Scrapbookpages Blog

April 1, 2014

Rabbi explains the meaning of the “Arbeit Macht Frei” slogan

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 11:51 am

In a letter to students at Vanderbuilt, which you can read in full here, Rabbi Schlomo Rothstein explains the meaning of the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” on the entrance gates into the Nazi camps.  A photo of the gate into the Dachau camp, which is shown below, accompanies the letter.

Entrance gate into Dachau concentration camp

Entrance gate into Dachau concentration camp

I previously blogged about the meaning of “Arbeit Macht Frei” at

Arbeit Macht Frei gate at Sachsenhausen camp

Arbeit Macht Frei gate at Sachsenhausen camp

The Arbeit Macht Frei slogan was first used at the the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin, which was a camp for political prisoners, not a camp for Jews.

According to Rudolf Höss, who was an adjutant at Sachsenhausen before he became the first Commandant of Auschwitz, the slogan “Arbeit Macht Frei” means that works liberates one in the spiritual sense. Sachsenhausen was a Class 1 camp, where prisoners who worked had a good chance of being released.

After World War II, the Sachsenhausen camp was turned into a Communist prison for German citizens. The Arbeit Macht Frei sign was removed and the prisoners did not work.

Höss was himself a prisoner at one time and he complained about having to sit all alone in a prison cell without having any work to occupy his time. When Höss was transferred from Sachsenhausen to Auschwitz, he had the “Arbeit Macht Frei” slogan put over the entrance gate into the Auschwitz main camp, which became known as Auschwitz One.

The Auschwitz II “death camp” did not have the “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign, and few prisoners were released from there.

This quote is from the Rabbi’s Letter to Vanderbilt students:

“Arbeit Macht Frei” — or “Work Makes You Free” — is not just a slogan. It represents hate at its worst. They were the words twisted in metal above a Nazi death camp in which millions of human beings, Jews and non-Jews alike, were cruelly killed. “Arbeit Macht Frei” has been purchased with blood; it belongs to the murdered.

I do not expect all people to know the words and meaning of “Arbeit Macht Frei.” What I am asking is that this phrase and all phrases from the Holocaust not be separated from their tragic history. This extends to all situations of hate and cruelty: Let us not separate the words from their context.

To separate “Arbeit Macht Frei,” or anything that means destruction, from its horrible historical sense and apply it to causes and campaigns — no matter how righteous — is a gross and dangerous mistake.

Does anyone think that the Vanderbilt students will ask the Rabbi whether the “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign was put over the entrance into the Auschwitz II “death camp”? Or the Buchenwald camp, which was a Class II camp, mainly  for captured Resistance fighters, in World War II?

How about the Majdanek “death camp” where the latest death toll is 59,000 Jewish deaths?  Does Majdanek have the Arbeit sign? No!

Does the Mauthausen Class III camp have this sign over the gate? No!

The “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign was only put over the gates into the Class I camps, like Dachau, where prisoners were sometimes released.

My 2003 photo of the gate into the Dachau camp

My 2003 photo of the gate into the Dachau camp

You can read about the sign over the Buchenwald gate on this blog post:



  1. I always thought the Jewish people were not work shy many of them had buissneses all over Germany and many other places,they had wealth and money they were very successful Isn’t this why hitter and other natzies hated them and wanted them out of Germany and other put such a sign over the death camps would have been insulting to the Jewish people,the natzies must have been very dumb indeed to work the Jewish people and other people they ripped from their homes to death,these people were not shy of work! Shame on all those who helped gas and kill these innocent victims of the holocaust.
    This was pure and simple genocide of six million European Jews and other innocent people by a stupid and unreal regime..
    Hitter must have been a very jealous man to see these people as a threat to Germany and other country’s and to have the right to try to wipe them out,,,,he tried and failed like everything the man did, however if never won over the German people and his military force and propaganda campaign failed one hopes the holocaust would never have happened, but it did! And we must never forget.
    I am not Jewish but I do feel for all the innocent victims of the holocaust and all the wars the earth as endured,and still are.
    Commented by Karen whitehead

    Comment by Karen — June 12, 2017 @ 11:28 am

    • Spelled “Nazis” not “natzies”. They don’t want the Krauts to have their own identity. Ask FG. She’ll tell you how the Hebs tried to assilate their art and music,into German art and music . German music is far better than Jew music. Just listen to Wagner. German music has a forceful,in your face,kind of sound. A proud sounding kind of music.

      Comment by Tim — June 12, 2017 @ 12:34 pm

      • You wrote: “Spelled “Nazis” not “natzies”. They don’t want the Krauts to have their own identity.”

        The word Nazi is not pronounced Knat-z as some people think. It is pronounced “Not-see”.

        Comment by furtherglory — June 12, 2017 @ 12:50 pm

        • No. Look how she spelled it. I’m surprised that one slipped by you. You’re the journalist. You always correct is when we slip up. You’ve corrected me a few times.

          Not only that,she speaks of how the Nazis were cruel. Did you enlighten her about the 2,000 stiffs they ran across? You mentioned they started doing post mortem exams on the bodies. You said every stiff they checked,died of typhus .

          Tell you what. We have to listen to people cry about how the Jews got wronged. F–k that shit. I want memorial museums to the American Indian in every state. Let’s not forget,Custer (among other army soldiers),”was” a murderer. He made sure a lot of those people ended up dead. Unlike the Jews,the Indians kept to themselves. The only time they attacked amyone,was when people would encroach on them. I fail to see where the Germans were trying to take anything from the Hebs . That was Germany’s property to begin with. Is it wrong for someone to try and keep their identity and that of their country.

          It’s not like Germany was built by immigrants,like America was. Germany was built by Germans. They just want to make sure they keep their identity .

          The one thing I can never figure out is this. How stupid can people be? I mean do they think any one single race out there,that is so arrogant that they think they can get away with killing 6 mill people (or whatever the number is today),without anyone taking notice ?

          I don’t think Hitler thought he could win the war. He was fighting 3 nations. I don’t think his train of thought would be,”let’s kill all the Jews . We can get away with it”. I think Hitler just wanted to wear people down and force them to offer terms. Part of those terms would’ve probably been,”y’all are gonna take the Jews off Germany’s hands”. Funny thing is how Israel came into existence right after the war. Why couldn’t that shit happen before. Germany could’ve ditched the Jews with no problem.

          Comment by Tim — June 12, 2017 @ 2:30 pm

  2. While it is right to despise all that the Nazi regime did in the second world war the origins of that phrase come from deep within the Prussian philosophy of life. They were created by Frederich the great in the late 17th century when the Prussian states were harassed by Russian, austro hungarians, Swedes, French and others. He believed in a form of national socialism that included collective obedience to the common good and this was taught in the school system at a time when the Prussians had pensions/ education etc in advance of almost every other nation. The cost of these social benefits was that citizen had a strict education and had compulsory military conscription . The later religious movements also included both Lutheran and Pieist philosophy which moved the people away from the pursuit of pleasure towards a philosophy of work/ simplicity / piety. Many of the great Prussian thinkers amplified these notions including schopenhaur/ neitzce and introduced the concept of the ubermensh which said that those who worked hardest and were creative would rise in the order of things to direct others who were less able/strong……ultimately this was morphed into many of the extreme nazi ideals in the 1920/30’s

    Comment by peter Green — July 5, 2016 @ 1:11 pm

  3. This is not without irony. The “rabbi” wrote the letter to the students of Vanderbilt U. Vanderbilt has been wooing and courting Jew students to get them to their university. Who would’ve guessed

    Comment by Tim — March 11, 2016 @ 9:56 am

  4. The slogan ARBEIT MACHT FREI had been one of the nazi mockeries accepted even today by naive anglo.american scholars who do not know German, at least not the special nazi way of expression. The first deportations of Jews had been presented to the pubblic opinion as RESETTLEMENT IN EAST FOR WORKING PURPOSES. But … as expressed already by Eichmann at Bislo in 1939 … OTHERWISE IT MEANS TO DYE, At the first times a Jew could be released giving evidence to have a possibility of emigration within few weeks! In war time for ordinary – non jewish -prisoniers the release had been bond to enlistment in the Wehrmacht. In the present as in other posts there is a great lack of knowledge about the nazi rule and way of thingking. One of the reasons of this lask of understanding is the costly and cruel USA Justice with the many death sentences and gas chambers as place of lawfull executions. As well know many capital sentences are based on bargained evidences and racial prejudicies. So there is more understanding for the negazionist pepetrators than for the surviving cictims!

    Comment by Wolf Murmelstein — April 2, 2014 @ 12:12 am

    • Wolf! Where you been? You okay? Everyone was worried about you. Hey. Just because a lot of people may not agree with you,doesn’t mean they still don’t worry about you. Glad to see your still with us.

      Comment by Tim — June 12, 2017 @ 2:42 pm

      • You wrote: “Just because a lot of people may not agree with you,doesn’t mean they still don’t worry about you [Wolf Murmelstein].

        Wolf is around the same age as I am. When you get old, it is difficult to function. I know.

        Comment by furtherglory — June 12, 2017 @ 4:34 pm

        • You said you thought something happened to him. Yeah pops having a hard time functioning. He’s 94 . He lives in Pa. His property sits on the Marcellus Shale. There’s a couple wells on it. He gets money from the oill companies. He sends us kids money from the money he gets ( that worries me,cause this is the same man who used to give me the ,”I had to walk 10 miles to school. Both directions. Uphill both way,in 5 feet of snow” speech when I’d ask for 10 cents to get a cocola). Last check he sent us kids was for $5,000. He wrote $5,000 where you put the numbers on the check. Where you spell out the amount,he spelled out $500. I had to call and ask what the correct amount was. I just him back the check and told him to keep it. I asked him if he’s knocking on deaths door. Think about. This is the same man that would raise hell over me asking him for a dime. So I’m thinking he’s trying to get in Gods good graces.

          Comment by Tim — June 12, 2017 @ 6:29 pm

    • Wolf Murmelstein wrote: “The first deportations of Jews had been presented to the pubblic opinion as RESETTLEMENT IN EAST FOR WORKING PURPOSES. But … as expressed already by Eichmann at Bislo in 1939 … OTHERWISE IT MEANS TO DIE,”

      Years ago, I put up the full text of what Wolf Murmelstein wrote on this subject on my website at

      Comment by furtherglory — June 12, 2017 @ 4:31 pm

      • See. That’s what I always tell people when they accuse you of being racist. You let both sides speak here. If you were racist,you wouldn’t entertain opposing views

        Comment by Tim — June 12, 2017 @ 6:31 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: