Arbeit macht frei

(German: work will set you free)

The inscription over the gate of the Auschwitz I camp comes from the title of a novel by the German writer Lorenz Diefenbach entitled Die Wahrheit macht frei (the truth will set you free).

Before the war, the slogan was used in Germany in programs to reduce mass unemployment. After the Nazis took power, the phrase appeared at the entrances to other concentration camps and ghettos aside from Auschwitz, including Dachau, Sachsenhausen, Flossenbürg, Gross‑Rosen and Theresienstadt.

The letter B was attached upside down, which some prisoners interpreted as an act of resistance aimed at the duplicity of the slogan above the gate. It is more probable, however, that it was merely accidental. In December 2009, the inscription was stolen and cut up into pieces on orders from a Swedish neo-Nazi. It was secured two days later, repaired and conserved. A replica of the original now hangs above the gate.

(Mini dictionary of terms from the history of Auschwitz)