Thieves steal Germany's last swastika from gates


THE last swastika on a German public building has been stolen just before officials were going to remove it.

Thieves climbed scaffolding on the medieval gates of the north German city of Lübeck, near Hamburg, and removed the 4in square symbol using a stone-cutting saw.

Police are hunting the culprits, who if caught can expect to be charged with theft and defacing a public building.

Despite the swastika having been banned for almost 60 years because of its links with the Nazis, the city authorities in Lübeck held back from erasing the symbol because it was relatively small and for fear of damaging the historic building, which dates from 1478.

The swastika was etched on the building by the Nazi regime in 1934 after they decided to make the old city gates into a tribute to German heroism. The Nazis wanted to use the gates as a backdrop to their ceremonies honouring the Aryan race.

In 1990, the Lübeck authorities decided to get rid of the symbol, but rather than defacing a historic building they ruled that it should be covered by a metal plaque when the gates were next cleaned, a process which began earlier this year.

It is feared that the symbol has been taken by neo-Nazis who will use the swastika at their meetings in defiance of the official ban.