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Thieves pulled off one of the largest art heists since World War II in the German city of Dresden on Monday and escaped with diamonds and rubies worth an estimated hundreds of millions of euros.
Police said the thieves made their way into one of Europe’s largest art collections — the Grüne Gewölbe or, in English, the Green Vault Museum — and stole at least 100 pieces of 18th century jewelry. Police arrived just five minutes later, but the thieves had already managed to escape, Reuters reported.
Authorities said the perpetrators, who are still on the run, evaded detection partly by starting a fire. The flames shut down the power supply and prevented the vault’s alarm system from functioning properly, according to the Guardian.
“Not only the gallery has been robbed, but also the Saxonians,” Michael Kretschmer, the leader of Saxony, told the Guardian.
Security footage reportedly showed two people breaking through a barred window, and the thieves smashed display cases and made off with at least three sets of jewelry, museum staffers told reporters. Each set contains 37 pieces, and the thieves will have to try to break them up.
While the stolen treasures are considered priceless, it’s tough to know the exact dollar value of the stolen materials.
“We cannot give a value because it is impossible to sell,” said Marion Ackermann, director of Dresden’s State Art Collections. “The material value doesn’t reflect the historic meaning.”
There are concerns the priceless artifacts could be stripped down and sold off, which would be a huge blow to the Saxony region, of which Dresden is the capital.
“You cannot understand the history of our country, or the free state of Saxony without the Grüne Gewölbe and the state art collections of Saxony.”
The collection was started by the 18th century ruler Augustus the Strong, elector of Saxony and later the king of Poland. While the thieves made off with priceless jewels, one of its most famous treasures, the 41-carat “Green Diamond,” was fortunately loaned out to the New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art at the time of the burglary.
Cover image: This Tuesday April 4, 2019 photo shows a part of the collection at the Jewellery Room of Dresden's Green Vault in Dresden. Authorities in Germany say thieves have carried out a brazen heist at Dresden’s Green Vault, one of the world’s oldest museum containing priceless treasures from around the world. (Sebastian Kahnert/dpa via AP)