor who headed the investigation, said he was convinced the main motive was financial.
Two Polish nationals, Marcin Auguscinski and Andrzej Strychalski were sentenced 30 months and 28 months in jail respectively for the theft and dismemberment of the sign. They cut it into three pieces so it would fit in their truck. Marcin Auguscinski knew Högström personally. He did odd jobs on Högström’s southern Sweden estate more than two years ago.