Heist in Dresden: largest European treasure collection stolen from “Green Vault” museum

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Unknown perperpetrators have broken into the museum “Grünes Gewölbe” this Monday morning, and broke open a display case with the most valuable jewellery from the collection in the jewel room. Three high-calibre jewellery ensembles lay in the showcase. How much of it was actually stolen is still unclear. Marion Ackermann, General Director of the State Art Collections, commented that fortunately not everything had been taken away from these three ensembles. The break-in affects the historical part of the valuable collection. One thing is certain: so far tthe police has no leads, no traces whatsoever of the perpetrators.

What jewels were stolen?

The stolen jewels belong to the 18th century treasury. August the Strong wanted to possess the most valuable jewels and collected diamonds and brilliants in ensembles. Parts of three such sets (consisting of about 100 brooches, buttons, medals and buckles) were stolen. The special feature of these sets is their composition as a group and the processing of the precious stones with special old cutting techniques.

What’s the value of the jewels?

The general director of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Marion Ackermann, said that it was impossible to quantify the exact financial damage. “We can’t dissolve it into a value because it’s not for sale – there’s no financial value we’re working with.” The material value is not so high, but the ideal value, the Director General emphasized. The three stolen sets were considered the most valuable in the collection.

Can such treasures even be sold on the art market?

The State Art Collections count on the recognition of the jewels, which are basically unsaleable on the official market. If the sets of diamonds, rubies and sapphires were to be destroyed, cut or dismembered in any other way, “that would be terrible,” said General Director Ackermann.

The stolen diamond and diamond sets are irreplaceable for the museum and the thieves can’t sell them, said the head of the museum Dirk Syndram. “These are all cuts of the 18th century, you can’t just turn such stones into money.” The historicity and the preservation of the jewellery made up their value, broken diamonds devalued them. “It would be stupid to do that.”

What is known about the perpetrators?

Security guards at the museum have, according to police, seen two burglars on video images and called the police. Whether and how many helpers were involved in the crime outside the museum is unclear. The police have set up a task force. 20 officers are searching for the perpetrators. Forensics and evidence gathering in the Green Vault are still ongoing.
The investigators have different groups of perpetrators in view: The perpetrators could have entered the country for the art robbery, have been travelling in Germany or have a connection to other art robbery cases. That’s why the police are investigating links to art theft at the Bode Museum in Berlin, where young robbers of a family clan stole a 100 kilogram gold coin in 2017 and brought it to safety with a wheelbarrow.

How did the jewel thieves get into the Green Vault?

The police said that the perpetrators had cut a barred window, smashed a window pane and entered through the window. Then they walked through the Pretiosensaal into the Juwelenzimmer and approached a showcase. There they smashed the safety glass with at least twelve axe blows, stole three sets of jewellery and returned to the outside through the window.
On the video recordings, the security staff also saw a getaway car waiting in front of the residence castle. Because it was still dark shortly after 5 o’clock in the morning, they could not see much, the police explained.

What about the getaway car?

15 minutes after the emergency call from the Green Vault, the fire brigade was called to a fire in an underground car park in Pieschen. Four cars were on fire in the underground car park of an apartment building in Kötzschenbroder Straße (near the A4 motorway). According to the police, all four doors of an Audi A6 were open. It also smelled of petrol. The owner had deregistered the car. The police are investigating whether the Audi may be the escape car of the jewel thieves. It is considered probable.

Are there any connections with a power failure very close in the early morning?

A fire had been reported at a distributor near the Augustus Bridge. At 5:10 a.m. the fire brigade was deployed there. The fire-fighting mission lasted until 7 am. The Green Vault is also said to have been connected to this power distribution system. As a result of the fire, the street lamps around the Residenzschloss failed. Here, too, the police confirmed that they were investigating a connection with the jewel theft.

What could be behind the art theft?

Theoretically, the robbers could demand a ransom for the loot. According to the Dresden police, there is no evidence of this so far. It is also presumed that the robbery of the jewels was commissioned by a private individual who wants to have the jewellery in their collection. But that, too, is purely speculative.

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