BERLIN (AP) - A wrought-iron gate bearing the Nazis' cynical slogan "Arbeit macht frei," or "Work sets you free," has been stolen from the former Dachau concentration camp, police said Sunday.
Security officials noticed early Sunday morning that the gate measuring 190 by 95 centimeters (75 by 37 inches) - set into a larger iron gate - was missing, police said in a statement. Whoever stole it during the night would have had to climb over another gate to reach it, they added.
Police said they found nothing in the immediate vicinity of the camp and appealed for anyone who noticed any suspicious people or vehicles to come forward.
Dachau, near Munich, was the first concentration camp set up by the Nazis in 1933. More than 200,000 people from across Europe were held there and over 40,000 prisoners died before it was liberated by U.S. forces on April 29, 1945. The camp is now a memorial.
Dachau concentration camp
Historic gate at Dachau concentration camp stolen
Two women walk through the main entrance of the concentration camp memorial in Dachau, Germany, Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014, where the wrought-iron gate with the slogan 'Arbeit macht frei' ('work sets you free') is missing. Police said in a statement that security officials noticed early Sunday the gate section measuring 190 by 95 centimeters (75 by 37 inches) was missing. They said that whoever stole it during the night would have had to climb over another gate to reach it. (AP Photo/dpa, Andreas Gebert)
FILE - In this April 24, 2009 file photo the entrance gate of the former Nazi concentration camp in Dachau near Munich, southern Germany, is pictured with the slogan reading "Work sets you free". Police said in a statement Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014, that security officials noticed early Sunday the gate section measuring 190 by 95 centimeters (75 by 37 inches) was missing. They said that whoever stole it during the night would have had to climb over another gate to reach it. (AP Photo/Christof Stache, File)
The entrance gate without the door of the former concentration camp in Dachau, southern Germany, pictured on November 3, 2014. This gate with the inscription 'Work sets you free' (Arbeit macht frei) has been stolen on November 2, 2014. AFP PHTO/CHRISTOF STACHE (Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
German theologist Karl Kunkel, a former prisoner of the Nazi regime, visits the concentration camp in Dachau, Germany, on Thursday, January 27, 2000, 55 years after his liberation from the camp by allied troops. Germany marked an annual day of remembrance on Thursday for 6 million Jews who perished under Nazi rule. Words on the gate translate as "Work will make you free." (AP Photo/Camay Sungu)
Emaciated prisoners sit outside the hospital barrack in Nazi Germany's Mauthausen concentration camp during World War II. This undated photograph taken at great risk by Swiss prisoner Kurt Zalud, was later used as evidence in the Dachau war crimes trial. (AP-PHOTO/jad/str/Kurt Zalud)
Prisoners at Dachau, Germany, flirt with girls in women's ward through straw fence in an undated photo. Women's ward used to be used as brothel for preferred prisoners. (AP Photo)
Dachau fountain marked "Don't Drink Danger, of Typhus in an undated photo. (AP Photo)
Blick in den sogenannten "Schubraum", den Haeftlings-Empfangsraum des ehemaligen Konzentrationslagers Dachau bei Muenchen, forografiert am Freitag, 24. April 2009. (AP Photo/Christof Stache)
--- View in a museum room of the former Nazi concentration camp in Dachau near Munich, southern Germany, on Friday, April 24, 2009. (AP Photo/Christof Stache)
** ARCHIV ** Juedische NS-Zwangsarbeiter arbeiten waehrend des Zweiten Weltkriegs in einer Munitionsfabrik in Dachau. Mit einem Festakt begeht das politische Berlin am Dienstag, 12. Juni 2007, den offiziellen Abschluss der Entschaedigungen fuer NS-Zwangsarbeiter. (AP Photo)
View through barbed wire into a lane formed by two lines of barracks of former Dachau concentration camp on April 16, 1965. (AP Photo)
Former prisonersâ barracks in Dachau, Germany shown April 16, 1965, turned into living quarters for East European refugees in 1947. The last of 800 tenants moved out of them on April 9, 1965. (AP Photo)
Rows of white wooden crosses mark the graves of some of the victims of the former concentration camp just outside Dachau on Dec. 23, 1948. (AP Photo)
Dachau prisoners cheer their liberators of the 42nd Rainbow Division of the 7th U.S. Army as they wave from behind the wire fence at the concentration camp in Dachau, Germany, in May 1945. (AP Photo/Jim Pringle)
Three prisoners, two of them wearing striped prison garb, after they were freed from the Dachau concentration camp in Germany on April 30, 1945. They were liberated with 32,000 other prisoners by the Seventh Army troops. (AP Photo)
This documentary film still shows an American G.I. reaching out to outstretched hands of inmates of the liberated Nazi concentration camp at Dachau, West Germany, in April 1945 during World War II. (AP Photo)
Prisoners look out from behind a barbed wire enclosure at the Dachau concentration camp in Germany, shortly after the camp is liberated April 29, 1945. (AP Photo)
Troops from the 42nd Rainbow Division of the 7th Army, stand at the main entrance to the Dachau concentration camp, March 5, 1945. Thousands of starved corpses awaiting cremation were witnessed by American troops as they went from building to building. Prisoners who were liberated seized the remaining German troops and killed them, throwing their bodies into the moat surrounding the camp. (AP Photo/Keystone)
The entrance gate without the door of the former concentration camp in Dachau, southern Germany, is pictured on November 3, 2014. This gate with the inscription 'Work sets you free' (Arbeit macht frei) has been stolen on November 2, 2014. AFP PHTO/CHRISTOF STACHE (Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
Jewish visitors at Dachau concentration camp (Photo by: Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
DACHAU, GERMANY: FILES - Portrait taken at the end of April 1945 upon the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp of Dachau, near Munich, of an unidentified 18-year-old Russian Jew, a camp prisoner, suffering from dysentery. More than 1,000 survivors of the camp marked the 60th anniversary of their liberation on 01 May 2005. Between 1933 and 1945, more than 200,000 people from 38 countries and across the religious and political spectrum were held by the Nazis under appalling conditions. At least 30,000 people were killed, starved or died of disease. (FILM) AFP PHOTO/ERIC SCHWAB (Photo credit should read ERIC SCHWAB/AFP/Getty Images)
DACHAU, Germany: A man walks past the gate with the writing 'Work makes Free' as he enters the memorial site of the former Nazi concentration camp in Dachau 01 May 2005. More than 1,000 survivors of the camp marked the 60th anniversary of their liberation. AFP PHOTO DDP/TIMM SCHAMBERGER GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read TIMM SCHAMBERGER/AFP/Getty Images)
4th May 1945: Prisoners at Dachau, the infamous concentration camp, celebrate their liberation following the arrival of the men of the 42nd Rainbow Division of the US 7th Army. (Photo by Horace Abrahams/Keystone/Getty Images)
3rd May 1945: Young prisoners interned at Dachau concentration camp cheer the American troops who liberated the camp. The boy third from left has been identified as 18 year old Juda Kukiela. (Photo by Horace Abrahams/Keystone/Getty Images)
GERMANY - APRIL 01: Dachau Concentration Camp, Germany In April, 1945-Prisoners photographed soon after their Liberation. (Photo by 1704/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
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Memorial director Gabriele Hammermann condemned the theft of the gate, which she described as "the central symbol for the prisoners' ordeal," news agency dpa reported.
She said a private security service supervises the site but officials had decided against surveillance of the former camp with video cameras because they didn't want to turn it into a "maximum-security unit." That decision may now have to be reviewed, she added.
A blog posted by Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial wrote that "while we do not know who is behind the theft of the sign, the theft of such a symbolic object is an offensive attack on the memory of the Holocaust."
In December 2009, the infamous "Arbeit macht frei" sign that spanned the main gate of the Auschwitz death camp, built by the Nazis in occupied Poland, was stolen. Police found it three days later cut into pieces in a forest on the other side of Poland.
A Swedish man who had a neo-Nazi past was found guilty of instigating that theft and jailed in his homeland. Five Poles also were convicted of involvement and imprisoned.