But before officers are even on their way to the crime scene, the two individuals use brute force to break open the display case holding three sets of jewels, composed of about 100 invaluable parts.
Officials said Monday that the thieves later escaped in a car before officers arrived and that a subsequent manhunt did not lead to their capture.
The incident raised questions over the security measures in place at European museums holding state-owned treasures, which are often not privately insured. As is the case at museums across Europe, the guards at Dresden’s Green Vault were unarmed and instructed to not intervene themselves.
Speaking to public broadcaster ZDF on Tuesday, Eckart Köhne, the head of the German association of museums, defended that practice, saying “museums are no bank vaults.” He praised the measures taken in the immediate aftermath of the heist as “exemplary.”
“The criminal energy of those thieves matches patterns we’ve seen in a number of recent cases,” said Köhne, adding that not all thefts can be prevented.
There have been a number of high-profile heists in recent years, including the 2017 heist at Berlin’s Bode museum. At the time, thieves allegedly relied on an accomplice working as a guard inside the museum to steal a gold coin weighting 220 pounds. They then moved the coin along central Berlin railway tracks on a wheelbarrow.
Monday’s heist constitutes one of the biggest post-World War II thefts of cultural artifacts in Germany, even though officials hesitated to put a financial value on the targeted items. Art historians said the 18th-century state treasures were of “priceless cultural significance.”
The interior minister of the German federal state of Saxony where the incident occurred, Roland Wöller, called the heist an “attack on the cultural identity of all Saxons.”
The three sets of jewels stolen date back to the era of Augustus the Strong, an 18th-century leader of Saxony who amassed vast amounts of treasure.
German authorities hope the jewels’ uniqueness could prevent the thieves from being able to sell them or that any efforts to do so would lead to their arrest.