Markus Schreiber / AP
Statues and ancient Egyptian sarcophagi are among the around 70 objects that were damaged by an oily substance in several large Berlin museums.
The police assume vandalism and are not clear about the motive. But German media speculate about a connection to a conspiracy theory propagated by coronavirus deniers.
Christina Haak, deputy general director of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, said on Wednesday that the incident was the greatest damage to museum artifacts since World War II.
The extent of the damage can only be assessed after the restoration work has been completed, said Haak. She added that government objects are not insured and that three or four of the damaged items were on loan from other museums.
Carsten Pfohl, head of the art crime department of the Berlin police, said the damage occurred during the museum’s opening hours on October 3. That day was the 30ththe Anniversary of German reunification, a public holiday that drew thousands of visitors to the museums. It is unclear whether the anniversary is significant for the crime; there does not seem to be any connection between the damaged objects.
“That is a multitude of objects that have no direct connection in context,” says Pfohl. “We don’t have a self-incriminating letter or anything like that, so we have to assume for the time being that the motive is completely unclear.”
News of the damage did not become known until Tuesday evening, more than two weeks later, after police sent emails in a call for witnesses to visitors who had booked their tickets online.
Pfohl said his unit waited for safety reasons before making the damage public and because they wanted to analyze the clear, oily, non-corrosive substance first. He added that footage from surveillance cameras has revealed no evidence.
Markus Schreiber / AP
Pfohl did not want to comment on press speculations about the possible involvement of conspiracy theorists. The weekly leaflet The time and the public service Deutschlandfunk, which together spread the news, were the first to establish a connection between vandalism and conspiracy theorists.
One of the conspiracy theorists who has garnered a large following of coronavirus deniers, Attila Hildmann, has asserted several times on his Telegram channel that the Pergamon Museum is the center of a “global Satanism scene” that its followers claim, Chancellor Angela Merkel for Has used “human sacrifice” and noticed that she lives across from the museum.
Federal Minister of Culture Monika Grütters condemned the destruction, but criticized the Berlin state museums for lax security measures, in particular the lack of surveillance cameras. Three years ago, thieves stole a giant 220 pound gold coin from the Bode Museum after entering through a window in the teacher’s room. The coin is still missing.
In recent months, the police also investigated damage to columns on Museum Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and seat of the Pergamon Museum, the Old National Gallery and the New Museum, where the attack on works of art last took place.