It’s been two days since Dresden’s state museum Residenzschloss (Royal Palace) was the target of two art thieves.
The burglars stole priceless artefacts from the historic Green Vault portion of the museum, which contains renovated rooms from the former royal treasury, as well as precious items of jewellery and other royal possessions.
Together, the old and new sections of the Green Vault constitute the Baroque Treasury portion of the museum. The new section of the Vault was reopened on Wednesday.
Marion Ackermann, General Director of the Dresden state museums (SKD), said that the historic (old) portion of the vault, “will remain closed for the time being.”
A sign announces the closure of the Historic Green Vault. Photo: DPA/ Robert Michael.
The police are continuing their search for clues at the scene of the crime.
Art experts from the SKD are working to determine the magnitude of the damage and losses caused by Monday’s heist. The Residenzschloss contains three other chambers: the coin cabinet, a collection of copper engravings, and the armory.
New calls for increased security
According to the SKD, there are several security centres in the museum, which are staffed around the clock with two guards each. A total of €8 million are spent annually on security. Recently, the training of private security guards has been intensified.
Still, several authorities have called for increased security measures across Germany’s museums after the theft.
There were two guards on duty who saw the burglars entering on the security footage. However, they waited on the arrival of the police due to the clear violence displayed by the thieves in the video. The SKD defended the guards’ choice to not intervene without the police.
The investigators continue to search for the perpetrators; so far only their intended escape vehicle has been found. It was later discovered on fire elsewhere in the city, but the authorities continue to examine it for clues.
Police continue to monitor the area around the museum. Photo: DPA/ Robert Michael.
Hermann Parzinger, President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, called for discussions among the federal and state criminal police forces, as well as experts on museum security.
“We should use a small task force that thinks about this threat very precisely, in light of this very specific new threat situation,” he said.
Monika Grütters (CDU), Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, also weighed in on the need for experts in answering questions of security.
“Our museums store art treasures that make up the cultural identity of our country and whose value is in the billions,” she said on Wednesday.
She called for answers on “how museums can protect their objects against such brutal action in the future and at the same time remain accessible to the public in the usual way”.
‘A purposeful and planned act’
The police described the act as “purposeful and planned.”
Michael John, Chief of Security for the SKD, commented on the “high criminal energy and purpose” behind the attack, which suggests detailed insider knowledge.
For Parzinger, President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, the potential destruction of the “highly symbolic” objects for their material value is a particularly dangerous threat.
The art was plundered “in a barbaric manner” in the treasury, and he fears that “the danger is very great that the individual elements will be disassembled, the diamonds and other gems removed and possibly ground, so they are unrecognizable as old pieces and resold.”
On Tuesday Dirk Syndram, the Director of the Green Vault, was allowed to see the scene for the first time and take photos.
According to an initial assessment, fewer of the three most valuable jewellery sets were stolen than had been previously thought. Some very important objects were gone, but others were not lost, it was said.
By later on Wednesday afternoon, Syndram wants to quantify the damage and give the police as accurate as possible descriptions of the losses “so that they can then be recognized.”
Translated by Kate Brady.