British teenagers face trial over 'Auschwitz theft'

Auschwitz Image copyright AP
Image caption The pupils from the independent Perse School in Cambridge were on a school trip to Auschwitz

Two British teenagers accused of stealing artefacts from the Auschwitz death camp during a school trip are to face a trial, prosecutors have said.

The pupils, from the independent Perse School in Cambridge, were allegedly seen by guards picking up buttons and fragments of a spoon from the ground.

In June, the school said they had been fined after admitting responsibility.

But Polish prosecutors said the boys had changed their minds and would now face a trial.

Image copyright Regional Police Command
Image caption Polish police released this picture of the items

The pair, who were aged 17 at the time of the alleged theft, have withdrawn their admission of guilt, explaining that they were not aware the items had special cultural significance.

They had originally accepted a fine and suspended probation, their school said in June.

The artefacts, which also included a rusted hair clipper and glass fragments, were allegedly picked up in an area where new arrivals at the Nazi death camp were stripped of their belongings.

Krakow Regional Prosecutor's office spokeswoman Boguslawa Marcinkowska said the indictment had been sent on Tuesday to the Regional Court in Krakow.

She said it was likely the pupils would have to appear in court as they had changed their position and their intention to voluntarily submit to punishment.

The maximum penalty for the crime is a 10-year prison sentence.

No-one at the Perse School was available for comment.

Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp

Image copyright AFP
  • Construction began in 1940 on a site that grew to 40 sq km (15 sq miles)
  • About one million Jews were killed at the camp
  • Other victims included Roma (Gypsies), people with disabilities, homosexuals, dissidents, non-Jewish Poles and Soviet prisoners

Life in the city of Auschwitz

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