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Ombudsman receives complaint over Nazi sign above town bar

The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman has informed the owner the sign could be considered unlawful harassment.

Juha Koskinen, owner of the "Tank" bar in the small town of Kärkölä, said he put up the racist sign "for fun". Image: Juha-Petri Koponen / Yle

A member of the Jewish community complained to the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman on Thursday over a Nazi sign that was found installed above the doorway of a small-town bar.

Juha Koskinen, the owner of a military-themed pub in Kärkölä, Southern Finland installed a metallic sign with the German inscription "Arbeit macht frei" above the entrance to his bar.

The German phrase, meaning "work makes you free", was written on the gates to the Auschwitz concentration camp.

On Tuesday the Auschwitz Museum wrote on Twitter that "Arbeit macht frei was a false, cynical illusion the SS gave to prisoners of the #Auschwitz (siirryt toiseen palveluun) camp. Those words became one of the icons of human hatred. It's painful to see the symbol misused this way."

The person behind the complaint held the text to be ethnic agitation against Jews and demanded the Ombudsman take decisive action.

The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman's office contacted Koskinen and informed him that the sign is considered to be a clear case of harassment under the Non-Discrimination Act.

Koskinen said on Wednesday that he put up the sign "for fun" and had no ideological motive for the stunt. He also said he knew there would be backlash.

"I'm no Nazi. The sign stays for now. Maybe I'll change it later to a sign about rehabilitative work programmes," Koskinen responded. His sarcastic reference is to the Finnish government's so-called activation model.

There is no word yet on when the sign is likely to be removed.

More than one million Jews and other minorities were murdered at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in the 1940s.