Some of the demonstrators charged by Polish police in mid-March outside the gates of Auschwitz concentration camp have said had they known an animal would die, they would not have participated.
Polish prosecutors said 11 people who slaughtered a sheep, stripped naked and fastened themselves outside the gates of the camp last week were pacifists attempting to send an anti-war message and were not extremists.
The gruesome ceremony dumbfounded officials in charge of the Auschwitz compound, a memorial to the over one million people, predominantly Jews, who died at the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp during the Second World War.
As part of their protest on Friday, the near dozen people, four women and seven men, unfolded a banner with the message ‘Love’ over the entrance gateway to Auschwitz, with its disgraced scrollwork bearing the German words, ‘Arbeit Macht Frei,’ or ‘Work Will Set You Free.’
Police from the nearby town of Oswiecim, in southern Poland, a region that was annexed by Germany during World War II, held the group almost immediately. They included six Poles, one German, and four Belarussians.
Quizzed by officials on Saturday, the protestors said they wanted to stage a public objection against the deaths of innocent people, said Mariusz Slomka, deputy regional prosecutor in Oswiecim.
Their motivations do not matter to officials at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum. They said in a statement on Twitter that using the symbol of Auschwitz for any type of displays or activities is not respecting victims’ memories.
Protestors who were questioned and released on Saturday have been charged with defiling a symbolic location commemorating historical events. The person who killed the sheep, faces more charges under an animal protection law. The penalty could be imprisonment or stiff fines.
Slomka said most of the group participants did not know one another prior to their exhibition. They met online and discussed the details of their actions there, though it was unclear if the details of their escapade were completely discussed during those online conversations, The New York Times reported.
Some of them said had they been aware about the plan to kill a sheep they would not have taken part.
Many of the people are in their mid-20s, the youngest is 20. The German is the oldest at 43.
Slomka said they are looking for those people who could have participated but did not stay.