Thieves steal priceless treasure in German museum heist

Jill Petzinger
Jill Petzinger, Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Forensic experts combe for clues in front of the Residence Palace housing the Green Vault in Dresden, Germany. Photo: Sebastian Kahnert/Picture alliance via Getty

Thieves broke into the Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vault) museum in Dresden and stole several priceless collections of antique jewellery early on Monday morning.

The Green Vault in the Royal Palace of Dresden was established in 1723 by Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony, and is one of the oldest museums in Europe. It is home to an enormous collection of baroque treasures.

Germany’s Bild newspaper said the stolen jewellery would be worth €1bn (£855m).

The break-in was reported at about 5am by security personnel, who were in the building at the time the heist happened. Police said two men entered through a window on the ground floor, and broke open a display cabinet in the Green Vault’s Jewel Room. The robbers are believed to have cut the electricity supply prior to the break-in.

Marion Ackermann, the museum’s general director of state art collections declined to put an exact price on the objects that were stolen. She said at a press conference that the three “priceless” stolen 18th Century jewellery collections were of enormous historic and cultural value.

The three diamond jewellery sets were made up of 37 pieces each, including rubies, emeralds and sapphires.

A visitor looks at precious exhibits of the Green Vault at Dresden's Royal Palace. The Green Vault, named for the pale green hue of its domed ceiling, was founded in 1723 by August II, the prince-elector of Saxony and king of Poland. Photo: Norbert Millauer/DDP/AFP via Getty

Ackermann said that the uniqueness of the stolen pieces would make it hard for thieves to sell them.

Saxony state premier Michael Kretschmer said the people of Saxony have been robbed of their local heritage. “You cannot understand the history of our country and of the state of Saxony without the Green Vault and Saxony’s state art collections.” 

In 2017, thieves broke into the Bode museum in Berlin and made off with a 100kg (220lb) gold coin, allegedly using only a wheelbarrow, a ladder, and a getaway car. The coin, a gift from Canada to Germany and worth €3.75m, has not been recovered. Four men were arrested for the theft earlier this year.