Thieves have stolen around 100 pieces of priceless treasure from a castle vault in the German city of Dresden, the site of one of the largest collections of masterpieces in Europe.
Several criminals gained access to the Green Vault in Dresden on Monday, according to Roland Woeller, a local politician. He said the perpetrators had stolen artifacts of “immeasurable value.”
“This is an attack on the cultural identity of all Saxons and the state of Saxony,” Woeller added. State Police also confirmed the break-in.
The vault features an astounding collection of historical jewelry and precious ornaments — from shimmering bowls carved out of crystal and agate to jeweled gold figurines and goblets fashioned from gilded ostrich eggs.
Police received a call at 4.59 a.m. on Monday, saying that a break-in was taking place, Dresden police president Jörg Kubiessa told reporters at a press conference.
“Two suspects were seen on CCTV,” Dresden police Chief Criminal Director Volker Lange said, adding that others may also have been involved in the heist.
Lange said that after cutting through a grille and breaking a window, “the suspects came in … walked towards a glass vitrine, smashed it and left, they disappeared.”
Police are investigating whether a nearby electrical fire, which knocked out street lights in the area at around the time of the robbery was linked to the theft, or if it was caused by an unrelated technical issue.
Marion Ackermann, director of Dresden’s State Art Collection, said “Incalculable” treasures dating back to the 18th century had been stolen from the vault.
She added that the value of the heist was difficult to determine, because the work is considered unsellable. Among the pieces stolen were diamonds, pearls and rubies, Ackermann said.
She said she hoped there will not be a market for the stolen pieces because the Green Vault’s treasures are so well known.
Ackermann added that security personnel monitor the museum 24 hours a day.
Police said they had no information as to whether the thieves had “insider knowledge,” but added they were investigating that possibility.
Saxony’s Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer tweeted that the heist meant all Saxons had been “robbed.”
“The valuables found here have been hard-won by the people of our Free State for many centuries,” Kretschmer wrote.
The collection housed in the Green Vault was established in the early 18th century by Augustus the Strong, ruler of Saxony. He worked to establish Dresden as a major center for the arts, inviting talented sculptors, goldsmiths and painters to take up residence and commissioned a series of magnificent rooms to showcase his valuables as a way of advertising the city’s cultural prominence in addition to its wealth.
The museum said it was closed Monday due to “organizational reasons” and a special police commission has been established following the heist.