One of the two schoolboys handed suspended sentences and fines for stealing items that belonged to prisoners at Auschwitz concentration camp is “mortified” by his actions, his parents said.
Marcus Dell and Ben Thompson, both 17-year-old pupils at the £15,000-per-year Perse School in Cambridge, one of the country’s leading independent schools, admitted taking the items of historical importance when they were on a history trip to Poland.
They were fined 1,000 zloty (£170) and given a one-year probation, suspended for three years. The parents of one of the boys, speaking before they were released on Tuesday, said their son may have been affected by the emotion at the former Nazi concentration camp, and insisted he would not have wanted to be disrespectful.
Polish police said the teenagers were spotted acting suspiciously at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum on Monday and a body search revealed they had picked up fragments of hair clippers, spoons, some buttons and two pieces of glass.
In a statement published in the Daily Mail, the parents said: “When you’re young, you sometimes do things without thinking them through. We are very much aware of the seriousness of the situation and know that it is not a trivial matter.
He knows what he did was stupid and disrespectful and is very sorry for any offence he has caused the Polish community. “It is quite possible that he has been affected by the enormity of what he has seen and experienced and this may have clouded his judgement. (He) is mortified that he has offended people, but really is not a malicious or disrespectful boy.”
Perse School’s headteacher Ed Elliott said he wants to “hear directly” from the two boys as to why they took the items. The Holocaust Educational Trust’s chief executive Karen Pollock said the incident was “shocking” and showed “gross disregard to the memory of the Holocaust”.
Visitors have tried to steal artefacts as souvenirs from the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum in the past. Back in 2010, a Swedish man was jailed for organising the theft of the Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Makes You Free) sign from the entry gate of Auschwitz.