Two British teenagers have been arrested on suspicion of stealing artifacts from the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz, Polish police said Tuesday.
A spokesman for the site, which is now home to a museum, told AFP that guards on Monday caught the teenagers digging in the ground in an area where there were once barracks used to sort the personal items of arriving prisoners.
"They detained them and discovered that they were in possession of shards of glass, buttons, a hair clipper and bits of metal," he told AFP.
Regional police spokesman Mariusz Ciarka said he expected prosecutors to make a decision regarding possible charges against the pair later in the day.
Ciarka said the Britons born in 1997 and 1998 could get up to 10 years in prison for stealing objects of historical value from the site in the southern city of Oswiecim.
Sawicki said the area where the teens were digging was "a place where we still find objects in the ground that once belonged to the camp's victims."
It is not the first time someone has tried to smuggle out a piece of the former death camp, which has become a symbol of the Holocaust and is visited by more than a million people from across the world each year.
Several people have tried to make off with barbed wire, while one particularly brazen gang walked out with the camp's infamous "Arbeit macht frei" ("Work makes you free") sign in 2009.
The mastermind of that theft, Swedish neo-Nazi Anders Hoegstroem, was jailed for two-and-a-half years.
The metal sign was eventually recovered cut up into three pieces, leading museum officials to display a replica above the entrance.
One million Jews died at the camp set up by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland in 1940-1945.
More than 100,000 others including non-Jewish Poles, Roma, Soviet prisoners of war and anti-Nazi resistance fighters also died there, according to the museum.
AFP contributed to this report.