CCTV footage shows thieves stealing 'priceless' jewels from German museum
Updated 00:54, 27-Nov-2019

CCTV footage has emerged showing the moment that thieves smashed their way into a cabinet to steal three jewelry sets from one of the world's oldest museums. The estimated value of the jewelry is around $1.1 billion. 

The CCTV footage shows the hooded burglars inside Dresden's Green Vault in eastern Germany. 

Museum security guards alerted the police on Monday morning shortly before 05:00 local time, when they spotted the burglars on CCTV cameras. 


Police and museum directors confirmed the thieves made off with three sets of diamonds from the state museum, in what German media have described as the biggest art heist since World War Two.

They broke into the Green Vault at Dresden's Royal Palace – home to around 4,000 precious objects of ivory, gold, silver and jewels – at dawn after a power cut deactivated the alarm.

The stolen items included brilliant-cut diamonds that belonged to a collection of jewelry owned by Augustus the Strong, an 18th-century ruler of Saxony.

"We are talking here about items of inestimable art-historical and cultural-historical value," the director of Dresden's state art collections, Marion Ackermann, told reporters at a press conference on Monday.

"We cannot put an exact value on them because they are priceless," said Ackermann, adding she was "shocked by the brutality of the break-in."

The thieves launched the brazen raid after a fire broke out at an electrical panel near the museum in the early hours of Monday, deactivating its alarm as well as street lighting, police said, adding that investigations were ongoing to determine if there was a link to the robbery.

Despite the power cut, a surveillance camera kept working and filmed two men breaking in.

They smashed a window and cut through a fence before making their way to a display case "in a targeted manner" and destroying it, said Volker Lange, the head of Dresden police.

The thieves remain on the run.


'World heritage'

The Jewel Room in the Green Vault museum. (Credit: VCG)

The Jewel Room in the Green Vault museum. (Credit: VCG)

Dirk Syndram, director of the Green Vault, said the museum's jewelry sets amounted to "a kind of world heritage," totaling about 100 items.

He explained the stolen sets were part of a 10-set collection, which includes not only diamonds, but also sapphires, rubies and emeralds.

Founded by Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony in 1723, the Green Vault is one of 12 museums that make up the famous Dresden State Art Collections.

One of the oldest museums in Europe, the Green Vault holds treasures including a 63.8-centimeter figure of a Moor studded with emeralds and a 547.71-carat sapphire gifted by Tsar Peter I of Russia.

The museum is now made up of two sections – a historic part and a new section.

Monday's raid targeted the historic section, which contains around three-quarters of the museum's treasures and which has a strict limit on the number of daily visitors.

Exhibits are arranged into nine rooms, including an ivory room, a silver gilt room and the central "Hall of Treasures."

One of its most valuable pieces, the green diamond, is currently on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where it is a headline attraction in the temporary exhibition "Making Marvels: Science and Splendor at the Courts of Europe."

After the Royal Palace suffered severe damage in World War Two, the Green Vault remained closed for decades before it was restored and reopened in 2006.

One of the rooms displaying some the treasures of the Green Vault. (Credit: VCG)

One of the rooms displaying some the treasures of the Green Vault. (Credit: VCG)

Saxony's state premier said the heist went beyond the value of the artifacts stolen.

"The treasures that are found in the Green Vault and the Dresden Royal palace were hard-earned by the people of Saxony over many centuries," Michael Kretschmer said.

"One cannot understand the history of our country, our state, without the Green Vault and Saxony's State Art Collections."

In 2010, the museum hosted a meeting between Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel and then president of the US, Barack Obama, on the latter's first state visit to Germany.

The museum remained closed and sealed off by police on Monday.

Monday's theft is the second high-profile heist in Germany in recent years, after a 100-kilogram, 24-karat giant gold coin was stolen from Berlin's Bode Museum in 2017.

Dresden police said they were in contact with colleagues in Berlin to examine "if there are any connections and if there are similar patterns in the crimes."

Germany's culture minister Monika Grutters said that protection of museums and cultural institutions was now of "the highest priority."

"The theft of items which make up our identity as a nation of culture strikes at our hearts," she said.

A police cordon hangs in front of the Royal Palace that houses the historic Green Vault in Dresden. (Credit: VCG)

A police cordon hangs in front of the Royal Palace that houses the historic Green Vault in Dresden. (Credit: VCG)

Source(s): AFP