Yet another brazen break-in at a cultural institution. This time it was the famous Memorial Church in Berlin’s Charlottenburg district, where medals and orders were displayed on loan from the Hohenzollern family.
The question arises, of course, whether there is a connection to the spectacular burglaries of recent years: The robbery in the Berlin Bode Museum in 2017, where the giant gold coin “Big Maple Leaf” was stolen, and the break-in at the Green Vault in Dresden on November 25, 2019, where a complete set of jewels of Augustus the Strong was stolen from the Jewel Room. Has organized crime struck again?
Presumed course of events
There are not many official statements about this case yet. According to media reports, the thieves broke a back door to the memorial hall in the old church tower in the night from February 9 to 10, after they had previously tried to smash a window without success.
In the memorial hall, they broke open the display cases in which various orders and medals associated with the history of the Hohenzollern dynasty were exhibited and apparently also were on loan from the House of Hohenzollern.
The following pieces were stolen:
- Order of the Black Eagle (breast star & cross of the order with yellow sash)
- Order of the Red Eagle (breast star & cross of the order with sash orange/white)
- Silver Wedding Jubilee Badge Emperor and Wife 1906 (pin with oak leaves)
- Commemorative Medal 100th Birthday of Emperor Wilhelm I (no image)
- Six silver coins (without further description)
Bold, but not particularly well planned
Has organized crime struck again, as it did in Berlin and Dresden? That is rather unlikely. The perpetrators did not only target the medals: the offering boxes for donations and the registers were also broken open. According to media reports, there was hardly anything in them, as they had been emptied the day before. The perfectly organized perpetrators of the other cases would probably not have bothered with such trivialities.
The procedure seems generally less professional, as the unsuccessful attempt to break in through the window shows. Moreover, the security measures in most churches are – let’s face it – miserable. There is rarely any money available for good security systems or even security personnel, as is probably the case with the Memorial Church. Overcoming the security measures of the Memorial Church does not seem to have required the same professionalism and precise insider knowledge as it did in the case of the Bode Museum or the Green Vault, which is actually known for its security systems.
The incident is thus more reminiscent of the ill-conceived but audacious burglaries such as the one in Strängnäs, where the crowns of Charles IX, King of Sweden, stolen in 2018, were found in a trash can, or the robbery of the heart of Anne of Brittany in the same year.
It could also have been a big coup played out by small fry: A connection to similar smaller burglaries in Berlin churches is possible, as reported by the Tagesspiegel:
“Last March, for example, various objects such as mass chalices were stolen from a Charlottenburg church, in Lichtenberg an altar cross and a music system were stolen from a cemetery chapel, in February two monstrances disappeared during a church service from a church in Prenzlauer Berg.”
One thing is certain: such bold thefts are on the rise. It is to be hoped that these cases will at least lead to more investment in the security of cultural institutions.
We will keep you updated on developments.
This also applies to the case of the Berlin giant gold coin, for which a verdict is expected in the next few days.
Please send any relevant information to the corresponding police department:
Der Polizeipräsident in Berlin
LKA 444 (Kunstdelikte)
Tempelhofer Damm 12
Sachbearbeiter (person in charge): KHK Bluhm
Phone: (030) 4664 – 94 44 01
Fax: (030) 4664 – 94 44 99
We last provided information in September about the current state of affairs in the trial concerning the stolen giant gold coin.