Arbeit macht frei: Work engagement?

Arbeit macht frei. This phrase from German means “work brings freedom” or “work shall set you free” or “work liberates.”  I think in authentic employee engagement this may be a valid expression but in the context of WWII is was a sinister message that was being communicated at the entrance to Auschwitz and other concentration camps.

arbeit macht frei

Picture form Wikipedia Creative Commons.

Stolen. And now, the original sign was stolen from Auschwitz on December 18. A replacement sign has already been put into place but there is a massive search for the original sign.

History. The sign bearing the German words “Arbeit Macht Frei” – “work makes you free” – spanned the main entrance to a number of concentration camps including, Auschwitz death camp, where more than 1 million people, mostly Jews, were killed during the Second World War. The grim Nazi slogan was so counter to the actual function of the camp that it has been etched into history:

“The fact is that the ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ sign has become the defining symbol of the Holocaust, because everyone knew that this was not a place where work makes you free, but it was the place where millions of men, women, and children were brought for one purpose only – to be murdered,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, the centre’s founder and dean.

Canada’s Globe and Mail wrote that Poland has made the hunt for these thieves a national priority.

Never again. I hope the sign is found and brought back to Auschwitz. I also hope messages like this about the potential of work are never cruelly twisted in such a sinister, mocking, and appalling way again.

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