Dresden, Germany (dpa) – Thieves who broke into Germany’s historic Green Vault museum made off with three jewellery sets, according to the director general of the Dresden State Art Collections.
The value of the stolen goods is inestimable, Marion Ackermann told journalists during a joint press conference with police in the east German city.
She said the sets’ special significance lay in their integrity rather than their material value, adding that it would be impossible to sell the stolen goods on the open market.
Police said two suspects were caught on camera in the jewel chamber. They entered the building through a window after cutting through a grid and breaking the glass. They added that they could not exclude the possibility that other suspects were involved.
The Green Vault museum houses one of Europe’s oldest and best-preserved collection of treasures. The rooms of the museum normally feature strict security controls.
According to newspaper reports, the power supply to Dresden’s museum complex may have been interrupted because of a fire in an electrical box.
A spokeswoman for the Drewag energy provider confirmed that the box had to be disabled. It was not immediately clear if there was a link to the break-in.
Forensics experts were at the scene, with parts of the museum cordoned off by police. The Dresden Royal Palace housing the Green Vault was closed to visitors.
From outside, the treasury appeared intact. Its windows are protected by historic iron grids.
The premier of the state of Saxony, Michael Kretschmer, said that it was Saxons as a whole that had been stolen from.
“The assets that can be found in the Green Vault and the Royal Palace have been hard-won by the people of the Free State of Saxony over many centuries,” Kretschmer said.
The treasury was created between 1723 and 1730 at the behest of Augustus the Strong, the elector of Saxony.
Nowadays, it is exhibited in two sections: the Historic Green Vault is located in authentically restored rooms on the ground floor of the Dresden Royal Palace, while special individual items are exhibited in the New Green Vault one floor above.
One of the Green Vault’s most valuable pieces, a 41-carat green diamond, is currently being exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as part of its “Making Marvels: Science and Splendor at the Courts of Europe” show.
Other objects in the vault’s sumptuously decorated, ornately-gilded rooms are jewel-encrusted figurines, Martin Luther’s ring, rhinoceros-horn goblets and gold-mounted ostrich eggs.
The items stolen form part of Germany’s identity as a “cultural nation,” the government commissioner for culture said.
The theft “strikes at our heart,” Monika Gruetters said in Berlin.
She expressed hope that the police investigation will quickly have a successful outcome and said that the stronger protection of museums and cultural institutions is a priority.