Packard Plant Tagged With Nazi Slogan ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’

DETROIT (CBS Detroit) Is it art meant to highlight a decaying industrial complex in a dying city or a chilling threat?

The phrase “Arbeit Macht Frei,” which famously greeted Nazi prisoners at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II, has a new home.

It sits prominently on a bridge overlooking the Packard Plant in Detroit. The words are in the same script as the concentration camp, but in this case they lord over the hulking plant that once created luxury cars and now serves as a decrepit 40-acre squatting grounds for the homeless, and a favorite spot for scrappers, graffiti artists and ruin porn photography.

The factory that built luxury Packard cars at the start of the 20th Century, closed in 1958. The city of Detroit has pledged to take the plant down, but that hasn’t happened yet.

The German words now prominently displayed on it translate into English as “work will make you free,” and they guarded the gates at the camps where 1.3 million people, mostly Jews, were killed during the Nazi regime. In Detroit, no one has come forward to take credit, or blame, for it.

“Each letter is fashioned on a durable piece of plastic that is strongly secured to the overpass with about 80 sturdy ties,” according to

Steve Goldman of the Holocaust Memorial Center says, even though the intention behind the posting is unknown, it’s offensive.

“In a month, when we’re celebrating the freedom of African-Americans — of all Americans from the scourge of slavery — this hearkening back to slave labor in Nazi Germany … it’s just so offensive I almost don’t have words,” Goldman said.

Even if it’s meant to be an artistic statement on labor issues, as some have guessed, Goldman says the words should be removed.

See a photo gallery of the factory HERE.

So, what do you think: Should the city take it down?



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