Poland: Prison Sentences, Fines, for Participants in ‘Artistic Protest’ at Auschwitz

WARSAW (AP) -
The “Arbeit Macht Frei” gate at Auschwitz. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski, File)

A Polish court has sentenced two Belarusian men to prison for organizing what they claim was “an artistic protest” at Auschwitz, in which they and others chained themselves together to the “Arbeit Macht Frei” gate as one man slaughtered a sheep. The court ruled that they had desecrated the Holocaust remembrance site.

The district court in Cracow confirmed on Tuesday that the man who killed the sheep, Adam Bialiatski, was sentenced to a year in prison for animal cruelty and desecrating a site of memory, while a second man, Mikita Valadzko, was sentenced to eight months in prison. Nine other participants were ordered to pay fines. The court added that the verdicts are final. Bialiatski and Valadzko countered that they were engaged in an artistic performance protesting wars in Syria and Ukraine.

Auschwitz is the name of the Nazi concentration/extermination camp where 1.1 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust. At the entrance to the camp was a gate with lettering declaring: “Work Sets One Free.” It was to this gate that the Belarusian men chained themselves in staging their “protest.”