Hitchin teen facing trial after taking back admission of guilt over theft of artefacts from former Nazi death camp Auschwitz

Auschwitz education trip. Picture: Kath Sansom.

Auschwitz education trip. Picture: Kath Sansom. - Credit: Archant

A teenager from Hitchin is facing trial in Poland after taking back his admission of guilt following the theft of artefacts from Auschwitz.

Ben Thompson from the town was arrested last June during a school trip to the former Nazi death camp, intended to educate pupils about the horrors of the Holocaust.

The 17-year-old, a pupil at the £15,423-a-year Perse School in Cambridge, was originally arrested in June last year along with a classmate, Marcus Dell, after the pair were found with irreplaceable items and personal effects which had belonged to prisoners at the concentration camp.

The duo were initially given one year’s probation suspended for three years and fined 1,000 zloty each – around £169 – after admitting the theft of fragments of spoons, buttons, glass and hair clippers.

But Polish prosecutors said last week that the pair had now changed their minds and retracted their admission of guilt – meaning they would now face a trial.

When contacted by the Comet on Tuesday, Ben Thompson’s mother Sharron said: “I have nothing else to add on this matter.”

The family released a statement to the press last summer which said: “Ben is mortified that he has offended people, but really is not a malicious boy.

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“He knows what he did was stupid and disrespectful, and is sorry.”

Perse School head Ed Elliot also said at the time: “There will be a full and through investigation into what occurred. I want to ensure that all necessary lessons are learnt.”

Dalia Asher, a Hitchin woman whose great-grandparents were killed at Auschwitz, said of the thefts: “I just don’t understand. I find it extremely hurtful and disappointing.

“Someone who does this shows a total lack of respect and understanding about what happened to people at Auschwitz. I don’t understand why someone would take things like that – it’s weird. Who wants this kind of souvenir?

“During my studies I had an assignment once where I interviewed Holocaust survivors. Maybe they should do something like that in school.”

At least 1.1 million prisoners, around 90 per cent of them Jewish, died at Auschwitz from September 1941 to January 27, 1945.

January 27 is now commemorated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.