Two days after thieves smashed through a window into Dresden’s famous Green Vault museum and made off with three “priceless” collections of antique jewellery, police still do not have any concrete leads on who they might be or where they have fled.
“We do not have a hot lead yet,” said Dresden police spokesman Marko Laske, but added that they were following up on over 90 tips. Police believe the burnt-out Audi found near the museum on Monday belonged to the burglars.
The museum is still assessing how many pieces were stolen in total in what is one of the biggest heists in German history, as police are sifting through the damage. Marion Ackermann, the director of the Dresden State Art Collections, said yesterday the robbers had made off with fewer pieces than initially thought.
Ackermann said on Monday that it was impossible to put a specific monetary value on the stolen artefacts as they had “priceless” cultural and historic value. Whatever their monetary worth—German media has pegged it at over €1 bn—the museum can not expect any compensation as the collections were not insured.
Public museums can take out private insurance, but in German states, apart from Bavaria, the state or local authorities are liable for insuring museum collections.
According to Dresden Finance ministry, the state of Saxony had not insured the jewellery in the Green Vault due to the high premiums on it.
Julia Ries from insurer Ergo Group told Bloomberg that public museums often do not take out policies on their permanent collections. “The budgets of public museums are limited,” Ries said. “You can’t replace such a collection from a monetary or art-historic value.”
Authorities believe that highly organised criminals may have carried out the heist, because of the speed and brutality of the break-in, which was so aggressive that the museum’s security personnel in the building at the time decided to call the police rather than intercept the burglars.
The big worry is that they will completely destroy the 18th Century pieces by smashing them up to sell or move them without alerting attention.
Ackermann appealed to with whoever stole the jewellery not to break it up. Herrmann Parzinger, president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, said he fears that “there is a very great danger that the individual elements will be disassembled, the diamonds and other gems removed and possibly ground, so they are unrecognisable as old pieces and resold.”
Germany’s state minister Monika Grütters said Wednesday that she wants to prioritise the issue of security at the country’s museums, because “treasures that make up the cultural identity of our country and whose value is in the billions are stored in our museums.”
The Green Vault in the Royal Palace of Dresden was established in 1723 by Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony. It is of the oldest museums in Europe, and houses an enormous collection of important baroque treasures.