Britons to Face Theft Charges in Poland Over Auschwitz Items

WARSAW, Poland (AP) -
FILE - In this Oct. 19, 2012 file photo the entrance with the inscription "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work Sets You Free) gate of the former German Nazi death camp of Auschwitz is pictured at the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial in Oswiecim, Poland. A 94-year-old former SS guard at the Auschwitz death camp is going on trial Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016 on 170,000 counts of accessory to murder, the first of up to four cases being brought to court this year in an 11th-hour push by German prosecutors to punish Nazi war crimes. Reinhold Hanning is accused of serving as an SS Unterscharfuehrer _ similar to a sergeant _ in Auschwitz from January 1943 to June 1944, a time when hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews were brought to the camp in cattle cars and were gassed to death. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, File)
The entrance with the inscription “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Sets You Free) on the gate of the former German Nazi death camp of Auschwitz at the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial in Oswiecim, Poland. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, File)

A court in Poland has refused to drop the case against two British teenagers caught in June taking objects from the site of the Nazi Auschwitz death camp and has referred it to a lower court.

Initially, the teenagers from Hertfordshire, in southern England, pleaded guilty to charges of stealing items from the historic site while on a school trip. But later their lawyers argued that the case should be tossed out, because the teenagers were not aware that the objects they took from the site of the former camp’s warehouses had special historic value.

A court in the southern city of Krakow admitted the items were of no special historic value, but ordered a court in Oswiecim, where the former camp is located, to weigh charges of simple theft.