Dresden Green Vault jewelry theft trial begins | cultural | Report on arts, music and lifestyle in Germany | DW

It was one of the most spectacular and brazen burglaries of recent decades – a worst-case scenario not only for Dresden, affectionately known as “Florence on the Elbe”, but for the entire cultural heritage of the state of Saxony. In November 2019, burglars used brute force to steal valuables from the city’s Historic Green Vault. The jewelry collection, which belongs to the Dresden State Art Collections, is one of the most famous collections in Germany. The alleged thieves, members of a Berlin clan, were apprehended and their trial began on January 28.

Jewels of immeasurable value

In the early morning hours of November 25, 2019, several men forced their way into the Historic Green Vault through a barred window. They used brute force, apparently without any respect for the art, which was particularly amazing.

Police cordoned off the building after the November 2019 robbery

Within minutes, they had smashed a glass display case with an ax and stolen a dozen pieces from three historical jewelry sets from the time of Augustus the Strong (1670-1733), including the “Saxon White”, a white 48 carats. diamond.

The investigations took a turn after a year in mid-November 2020 when the task force named “Epaulette” convicted members of the Remmo clan, one of Berlin’s most notorious gangs, after a major raid involving around 1 600 police.

Three clan members suspected of the Dresden robbery were arrested; police then arrested twin brothers, also members of the clan, and the sixth and final suspect, Ahmed Remmo, was arrested on August 19, 2021. Ahmed Remmo had a previous conviction in 2020 for a burglary at the Bode Museum in Berlin.

Where’s the loot?

The whereabouts of the priceless gems remain unclear and alleged tips have come to nothing. Jewelry adornments were among the special attractions in the Green Vault, including royal diamond jewelry, a Polish Order of the White Eagle breast star, and a diamond-set rapier.

Two police officers escort a handcuffed man through a parking lot

Suspects were arrested after a police raid on properties in Berlin in November 2020

“I could hardly believe it at first, because not so long ago the Green Vault was beautifully restored at great expense,” said Ulli Seegers, an art historian who ran the German branch of the ‘Art Loss Register, just after the theft, adding that it was a “treasure of world cultural heritage”. “It really is a huge loss, a treasure that is probably lost forever,” she told DW.

The expert was also not optimistic about finding the gems. “Due to my experience in the international art market in the field of art crime, the likelihood that the adornments in their original form will reappear at any given time is rather low.” She said thieves could very well destroy what is a unique cultural treasure and split it into individual parts.

Safety standards in museums

Seegers was confident that “the treasure chamber met international safety standards due to the aforementioned restoration”, but apparently they weren’t good enough after all. It should be remembered, she said, that “museums are not maximum security sites.”

Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama

Famous visitors to the Green Vault

The Dresden flight was “a huge loss to humanity”, said Stephan Zilkens, arguing however that the Green Vault could have protected itself from total loss. If the jewels could be sold without restriction and were not affected by the law on the protection of cultural property – which is not the case – an auction could bring in between 150 million euros (168 million dollars) and 200 million, the insurance adjuster told DW.

Green Vault, a “state treasure”

Dresden’s Green Vault is one of Germany’s most famous museums. The rooms in the historic building date back to the 16th century. In 1723, the Saxon elector and King of Poland Augustus the Strong had a treasure room built here. After extensive renovation and restoration work, this treasure chamber was brought back to the Residence Palace in Dresden in 2006.

A woman stands in front of an empty display case in a richly decorated room

The stolen jewelry is estimated at 113.8 million euros ($135 million).

After the reopening, it was proudly presented to the public. Russian President Vladimir Putin toured in 2006 and former US President Barack Obama toured during his visit to Germany in 2009.

Today, the jewelry collections are presented in two sections, a historical section on the first floor of the Residence Palace in the eight authentically restored rooms. The New Green Vault displays special individual pieces on the second floor. Some rooms have been decorated with malachite green paint – hence the name.

This article was originally written in German.

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