Police in Poland say the entrance sign to the Auschwitz nazi death camp was stolen to order for an international collector who neither lived in Poland nor is a Polish citizen.
Investigators put the sign on display following its recovery and the arrest of five men suspected of the theft.
The five-metre structure was twisted and out of shape after being cut into three pieces. The thieves had also left the final letter “I” behind.
Earlier police had said the gang were common villains, with no known links to neo-Nazi groups, who stole the UNESCO World Heritage symbol for money.
As they took the suspects back to the scene of the crime police refused to comment on Polish media reports that the trail was leading them to a collector who had masterminded the operation from Sweden.
If convicted the gang face up to ten years behind bars.
The archway sign – “Arbeit Macht Frei” or “Work makes you free” – has become synonymous with the Holocaust. It was intended to give a sense of security to those entering – before one a half million, most of them Jews, were put to death.