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Biggest art robbery since WW2: How 2 thieves snatched priceless jewelry from German museum

The smash and grab

In the early hours of Monday, two thieves forced their way into Dresden’s Green Vault Museum via a grilled window. Security cameras filmed the pair on their way in, police later said.

Bild reports that the thieves cut the power to local street lighting by damaging a nearby supply box before making their entry. However, although police have acknowledged that power went out in the neighborhood at around 5am local time because of a fire at the supply box, it has not been confirmed that this is definitely linked to the robbery.

Once inside, the thieves ignored larger items and focused on the collection’s impressive and immensely valuable gemstones, smashing their way into the display cases to snatch an array of historical jewelry and making a swift escape back out through that same window.

The alarm is raised

The security service was actually in the building during the theft, according to Marion Ackermann, director-general of Dresden State Art Collections. It was they who registered the robbery and raised the alarm.

Police said that the alarm sounded at 4.59am local time and that officers were on the scene five minutes later. However, despite the quick reaction, the response came too late: the burglars had already fled the scene – along with at least three sets of priceless jewelry, including diamonds and rubies.

Within minutes of arriving at the museum, police found signs that a getaway vehicle was used by the perpetrators. A burnt-out car found a few miles from the scene may be the vehicle in question, the police chief told local media, but this has yet to be confirmed.

The ‘Green Vault’

The thieves targeted a priceless collection of 18th century jewelry, gems and elaborate trinkets known as the ‘Green Vault’ and housed in the Grand Palace, Dresden. The pieces were collected by the ruler of Saxony, August the Strong, who set out to create an elaborate showcase of brilliant gems and valuable artworks.

The value of the items stolen could be up to €1 billion, according to Bild. One of the most iconic and prized pieces of the collection, the 41-carat Dresden ‘Green Diamond,’ is currently on loan to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and thus escaped any threat from Monday’s heist.

What could happen to the haul

Some major heists, such as the theft of an enormous 100kg 24-carat gold coin from Berlin’s Bode Museum in 2017, are believed to result in the artwork being quickly melted down or broken up for easier transportation and sale.

In Dresden, the museum’s senior staff noted that it would be obviously impossible to sell such unique, identifiable items as those stolen from the Green Vault on the open market. However, they added it would be “terrible” if the thieves are tempted to break up the pieces given their historical and cultural significance.

“We are talking here of objects of immeasurable cultural value,” museum director Dirk Syndram told reporters.

The collection, often called the largest treasure trove in Europe, was created by the Saxon ruler August the Strong between 1723 and 1730 and includes an array of impressive jewels, art pieces, and trinkets. It’s housed across two floors of the Royal Palace; a note on the collection website says the palace is closed Monday for“organizational reasons.”

Much of the collection was stashed in a fortress for safety during WWII, but some artworks were lost when the heavy bombing of Dresden ruined some of the Green Vault rooms.

“We are talking here of objects of immeasurable cultural value,” museum director Dirk Syndram told reporters.

Source: RT

Header: File photo of German Chancellor Angela Merkel visiting the Green Vault © REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann