By Leonie Schulze
February 28, 2019 – Last Sunday, February 24, 2019, unidentified thieves are believed to have smashed three showcases at the “Museum für Ur- und Frühgeschichte” (engl. Museum of Pre- and Early History) at Willibaldsburg Castle in Eichstätt (Bavaria) and to have stolen the exhibition items on display. Varying information about the exact number of purloined objects is available at this point. On the day of the theft, the local newspaper Donaukurier said several Roman coin collections dating from 90 AD to 250 AD and one elaborately manufactured Celtic replica sword had been taken. The German Press Agency copied those details. The following day, the Donaukurier updated this information and described the stolen objects in more detail: 30 Roman coins, two replicas of medieval shortswords as well as a cast of a Celtic sword in the condition it was discovered in, and an additional replica that shows the original condition of the sword.
The “Museum für Ur- und Frühgeschichte” as well as the “Juramuseum” are located inside Willibaldsburg Castle in Eichstätt (Bavaria). Photo: Joe MiGo / CC0.
A theft in broad daylight
Many of the circumstances of the robbery remain unknown. We do not know, for example, how many people were involved. Two facts, however, allow for the assumption that they are not professional thieves but might have merely seized an opportunity they were given. According to current information available, they entered the museum as inconspicuous visitors on Sunday morning. Around 11:30 am, a museum employee noticed the smashed display cases. The chief of the local police, Heinz Rindlbacher, is convinced that several people had to have been involved, as one surely kept watch to make sure no one caught them in the act. He also thinks they had to have planned the crime in advance, as heavy tools had been necessary to break the safety glass of the showcases. However, the random conglomeration of stolen items makes us wonder if the thieves might not just have taken whatever they could grab the quickest. It is likely they were not aware of the actual value of the items.
Useless video surveillance
The museum’s security system certainly helped them in their endeavor. Although all of the exhibition rooms are under video surveillance, the images are not recorded. A handful of employees can see the live stream, but at the time the thieves were at work, nobody was looking at the screens. Needless to say, the museum’s main sponsor, the Historische Verein Eichstätt (engl. Historic Society of Eichtstätt), has immediately begun looking into how much money needs to be invested in the improvement of the security system in order to prevent similar cases in the future.
Unlike the police, the society’s president, Albert Günther, has already commented on possible motives. He assumes that the theft might have been the mission of a collector who desperately wanted to own the pieces. Or, he says, the exhibits would soon be sold on the illegal collector’s market. Perhaps the stolen items will end up on the shop counter of an antiques dealer or, as it happened with the stolen crowns in Strängnäs, in a trash can. And at the end of the day, the hope remains that daily newspapers will one day stop arbitrarily copying and adapting estimated values of archaeological items – in this case we can find numbers ranging from 5,000 to 20,000 euros.
The criminal investigation agency of the Ingolstadt police has taken up the case. They are asking for help and relevant information. You can contact them at 0049 841 93430.
A few pictures and videos of the stolen exhibits are featured in this Donaukurier article.
General information about Willibaldsburg Castle and its museums is available online.