Jewish community leader arrested, interrogated at Auschwitz

(Image credit: Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

The head of Rome's Jewish community found himself arrested Tuesday night at Auschwitz, the same concentration camp where his grandparents were murdered during the Holocaust.

Riccardo Pacifici was at Auschwitz for the 70th anniversary of its liberation, and while filming a live segment with the Italian show Matrix found that the gates to the camp had been closed. Pacifici, Jewish community spokesman Fabio Perugia, Matrix host David Parenzo, and two technicians spent an hour in the freezing cold, shouting for help and trying to get the attention of guards on security cameras, Haaretz reports. Finally, they decided to escape through an open window in the box office, which triggered an alarm.

Guards and Polish police officers quickly arrived and detained the group, questioning them onsite until 2:30 a.m. They were then moved to a station for further questioning, made difficult by language barriers, and finally released hours later once the Italian foreign ministry became involved. Pacifici told the Italian newspaper La Stampa that he was "astounded" by how they were treated. "They interrogated us until 6 in the morning — two Jews who had been locked inside the Auschwitz camp, where I lost some of my family," he said. "It's a shock. Our only crime was that we tried to get out through the window."

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